After Sonic's fire was put out by the tsunami of diarrhoea that was Sonic 06, Sonic was officially announced as dead. Sonic Team, however, refused to leave Sonic's legacy with the bitter cold disaster it received and tried going back to the drawing board.
Sonic Unleashed became the start of a revolutionary speed rush extravaganza with supersonic thrills blasting your way through stages in lush environments, but it was also a mind-numbingly bore fest chore, with again, slow dragging experimental design choices that Sonic Team just can't seem to let go of...
This game released a short demo allowing you to play as Sonic the Hedgehog which brought hope back for the veteran/retired fans, re-lighting Sonic's fire. When the game finally came out, we got what we asked from Sonic, but little did we know that there was a catch. There is so much right yet so much wrong with this game, almost as if karma plays a huge part within this. When you get something good, the cosmetic balance gives you something bad in return, making it very difficult to give a fair score on this game.
But enough about being poetic with words, I wrote a review for this game and it's time to read it! I 950G'd the game a long time ago on an old gamertag and am replaying it again on my current one, I'm a huge fan of Sonic and am an experienced Sonic player. Come along and read this review that will let you know what Sonic Unleashed is all about.
THE PLOT: (4/10) "Saturday cartoon plot-hole blubber..."
I'm going to say this rather quickly, ok? The story is rubbish, but its positively rubbish that it makes you smile, whilst at the same time, cringe turning your volume down so no one can hear you watching the cut scenes. I'll tell you about the story in a nutshell, but be warned. I'm going to reveal spoilers, even though it's not worth the wait, in fact, its hilariously dumb!
During the intro of the game, you are greeted with one of the most gorgeous and top notch HD CGI cut scenes in gaming. Dr. Eggman is flying in space laughing because, reasons? Before he can enjoy himself however, Sonic (somehow) shows up at the end of his ship outside, able to breath in space (somehow!). Dr. Eggman and Sonic duke it out through sequences of explosions, speed, pretty lights, reflections and epic music as Eggman's mechs get completely wasted. Once the game turns to Eggman's favour, Sonic gets out his chaos emeralds (somehow!!) and turns into Super Sonic, giving chase to Eggman who tries to flee to safety. Sonic corners him off so that the two can have a 'who's the biggest asshole' contest. Right here in this climactic face off, we have our two iconic characters bringing back our childhood.
Eggman however, manages to trap Sonic within the room using a fancy machine to absorb Sonic's powers and use the chaos emeralds. The energy he saps out goes into a cannon and fires a laser that potentially rips open the planet shattering its continents away from the core. Out of it comes a purple monster (somehow!!!) known as Dark Gaia who begins to spew dark matter across the world. Because of this mysterious nature, Sonic decides to turn into a Werewolf-I-mean-hog, to ensure that he has a cliché dark version for the game. Now that Eggman potentially ranks above all terrorists in the world, he can now begin using Dark Gaia's power to build Eggmanland because, reasons?! He precedes opening the windows and sucking Sonic out into space falling to earth, along with the lifeless Chaos Emeralds.
This introduction to the game is questionably stupid but my god is it charming and fun to see these two muppets back to their roots! Sonic and Dr. Eggman are back to the way they used to be!
Anyways, Sonic falls to earth. Before hitting the ground, he is caught in a bubble of protection, because more reasons! *shrug* It catches his collision course, falls and lets him drop safely from 600 feet!? He survives (SOMEHOW!!!) and meets a new character that he nicknames Chip, who has amnesia and cannot remember who he is. Sonic and his new friend Chip make their way across the world discovering different countries to put the world back together using the 7 chaos emeralds, which they need to restore power to by locating their temples. There is some random socialising that takes place in between but otherwise this is as simplistic as it gets.
Chip's role in this game is to act as the little sidekick for Sonic and comic relief for the game, except his comic relief is forked down your throat aggressively as if the game is shouting, "Are you laughing yet? Laugh! It's funny! LAUGH NOW!!!"
During the progress of the story, Sonic comes across his friends Tails and Amy Rose who try to assist Sonic by doing very little as possible, otherwise Sonic would look bad, much like how 1960's Batman Robin is Batman's bitch... The two characters literally serve no role other than to look pretty on the camera (which they do) whilst Sonic hogs all of the camera time, well, I'd say 30% as 67% goes to Chip trying to be funny without the canned laughter.
