High Europe
Tuesday, 17th June 2008, 7:10pm (UTC), 0 Comments
Yeah, I kinda hope that's not the name of the level either, but, just in case you've missed it today..

1:59 of pure Sonic brilliance as he races non-stop through the "Europe" level of Sonic Unleashed. I love the amount of variety in there, and sure, it's all running very consistently fast along winding paths and rails and I think there is reason for some concern that the game will feel like it's playing itself, as I've read some people point out today. But I think the developers are realising this and combatting it with Quick Time Events, where you must press a particular button at a particular time to dodge an enemy, skid under or dash straight through something, all while moving at great speed. I'd be worried if this features too prominently so that it becomes a bit like some sort of non-musical Sonic-based Guitar Hero, or some other rhythmic button pressing game that I can't play very well, but it seems to mesh quite well with Sonic's usual gameplay mechanics.

As big a fan as I am of the balance between smooth speed and traditional platforming that the original megadrive titles had, I think as Sonic fans in this modern, harsh world where guns have replaced the act of jumping on people's heads and the hedgehog can no longer expect automatic love from reviewers, we need to be ready to accept that things sometimes need to evolve into new, fresher approaches. The Sonic Rush formula has been more successful than any other in recent years, so, a bit like natural selection, that's the mutation that the powers that be are running with now, so to speak. Those in fear of a complete loss of all platforming traditions however should be reminded that there is still the Were-Sonic side of things to be unveiled, said to, logically, operate at a much slower pace. I know, it's not the same, but it's better off present in a distorted form than completely absent. Plus, we've only seen the bits that Sega want us to see, which are more often than not, the fast bits, as that's where Sonic is special. Doesn't mean to say that there won't be slower bits too.

I love the amazing speeds of it all, and the behind-view segments requiring quick left and right dashes look immensely fun. I love that powerslide, the wall-kicking and the freefalling sequence down, what appears to be a Dilapidated Way-style sewer. All is not lost with level-specific objects, as we can see spiked and non-spiked rolling barrels, water fountains and especially look out for the returning Carnival Night balloons. I also liked the variation of the floating spinner badniks from Sonic Adventure and Advance 3, which Sonic homes in on, and enemies in general certainly seem to be taking their rightful place in the levels, being one-hit-to-kill, easily disposed of and fairly comical creatures, as opposed to appearing in lots of large gangs and contributing too much to the overall challenge. The large soldiers falling away are very satisfying to watch. Also, I can't not mention those amazing graphics. If the high-end version of the game is capable of rendering all those buildings and details without dropping a frame, then it should be able to handle just about anything. The music, I wasn't that keen on at first, but as with most new Sonic music that I'm initially not sure about, I came round to it very quickly.

You can say all you want about concerns regarding where this game is taking the series in terms of gameplay style, but I think most would agree that this is all looking to be a big step in the right direction, and I for one am extremely impressed, and excited. Gameplay looks constantly exhilarating in a way that only Sonic can do, but I don't think this necessarily means a drop in challenge and genuine difficulty, or a game that will play by itself. QTE's should give it a simple, easy to pick up and play, but tough to master quality, and I'm really happy with the balance between 2D side-scrolling and rear-camera "on-rails" stuff that allows them to give us the best of both worlds I think. If Sonic must take the option of a game filled with fast-paced, think-quick button presses and reactions rather than slower semi-puzzles, I for one am happy to run with him and see where we go, but to be honest, the inclusion of Were-Sonic makes me doubt that things will be that black and white anyway.

Previous interviews have revealed that Sonic Team are dedicated to this title, and are picking out the flaws that we've all discussed to death and making sure that the likes of too many bottomless bits and waves of tough enemies are being hopefully replaced by excellent variety and challenge, all while keeping a consistent pace and ultimately resulting in what I think could be the most enjoyable and heart-pumping Sonic game yet. I think if this game fails, it won't be through lack of trying. Could still be through lack of time unfortunately, but lets hope that if the developers really need extra time to work things out, Sega will give it to them. If not, they'll be making a massive mistake.

On a final, site note, I'm in the planning phases of a massive overhaul to the back-end system that drives this place, resulting in something that is easier for me to edit and progress into the future with when I come to newer games that follow different structures (i.e. ones that don't always have the same two acts and a boss for every character, or even have acts at all). This will also lead to a completely new look for the site, with many new features added, and I've already started designing that, to much satisfaction so far. However, I don't want to make you wait too long for the general pages of Sonic 2, to round that game off, so I've decided to do those old skool for the moment and build them in straightforward HTML, then convert them to dynamic later on. Otherwise it might be a while before anything is actually added to the site, and I'd rather that not be the case.

Only a month or so til E3 I believe, so hopefully more Sonic Unleashed goodies then! Enjoy!
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