Sonic Unleashed Preview (E3 Impressions)
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2
Sonic Unleashed box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Sonic Team 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SEGA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 24, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
The Hedgehog's Back to his Roots... Sort Of
by Maria Montoro

July 23, 2008 - Were you wondering what the blue hedgehog is up to nowadays? We've got the answer! E3 2008 gave us the opportunity to sit down with part of the Sonic Team and check out their new Sonic project, Sonic Unleashed. The game will be out towards the end of the year for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PS2. The demo was played on the Xbox 360, and while the game won't look and play exactly the same on every platform, we've got a good idea of what it will be like.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

This time around, Dr. Eggman has taken things too far. First, he awakens a monster from the center of the earth and creates mayhem. Then, after seizing the chaos emeralds, he manages to turn Sonic into a beast. The effects won't show during the daytime, but at night, Sonic will turn into a "Werehog." This means players will enjoy classic and fast-paced platforming action half of the time, while the other half will be dedicated to combat, exploration, and random puzzles. We all know Sonic fans have been disappointed in the past with Sonic spin-offs that were trying to break the mold, but the dev team is aware of this and promises to please everyone this time. We believe them!

The new premise actually sounded very interesting to us, and we were really amazed at the quality of the graphics and the smooth gameplay. The producers are hoping to bring Sonic back to the side-scrolling era the fans have been asking for. Even though the game sports stunning 3D visuals, the actual daytime gameplay will happen in a side-scrolling fashion, which is much more user-friendly and fast-paced than in previous Sonic games of the 3D era. Somehow they've managed to bring the best of the two worlds without compromising the gameplay.

SEGA has a new proprietary engine called Hedgehog. This graphics engine is being implemented in Sonic Unleashed, providing a significant improvement in architecture, lights and shadows, textures, and loading times. The camera follows Sonic wherever he goes and never feels awkward or out of place. We definitely noticed a great visual upgrade in general and are excited about its newly-found potential.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

The game will take Sonic to beautiful locations around the world, including China and Greece, which are the ones they showed us. Sonic Unleashed looks really vibrant and colorful, and everything is represented with fine attention to detail, even more than you'd expect from a platforming title. It's true that gamers won't notice the scenic views while playing classic Sonic speedster-style segments, but that's what nighttime is for! During the day, motion blur helps to achieve a sensation of speed, and everything happens lightning-fast from left to right. Night gameplay is more vertical and also combat-oriented.

At night, Sonic will turn into an ugly, mutated beast and go running like a wolf, jumping from platform to platform, climbing up poles, swinging from them, grabbing ledges,etc. He's not as fast, but he's very strong and agile, and he can even stretch his arms! His new abilities allow him to explore each location and fight enemies as if he were a new Kratos. The combat system is based on combos and single hits. A hit counter will show up like in Devil May Cry and God of War games, letting players know how well they're doing, and ultimately translating into experience. In addition, Sonic can pick up purple orbs along the way, which also increase his overall experience and eventually grant him new abilities. He'll perform up to 30 different moves when all is said and done.

Sonic Unleashed screenshot

And what would a Sonic game be with no rings? Of course, Sonic will gather plenty of rings along the way, especially during the day mode. Rings fill up his energy gauge and make him stronger, giving him speed boosts and a homing attack boost that kills enemies in a blink of an eye. He can also crouch, drift, quick-step to the sides, jump, etc., but most importantly, he'll run like never before, platform after platform, taking advantage of the new speed and jump boosts. Thanks to this, he can even run over water, as long as he maintains the boost (otherwise he'll sink!). Random button prompts will also give him abilities like jumping higher, which are crucial in some occasions.

The team also revealed that, in addition to the single-player story mode, there will be a multiplayer mode with mini-games. Sonic and at least one other character will be playable in this mode. Other than that, Sonic's friends won't be playable in Sonic Unleashed.

Overall, we were very impressed and satisfied with what we saw. The game looks astounding and runs very smoothly, and the gameplay is innovative and exciting, while still relying on classic precision platforming (at least part of the time). Even if the day/night idea seems a little risky, Sonic fans and beyond should definitely give this dark Sonic a chance and not make early assumptions. We predict this will be one of the coolest Sonic games we've seen in years. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

By Maria Montoro
CCC Site Director

Game Features:

  • Get ready for an UNLEASHED Sonic experience! Featuring both Day and Night stages, Sonic speeds through all new levels while its bright, and shows off his wild side when it gets dark!
  • Tight Navigation and Speed Control: A variety of special maneuvers help you move quickly through tricky situations. "Quick Step" allows you to dodge obstacles by instantly moving left or right without losing speed; "Speed Drift" will maintain top speeds through turns, while "Sonic Boost" will accelerate you to super speeds!
  • Powerful New Game Engine and Cinematic Graphics: Sonic Unleashed delivers a revolutionary gameplay experience, combining picturesque graphics with seamless transitions between 3D and classic 2D perspectives.
  • Enhanced and Expanded Environments: Many unique and fascinating continents let you explore a variety of environments - sprint across cobbled streets, race through lush jungles, and much more.
  • Flexible Path Navigation: Choose from multiple pathways in Sonic's massive new playground. Each unique route offers different encounters with varying rewards and obstacles.

  • Screenshots / Images
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