Although it is hard to remember the arcade racing genre of the blue hedgehog world of SEGA , in reality it is since 1994 (two years after Super Mario Kart ) Sonic and associates run around on various types of cars. It has never been easy for the competition to be able to compete with Nintendo products , but despite this the series that we could include in the convenient name of ” Sonic Racing ” has always had its small niche of loyal fans. In recent years it was Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed to gather an important consensus from critics and the public, because after years of improvement he succeeded in creating a product that could be able to compete with the rival hydraulic historian.
After so many years (it was 2012 when Transformed came out on consoles and PC), Sumo Digital tries again to bring the characters of the Sonic world back to driving bolides of various types. Honestly, the title didn’t inspire us from what we’ve seen a few months ago during the gamescom test . Instead, with a little joy, we can say that Team Sonic Racing has improved a lot since then, it is a very interesting and solid arcade racing, with some doubts that we carry ourselves behind but that, this time, do not weigh as then.
The Hedgehog and the Furious
The idea behind Team Sonic Racing can be easily understood. We are facing a racing arcade with instruments that for the most part is quite classic. There is a drift system that guarantees a small turbo once the curve is extended for a while, the possibility of using objects to annoy the opponents, tracks with shortcuts, secondary routes, ramps and moments of great visual jubilation. But the most important novelty of the title is the fact that (although you can always make “solo” races) the gameplay revolves around the idea of the team.
In Team Sonic Racing there are fifteen characters, divided into five teams of three, each with a precise role between Speed, Technique and Power. To the first category belong small people of the caliber of Sonic and Shadow , to the second Eggman or Silver , to the third Knuckles or Vector. As can be easily understood the focus of each of the roles is, respectively: the race; the ability to overcome environmental obstacles without being slowed down; and finally the access to more powerful Wisps and the possibility to break the obstacles in the maps and open new routes. Now, the first thing we need to note is that, in fact, we cannot perceive a marked difference between one character and another in the same category. Although each vehicle has its own characteristics, it is hard to see the impact on the track of two pilots belonging to the Power category, for example, just as the Sonic and Shadow racing cars will always be very similar in terms of performance.
Instead, as a counterpoint to the idea of team racing, the difference between riders in the Speed category and the others is much more pronounced. In a racing video game where, obviously, you have to win, in the end a driver of the mentioned category is always a little bit more advantaged. Of course, with the Technical and Power pilots you can do different things but in the long run, especially after becoming familiar with the tracks, the utility of the Speed pilots is far superior. And it’s a shame, because the whole system works quite well and is a very original refresh of the classic arcade racing.
In essence, the three players within a team can help each other. The first of the three will generate a trail that others can use to make the so-called Sling, or get a short turbo. Moreover, passing next to an ally at a speed greater than his will give the latter a turbo. If it is hit by an object it can even restart at maximum speed, in case it is practically hit by an ally who is using a turbo of some kind. Then, allies can pass objects and ask for objects, and those obtained will often be a more powerful version (or the classic 3x). This makes it possible for a player in the first position to pass little useful items, such as a missile, to his companions instead of using it to free the slot. All these team actions, to which is added the attack to the opponents, they go to fill the bar of the Turbo Ultimate, a bonus to the speed that can be unleashed for all members of the team, making them very fast (obviously) and invulnerable. Another gem: the duration of the Turbo Ultimate can be extended by continuing to perform other team actions.
Everything is very good, the more you take your hand and the more it is fun and incredibly dynamic. We are looking forward to putting it into practice when the population of online servers is full and communication with their peers can be exploited at full speed (unfortunately we have played very few online matches, and although there have been no latency or technical problems , we have not sufficiently tested the potential of gameplay with other human beings).
Team Sonic or Team Eggman?
Team Sonic Racing offers local multiplayer modes for up to four players, obviously online, but also an unexpectedly fun Adventure mode.