After restoring the 6th chaos emerald, Chip gets sucked into a hieroglyphical wall (SOME-F***ING-HOW!!!) and rediscovers who he is and what his role is in life, remembering that there is a plot in this game. Chip remembers that he is named Light Gaia, the warrior who fights against Dark Gaia. He suddenly goes through a personality change trying to be serious (which hilariously fails). He stuffs role-model material on Sonic, trying to embarrass all of the players face palming, as he tries to force you to believe that Sonic is SOOOOO amazing that nothing is better than him and you should look up to him like he's your future husband. Again, the 60's Batman disease shows here.
Once Sonic and Chip overcome the most unforgivable final stage in the history of the Sonic universe, they finally restore the world and go into a final fight with Dark Gaia in the core of the planet. Eggman tries to tame Dark Gaia but gets knocked out of the world like Team Rocket from Pokemon. The final fight starts, they win, and Chip says his final goodbye pretending one last time that he is ethereal and that Sonic is a bigger blessing than Jesus himself. Sonic is cast back to the surface and continues his life, ending the game with some positively cheerful music, which is a rather guilty pleasure after listening to this "Sonic is my idle" subliminal messaging throughout the entire game!
Let me be frank here. The story is kid-mush designed to exist because Sonic has to play in a game for some reason, right? His Werewolf persona serves no purpose to exist in this game or story other than to, I guess, try to join the successful train of the "Dark Version" trope to sell a few more copies. The story is cheesy, gut wrenchingly spoiled by Chip's comic relief and very questionable, most of which cannot be answered. Luckily, Dr. Eggman and Sonic make this story worthwhile as that's all we really care about here, and they do a great job making you smile and chuckle as they act like themselves.
GAMEPLAY: (5/10) "Sturdy but slippery."
Throughout Sonic's adventure, he has to explore the world by doing what he does best, going fast to the goal ring, except, he does this in two distinctively different ways. Being a blue hedgehog at the speed of sound, and being a werewolf-I-mean werehog and the walking pace of a hound. Get it? Because he's a wolf!... Yeah... It's not funny is it...?
Sonic the Hedgehog:
Sonic, as usual, makes his way to the goal ring as fast as he can, whilst maintaining a decent score in the process. Throughout his levels he splits his platforming into 3D to 2.5D transitions that both come with good parts and bad, mainly due to some of the clumsy controls Sonic has.
For starters, the homing attack makes a return with a twist, now engaging a lock-on feature onto Sonic's enemies/springs when he is airborne. This mechanic makes it easier to predict your target making the homing attack a lot cleaner than his previous games.
This game introduced a new mechanic from Sonic Rush known as the 'Boost', where by holding down the X button, he undergoes speeds above 500 miles an hour, potentially tearing through anything in his path or slamming into a wall. The boost is a ecstatic experience as you charge your way through the artistic levels collecting rings along the way, but this mechanic comes with a minor flaw. It is assigned with the same button as the homing attack, which can be a mixed outcome when you want to do either of the two things at a specific time that often leads to losing your rings, glitching to the wrong direction or dying.
In order for Sonic to fully gain his bearings, you need to push yourself through several trial and error attempts to revise his levels, which has always been worth the effort in Sonic games, and it really does shine in this game. He can also learn special moves like the light speed dash, wall jumping, etc, which he unlocks by exploring the hub worlds and finding the upgrade (somewhat like Sonic Adventure), opening up new accesses in Sonic's levels to take more multiple paths to the goal.
Along with all the satisfaction of blasting at a fast pace, there is sadly one problem that stands out with Sonic's levels. The Quicktime Events... When Sonic goes across a booster pad or ramp, you have to input the correct buttons on the screen to ensure Sonic has a better path to take or survives from instant death. As you progress through the game, the complication of buttons is increased as it expects you to master the art of button pressing, which does tend to cause cheap and unfair deaths for you.
