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Sonic Unleashed

by Neal Ronaghan - December 1, 2008, 6:01 pm PST
Total comments: 59

4

A dumb new gameplay addition ruins another decent attempt at a 3D Sonic game.

Sega's latest Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Unleashed, was supposed to be a return to the basics after some critically slammed prior games. Sadly, developer Sonic Team added in an extraneous, slow gameplay mechanic (the Werehog) and ruined Sonic Unleashed's lofty ideal and, for me, the series as a whole.

The game begins with an impressive cinematic opening where Sonic runs in and takes out Eggman's floating space fortress. It is in this opening cut scene that the great graphics are revealed, as Sonic tears down Eggman's robotic army. Eventually, Sonic turns into Super Sonic and takes down the rotund villain, or so he thinks. Eggman presses a button, somehow turning Sonic into a Werehog and making the Earth's seven continents break apart to unleash Dark Gaia. From here on out, the story pops up after every couple levels and does nothing more but get in the way of the gameplay. Even more bothersome are the towns that you encounter. Consisting of about five different people that you talk to, the hub towns add nothing to the game. I'd rather breeze through these static towns than deal with an unnecessary 3D hub world like the Sonic Adventure games.

As far as the actual gameplay is considered, it is segmented into two different styles: Hedgehog and Werehog. The Hedgehog stages are the best aspect of the game, as they play more like races with branching paths and secrets, and they have solid controls that work well with the various control methods, ranging from Wii Remote and Nunchuk to Classic Controller. These stages feel more like the best parts of the Sonic Adventure games. However, these stages are not the majority of the gameplay; the Werehog levels are.

Under the veil of night, Sonic transforms into a stretchy-armed Werehog. He is supposed to be seen as a violent creature, but considering that he learns about his stretchy arms from a falling ice cream cone, he is never seen as any kind of dangerous animal. The Werehog stages are clumsy, slow-paced, combat-heavy levels with terrible controls. The combat is dreadful, as it boils down to a waggle-fest or button mashing. Whenever I was faced with the abundant hordes of enemies, I merely shook my Remote and Nunchuk while occasionally repositioning Sonic and his stretchy arms. The platforming aspect is a little better, but it is way too linear and restricting to be fun. There is simply nothing redeeming about this shoddy God of War rip-off.

On top of the Werehog disappointment, the stage selection is absurdly segmented. With separate tutorials for almost every move, you spend the opening of the game playing fifteen seconds of a tutorial mission, completing it, and then waiting double that time for the next one to load. While the tutorials aren't terrible, they ruin any momentum the game garners in the opening by not organically introducing moves. It also doesn't help that loading happens way too often. Besides the main game, there are also a few side missions, but none of them really go farther than "Collect 100 Rings" or "Finish This Race in X Amount of Time." Thanks to some levels' alternate paths, there is some depth to these missions, but not enough to make up for the rest of the game.

Sonic Unleashed is a game full of duality. The Hedgehog levels are a lot of fun, and the controls accentuate that. On the flip-side, the Werehog levels are riddled with frustratingly boring combat and gameplay. It never helps that the game can't let go of its ridiculously dumb story.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 7 6 5 6 4
Graphics
9

Besides the overabundant load times, Sonic Unleashed runs fast and looks great.

Sound
7

The only bright side with the music is that it doesn't include any cheesy lyrics. However, the music now just employs a repetitive generic score. The sound effects are typical for the Sonic series.

Control
6

When you play as Sonic the Hedgehog, the controls are good. When you play as Sonic the Werehog, the controls just boil down into a terrible waggle-fest.

Gameplay
5

The Hedgehog levels are intricately laid out with branching paths and many secrets. The Werehog levels are very straightforward and boring.

Lastability
6

There are numerous side missions, but very few of them are interesting. Other than that, once the main story ends, all you can do is replay the levels you already played to get better scores.

Final
4

Sonic Unleashed is almost halfway to being a good game. The Hedgehog levels are a lot of fun but they get overshadowed by the terrible Werehog levels that do nothing but slow the game down.

Summary

Pros
  • Great graphics
  • Hedgehog levels
Cons
  • Everything about the Werehog
  • Focus on the story
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

vuduDecember 02, 2008

I understand that the final score isn't an average of the individual scores, but how is it possible for the final score to be lower than all the other ones?

SchadenfreudeDecember 02, 2008

Quote from: vudu

I understand that the final score isn't an average of the individual scores, but how is it possible for the final score to be lower than all the other ones?

Werehog

I believe this was Neal's formula:

Hedgehog levels = 10
Werehog levels = 0

The Hedgehog levels make up about 40% of the game, so...

What Jonny said.

and yes, the Werehog is that bad.
I'd rather play a Big the Cat game than play as that stretchy-armed abomination.

I wonder how different the PS3/360 version is. They have completely different levels, so in theory the platforming in Werehog levels and the number of Hedgehog vs Werehog stages could be significantly different.

