Sonic Unleashed at E3!
Tuesday, 15th July 2008, 10:35pm (UTC), 0 Comments
It's that time again.. E3! When a new primary Sonic game is on the horizon it's usually the biggest event of its development progress. We get a snazzy proper trailer, buckets of screens and info and usually some off-screen gameplay footage and impressions. Apparently Sonic Unleashed isn't playable so dunno about the last two, but these are some seriously juicy items.. screens and info.

The trailer features more of the speedy Sonic segments of the levels, arguably the definition of unrelenting fun, in Sonic form (surely the best form of fun imaginable), plus our very first glimpse of Werewolf gameplay. The low-res version is very low res, and can only give you a basic feel of what's going on, but a 300 meg, very large and high quality version is available here and I strongly recommend FlashGet or something similar to download this, as otherwise it only seems to go no higher than 20 kb/s.

I must say this is an excellent trailer, especially once you've seen it in full quality, with a mix of both old and brand new footage, but mostly new. Firstly, the music, by a guy from Bowling for Soup and which I assume is the main theme, I think is perfectly suited to Sonic, whether his somewhat generic teen-like voice is your cup of tea or not. It has a perfect, upbeat tune and good lyrics that, I don't know about you, but kind of give me a certain "everything's going to be alright" feeling. It's odd that I mention cinematic shots before the actual gameplay, but I am just so impressed by them. Sonic Unleashed kicks off with what appears to be the ending from another, unseen Sonic game where Sonic thwarts Eggman's space-based schemes and it's just so classic Sonic, with, what I would say are clear homages to the endings of the likes of Sonic 2 and Sonic & Knuckles. The bit where Eggman's mech has Sonic in his grasp and then he later bursts out of it as Super Sonic and zooms off as everything explodes around him.. just wow. Definitely the coolest FMV yet, if that footage is anything to go by. Kind of hard to see what order everything is happening in, as Were-Sonic is also seen falling away to Earth, but we'll soon find out.

Werewolf Sonic plays much like I expected him to, operating in full 3D controls, as I expected, and clearly there's a mix of more slow-paced platforming and some enemy hack and slash going on. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I first saw it, perhaps only because it somehow seems less impressive and much more ordinary when compared to the unique thrill of the Sonic speed levels, surrounding it. Also the inclusion of lots of enemies and health bars filled me a bit with dread, as like many others, I could live quite happily without them in a Sonic game.

Did you see the recent teaser trailer about Were-Sonic terrorising a real city? A bit corny I know, but the way Sonic made grand leaps between street lights and rooftops at a fairly quick pace made me wonder how cool it would be to be able to control him like that, in some way, but unfortunately the gameplay we see doesn't appear to be particularly like that. Still, the more I watch it, the better I feel because although your attention is drawn a bit to the fight sequences, you can also catch numerous bits and pieces where he's inching along ledges, swinging between poles using those crazy stretchy arms, dropping off a statue on a pedestal to open a door and even balancing along a thin walkway. It seems like this part of the game could be a lot more varied, and certainly has the potential to offer a bit more meat to the otherwise possibly shallow regular Sonic gameplay. 3D Sonic has always had the problem of offering substantial, careful platforming without his speed getting in the way and causing him to fall off ledges etc. By separating the two and keeping the thrilling speedy bits to 2 dimensions at any one time, you offer the best of both worlds. I'm still unsure about the battle sequences though - even in high res it looks a little bit awkward, and hard to tell if his attacks are actually doing any damage because he's surrounded by these odd purple creatures all the time. Still, there appears to be lots of different grabs, slashes and throws to utilise, and of course Smash Bros Brawl remained very entertaining with plenty of combat alongside platforming, so there's nothing at all to say at this stage that it won't play well.

What sheds more light on the subject is the interview with Patrick Riley, who explains that the levels won't be separate for each form of the character, there will be a day-to-night system (yes yes YES!) that plays out in the duration of certain areas of the level, eventually transforming Sonic into his were-self come nightfall, although other areas will be locked into certain times. I'm not entirely sure how this will work, considering that they've already said they don't want the levels to last more than five minutes, but maybe he means some whole levels will be set at one time of the day, while others vary, perhaps making multiple instances of the same level environments like Sonic Adventure 2 or Shadow the Hedgehog, which I think would be a good idea. But in these variable sections you can apparently advance the time at your own will too, thereby sticking to a particular form. This not only suggests that you can avoid a particular style of gameplay if you like, but also a considerable amount of complexity in level design, if they're able to accomodate both at the same time. You could be able to transform into Were-Sonic at any time and not be forced to walk across very long roads, but at the same time, somehow still account for Sonic's need to run very fast across large distances. The intricate paths we've seen in some screenshots, particularly the city levels, seem to suggest that perhaps Were-Sonic would be able to drop off to a side road here or there just underneath the main one, leading him down a more platform-heavy route that regular Sonic can't access. That would definitely lead to some seriously varied replayability.

We definitely need more clarification with all that though, but it certainly sounds very interesting, and for me, by far the most exciting aspect to it is the day-to-night shifting, which the newest screenshots alude to by showing Africa at sunset. This is a feature I have longed for over so many years now, and I thought we were finally getting it in Sonic '06, only to have it phased out during production. As a level enthusiast, I think the idea is brilliant, adding a whole other visual dimension to their replayability factor and solves the problem that I was having with the fact that, until now, every level was all bright, blue afternoon skies. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I wouldn't want it for every stage. Now, my prayers have been answered at long last, plus the China stage is suitably cloudy too.

Last time with the Europe trailer, my dissection of key frames that showed hidden bits and pieces proved quite popular, and I've already noticed numerous lovely tidbits in this trailer, quite well hidden by the split-screen section in particular, so tomorrow I'll be screen-grabbing and pointing things out like a well prepared lecturer. The China stage has some very interesting components to watch out for.
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