Other than the flaws Sonic comes with, his gameplay is solid, fun and most importantly, he goes incredibly fast!! Sometimes he goes so fast that you barely have any control of him trying to slow down, but that’s the good thing about him. He loves danger but at the same time doesn't do as he is told which is why we often love and hate the blue asshole. Lol. All is fun in the day, that is until you play the game during the night...
Sonic the Werehog:
No doubt playing as this character is the reason why critics have slated this game as a whole. When Sonic goes into his wolf form, all he can do is fight with his fists and move at a very slow pace. Much like God of War, you need to eliminate all of the enemies in an area before you can proceed to the next section of the level, except it's not thrilling, fun or punchy (no pun untended).
Enemies he kills drop EXP gems which allow him to upgrade his skills, and they also drop dark orbs. Sonic has an "Unleashed" gauge which fills up collecting dark orbs, and then once it gets to a certain point, will allow Sonic to go into indestructible mode (like God of War) and do double damage and speed to his enemies.
The enemies he goes up against have a habit of always blocking your attacks which makes it even more frustrating to land any damage to them. Sonic does have himself a wide range of combo attacks with flashy animations to make them stand out, until you realise that all of them are utterly useless apart from spamming the Y button or run + Y button.
On top of all the button spamming, this game LOOOOOOOVES throwing quicktime events at you everywhere! It became a trend in the past but is now seen as a chore and an excuse to damage your thumbs. Literally from finishing off enemies (which regenerate their health if you fail), opening doors, pulling switches, and recovering from the ground, your thumbs will ache and your expectations of having fun playing the night stages will drop pretty quickly.
Sonic unfortunately plays more night stages than his day stages, and it isn't cut in balance, forcing you to sit through 4 night stages before you can get to the 1 day stage, then the next 2 night stages after. To make things go a lot slower for you, Sonic needs to collect medals in order to gain access to the next stage which are scattered in act stages and all over the hub worlds.
The Hub Worlds:
Like Sonic adventure and Sonic 06, the hub worlds have made a return. As Sonic travels to different countries each one has its own town/village/city populated with villagers. You will need to chat to the NPCs and complete some side missions in order to progress through the story, which can slow the game down a lot.
Also like Sonic 06, you can go shopping, but this time for collectables and food which give you EXP to increase Sonic's statistics. Essentially the only food that is worth a damn is the Chilli Dog, Steak and Hero Sandwich leaving the other products to collect dust as you only need them for 2 achievements in the game, defeating the purpose of spending your hard earned rings.
The hub worlds are nicely crafted but they act like they're designed to pad the game out longer, especially when progression can be blocked off by trying to get an NPC to do as its told when having to juggle around other NPC missions, and the inclusion of needing to collect Sun and Moon medals to access new stages.
The difficulty spike problems:
This game commits a sin that stands out like a sore thumb, by having you jump through difficulty spikes. For those who don't know the meaning of difficulty spike, it means that rather than naturally increasing steadily in challenge upon a game, the game chucks you in the deep end with alligators pulling you down, like instructing a child to drive a BMW car through a mine field after playing Mario Kart! This usually results in the gamer experiencing a mess of emotions and is thrown out of his/her comfort zone to experience pain, not enjoyment or fair challenge.
Sonic Unleashed, as it goes along, breaks itself apart several times causing you to die far too many times than usual, as you barely grow used to the new environments around you, having to replay the levels again and again. For anybody who has played this game to the end, you will no doubt agree with me that Eggmanland is completely broken, changing the difficulty from challenging to f**king impossible!! You could argue that Sonic's final levels are always hard, and you are correct, yes, but THIS final level doesn't compare with any other final stage for a few reasons.
1) There is nothing but bottomless pits, everywhere!
2) Spikes/hazards are unavoidable,
3) Platforms crumble and never respawn if you fail to cross them,
4) Lots of traps that can instantly kill you,
5) Aggressively implemented Quicktime Events that take the complete piss, which must be successfully pulled off in order to avoid death,
6) The camera betrays you and deliberately doesn't focus on you, trying to kill you as you walk over platforms,
7) Speed = instant death,
8) The level goes on for over 45 minutes,
and 9) The glitchy gameplay mechanics for Sonic where he will fail to steer on course, jump when promoted to or grab onto ledges as if the lock-on feature is disabled.