The story would see Sonic and his friends experiment with the new cars created by such a mysterious Dodon Pa . Eggman obviously gets in the way , he wants to get his hands on the machines for his vulgar purposes. Now, consider that apart from the first video with dialogs superimposed, the story is relegated only to the pressure of the square button before starting a race. A detail that we have personally discovered, by pure chance, after several hours wondering where the “narration” ended. Having established that the plot is what it is, that is non-existent and curiously hidden, the Adventure Team mode is very successful in general.
First and foremost you can play in the company of friends, always up to four, an advantage not just. It also offers very interesting challenges, with some concerns to consider. Basically it is about undertaking a series of races, which are not all “races” as we will see, in seven worlds composed of a dozen challenges each. Some paths are hidden, in pure map style of a platform of the past, and it is required to obtain a certain number of stars and keys (trivially linked to scores or conditions to be met within each challenge, in addition to the victory itself ) to unlock them. In addition to the simple races, which can be singles or championships for four races, there are challenges that adopt different rules, real minigames.
Some examples: in Testa Calda it is necessary, for example, to drift as close as possible to poles in a slalom that is very reminiscent of the idea of skiing; while in Gara Ring you have to collect the precious gold rings in drift to gain precious seconds for the countdown; in Attack on Traffic you have to dodge crazy drones that are moving, while at the same time pulling on checkpoints that make the countdown less suffocating. These are some of the ideas that the Adventure will put in front of you, and consider that to get the maximum of the medals and the scores you will have to make you come green mice (also because in addition to the Normal and Difficult difficulties the Extreme one will be unlocked for each completed race) . To complete the adventure instead,
Now, having established that competing for the best times, taking all the medals and completing all the challenges of each race is really satisfying, there is a problem that should not be underestimated with the IA. As for the races intended as “competitions”, on Normal difficulty it is not too hard to win once you are familiar with the very particular drift system that is more reminiscent of a Ridge Racer than a Mario Kart, while already in Difficult you start to blame a lot. It’s challenging, and it’s good, but there is a little too much the “blue shell” syndrome, so the opposing AI does everything to spoil even a perfect race by throwing any kind of object often to a couple of corners from end. Moreover, it happens that the teammates end up in very low positions in case you are instead at the top, to “balance” the challenge and the points collected, but sometimes causing a defeat, a behavior that in the case of a grand prize lost after four races can generate frustration.
Sonic in black ?
To finish telling with Team Sonic Racing, we can not stop at the aesthetics, fundamental in any automotive world. We tried the title on PS4, and in general the construction of the models of characters and cars, as well as of the environments, satisfied us widely. The cars, although not very original often as a design, are very detailed, beautiful to be admired both in the customization menu and when they race. On the Sony console, moreover, the fluidity is fairly stable and only loses in a few cases when the sumptuous Turbo Ultimate, a little mess of objects, and the effects of the tracks are added up.
Cars can also be customized from a practical and aesthetic point of view. In the first case, parts are added to add to the cars (not many, actually) that change the characteristics with bonuses and malus, even if as mentioned above the differences are not very marked. In the second case you can choose paints, colors and finishes, but the customization is not completely free and is possible only through palettes of four defined colors, themed with the other characters or with the scenarios (also these to be unlocked) such as the colors of the earth for the “Green Hill” style of paint. The Sonic car can be colored as you like in the shades of blue, white and red for example, or you can use the “Shadow palette” with black, white red and yellow, but you won’t be able to color it freely.
Team Sonic Racing is a good racing arcade. In addition to all that one might expect from the genre of which Mario Kart was the founder, and often king for much of videogame history, Sumo Digital’s work brings a breath of fresh air with the idea of teams. A gameplay that works, that creaks with AI but is potentially pyrotechnic with human allies. Surprisingly, in the production there is also a captivating adventure mode which, between highs and lows, represents an excellent single player content (but not exclusively) to complement the classic local and online multiplayer. If you don’t have access to any console with which to play a Mario Kart, Team Sonic Racing is a very valid alternative to Nintendo racing. Indeed, it is just an alternative.