This stage alone personally cost me 41 lives to survive until the end, taking almost 2 hours to complete. The controls barely function the way you want them to as the stage design is designed to never give you a chance. Because Sonic has no drop shadow and the camera doesn't follow you, you can easily miss your landing and slide off to your death making platforming utterly unfair. Getting through this stage without losing a life is downright signing off your soul to the devil to let him rape you as you fail nearly endlessly!
The difficulty spikes hurt in this game, and can really effect the player from coming back to play again! Eggmanland is the 2nd worst stage ever designed in Sonic's history (1st going to Sonic 06's End of the World stage) and will have you sinking your happy factor for this game down to ground bottom. It goes on for too long (45m-2h), is game-breakingly broken with design and fails to work with Sonic's controls smoothly, which goes to show how difficulty must be treated fairly to enhance challenge without cheating on the player like a big bully to pad the game out longer.
VOICE ACTING: (6/10) "As usual, corny."
After Sonic 06's horrendous job with steering the 4-Kids voice actors into a bored hateful state, they managed to put more energy, fun and cheesiness back into the universe. Sonic is his cheeky impatient self, Dr. Eggman is still that endearingly stupid twat with an ego problem, Amy is still that Sonic obsessed bubbly gal and Tails still sounds like he's having a sex change... (can't win them all I guess).
But then we have Chip. Like I mentioned before, his comic relief is forced as all hell during your story telling, making it unbearable to listen to him try to be that kawaii desu little s*** we all want to murder. He comes with a gimmick that he has an obsession with chocolate which he loves to shove in your face and loves eating food. When he animates with over expressed gestures, his voice barely cuts it to make it look believable, which is a shame as he could have been a charmer. Maybe if he was a female instead with a voice actress, his emotional emphasis would complement the game. But no... You'll want to mute your TV when he talks. Lol!
With the hub world returning, the NPCs now talk fully during the cut scenes whilst still mumbling blubber in-game. They're relatively harmless and passable, if not, charming, which is great considering all of Sonic's previous games that featured hub world voices were beyond the realms of craptopia!!
SOUND / MUSIC: (7/10) "Bliss."
If you haven't ever played Sonic, then you will probably need to know one thing that his games always do right. The fantastic music composed! Sonic's day levels have very enjoyable, memorable and downright catchy tunes, giving you a great excuse to bop your head as you make your way to the goal the whole time. Where the music falls flat, however, is the night stages, as to be expected, making the other half of Sonic's music completely forgettable. The night stages give you a sense that you a moving very slow, eliminating the adrenaline you need with Sonic the Hedgehog to keep you awake and alert. It is a nice jazzy genre but it just doesn't compliment a Sonic game, unless it has energy.
The sound effects give you a sense of impact when you rip through anything in your path with speed, along with some exciting sounds to ensure your attention is kept at all times on Sonic. Again, a needed requirement for a Sonic game which is done perfectly in the day, but in the night, my god does it fail hard. Because the game mechanics and design of the night levels have steered into a God of War clone, Sonic's reputation goes upside down. The fighting sound effects in a Hack n' Slash game have got to be THE reason to make you enjoy yourself as you kick arse, which the Werehog fails to do, making his levels quite depressing to play.
GRAPHICS: (7/10) "Nicely crafted."
Sonic Unleashed compliments itself from the other games by creating a new art style, mixing in some cartoonish elements while still maintaining a realistic look. The colours are luscious, painting the world with energy and life, as opposed to many games that focus solely on the character models and leave the rest of the game at an awkward graphical balance. The only spots that stain your eyes is when you glitch out of the game's environments and can see the low textured PNG images and the sky box.
The character models all look like they belong in one style, making all the cast fit in right at home with no outsiders. Their textures, polygon count and animations are buttery smooth which is very rare in a game. Looking deliberately up close to the environmental textures, you will see the resolution decrease and blur out.
The only things I can nit-pick is the frame rate drops for having too many polygons on screen and the skybox. During the night stages, the gradients of clouds aside with the stars look like someone got a jpeg image and used the rubber tool on Photoshop, making it stick out like a sore thumb. You will encounter plenty of these ugly things if you ever look upwards, which distance you from feeling like you really are in the world of Sonic Unleashed, just knowing that it’s a video game art design flaw.
GLITCHES: (7/10) "A few game-breakers."
* Sonic's homing attack requirement can be confused with the boost.
* Sonic's boost can be confused with the homing attack.
* When Sonic homing attacks on swinging poles, he can glitch out and home down into a bottomless pit.
* Werehog Sonic can sequence break by clipping through walls and floors using X,Y,Y,LB.
* Werehog Sonic can fail to grab ledges when you should have done.
* The quicktime events can backfire when you input the correct buttons.
* The camera can completely betray you when going across platforms.
* Sonic can go up to speeds equivalent of a Concord by combining fast speed, sliding and quick-steering!!
* In Chun-nan hub world, if you boost into the ? next to the rings, the rings will forever duplicate when you touch them, even when they're gone, milking thousands of rings at once.
* Sonic has no invincibility period after taking damage when sky diving.
* Boosting into the goal ring and restarting the level just before you touch it, you can finish with a time of 00:00:00!
* If you pause the game in the hub world whilst grinding on a rail, Sonic will slowly grind backwards. Lol
* Werehog boss enemies can despawn, ending the fight with a retarded victory.
* Eggmanland... It's a hateful level of glitches and horrendous design!!
* In the Super Sonic boss fight, Chip can commit suicide early on.
ACHIEVEMENTS: (6/10) "Interesting enough."
The achievements divide themselves into completing the story, breaking records, besting some unique side missions, RPG levelling up elements and challenges. With that being said, the list is not easy by all means!
The main reasons are because of the Hot Dog missions, which consist of taking on an act following a criteria without dying. For Sonic the Hedgehog this includes taking out a certain number of enemies, collecting and holding 100-500 rings or finishing the level within the time limit. His missions are the hardest compared to Werehog Sonic who has to survive without dying on a limited health bar or finish within the time limit.
Because Werehog Sonic can basically run past most of his fights and even sequence break his way through, his levels are cumbersome and downright boring to replay over and over. His levels can last as long as 10 minutes or more which hurts any Sonic fan wanting to just speed run.
Sonic in the day is very fun to play over and over with missions being reasonably challenging, aside from a few levels that are almost impossible with untested time requirements such as Empire City and Spagonia which leave you 10 or more seconds behind, always. But luckily, if you feel vengeful, you can try out some Concord speed glitching like I mentioned up above or steer off certain paths to clip through obstacles to the next part of the map.
There is only 1 achievement that stands out from the bunch, and with good reason. It’s completely evil!! You have to make your way through Eggmanland without any deaths along the way, 3 times! The achievement will forsake you and will remind you of the rape you have to endure in Eggmanland, dying countless times unfairly.
VERDICT / CONCLUSION: "A fun and un-fun experience."
I borrowed this game from a friend of mine in 2009 when I managed to save up to buy an Xbox 360. I'd grown up playing Nintendo consoles, and even bought this game on the Wii, and let me be very honest, the Wii version sucked sweaty balls!! Jumping across consoles there was so much to be satisfied with from the graphics, gameplay, more content and HD. This game's quicktime events taught me how to use my controller and learn where the buttons were (which is always the hardest learning curve), with an alienating layout, so I personally have Sonic Unleashed in my heart for introducing me to one of the best consoles in the world.
But coming back after so many years, less of a freshman and easily impressed gamer, this game hasn't aged well, and I realise how much of a mixed game it was, and why people continued to face-palm. My mind set playing the werehog missions was to appreciate how much better they were on the Xbox compared to the Wii.
If you want the definition of Sonic Unleashed, it is like Marmite. You will either love it or hate it. You will have many fun thrills with this game but your fun comes at a cost of doing your chores. If you love Sonic from the heart and still believe in him, I'd say this game is a fantastic game. You won't be disappointed with him during the day, but you will still have to undergo Sonic Team's habit of making the other half of the game suck.
I grant this game a 6 out of 10! If you think I'm being too generous, it is because you're looking at the glass half empty, but then again, I don't blame you. Eggmanland changed my view on Sonic forever... *bangs head violently on the table*