By the way, I agree with Vudu and am surprised Jonny, former Reviews Editor, would find this set of scores reasonable. If the Werehog levels are that bad, it should be reflected in the control and gameplay scores to the same degree as it is in the final score. The numbers give the strong appearance of unfair bias against this game/series, and is not the sort of score breakdown I would expect to see on NWR.

I was hoping for some discussion on the camera. Prior 3D Sonic games have been riddled with camera problems, and everyone from NWR at E3 was impressed with the 360 version's camera at E3. I guess since you don't complain about the camera, Sega finally got it right.



On a side note, I doubt the Werehog levels would get a ZERO out of 10 if that's all this game was. Jonny's just making a point. I imagine Neal's scoring went more like this:

2 / 10 x .6
8 / 10 x .4
= 44%

I've heard that the PS3/360 has roughly the same amount of Werehog to Hedgehog as the Wii version, just different length of levels.

My reasoning for the differences with the final score and control and gameplay is this:
The controls are workable and fine, it's just a waggle-fest. The gameplay is an even split of good and bad for me, even though that even split is altered in the final score.

DjunknownDecember 02, 2008

The other reviews are on the same wavelength. They love the day portions, and loathe the night portions with a passion.

Even for a Sonic fan like me, the fact that I have to check multiple reviews, as opposed to picking it up on instinct, is pretty sad.

All I can hope for now is that Sonic and the Black Knight is at the same level of Secret Rings.

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 02, 2008

And this is why Swords > dumbhogs

I really don't like how Sega is intent on continuing the Sonic Adventure 2 tradition of shoving both love and hate at us in one indivisible package. Why does Sonic Team think this is a good idea? Is it that they believe the games sell well enough not to risk "screwing things up" by making a 3D Sonic game too short or single-minded?

Seriously, cut the Werehog stuff out, save 30% of the dev time or whatever, and make it a $40 game. $10 off will do wonders for curbing complaints about length, imo. Give us what you did with Sonic Advance 1-3, only in 3-D. That's enough!

KDR_11kDecember 02, 2008

And Sega still didn't get the message that they should stop adding stupid ideas to Sonic?

broodwarsDecember 02, 2008

I've never been much of a Sonic fan, but I'll never understand why Sonic Team can't just leave the series core concept well enough alone.  After all these years, they've apparently finally gotten traditional Sonic to work in 3D, and yet they still continue to screw things up by throwing in crap that no one likes.  They just can't leave well enough alone and ship a game that only has the fun stuff, but feel compelled with every installment to come up with something new that's impossible for any sane human being to enjoy.  It's crap like this that makes me wish that the Sonic franchise had been buried 2 generations ago.

I read an interview with someone from Sonic Team as I was finishing the review that said something like "Since Hedgehog levels go by fast, we'd need a lot more space per level and that would equate to only a 3 hour game. So we added in the Werehog so it could be a longer game."

Terrible reasoning.

trip1eXDecember 02, 2008

Nothing against the score except in relation to his other scores.  Shouldn't gameplay be a 4 too then?  It just seems the 4 makes scoring the other categories irrelevant.  Why bother then?

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 02, 2008

This game earns no Fist.

PeachylalaDecember 02, 2008

Quote:

They just can't leave well enough alone and ship a game that only has the fun stuff, but feel compelled with every installment to come up with something new that's impossible for any sane human being to enjoy.  It's crap like this that makes me wish that the Sonic franchise had been buried 2 generations ago.

This.

I will write a longer two cents later.

UltimatePartyBearDecember 02, 2008

Quote from: trip1eX

Nothing against the score except in relation to his other scores.  Shouldn't gameplay be a 4 too then?  It just seems the 4 makes scoring the other categories irrelevant.  Why bother then?

If it is possible for a thing to be greater than the sum of its parts, then I submit that it is also possible for a thing to be worse than the sum of its parts.

Quote from: trip1eX

Nothing against the score except in relation to his other scores.  Shouldn't gameplay be a 4 too then?  It just seems the 4 makes scoring the other categories irrelevant.  Why bother then?

Quote from: nron10

The gameplay is an even split of good and bad for me, even though that even split is altered in the final score.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 02, 2008

No offense to any of the reviewers here, but after the Super Swing Golf fiasco (NEVER FORGET!!!!!!) I take my reviews with a grain of salt.

Many reviewers have complained about the werehog levels, but very few have rated the game so low like nron has. Most reviews are around 6 to 7, with the very rare 8 popping up.

That's HIS opinion, though. I just decided to take it with a grain of salt as the general belief is that the werehog levels were bad, but not game breakers.

The truth is that even with the werehog levels tying things down "Unleashed" is slowly becoming the best reviewed Sonic console game since Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the GC.

Here's how Gamerankings ranks all the console Sonic games:
Sonic Adventure 2 Battle: 72%
Sonic Adventure DX: 63%
Sonic Heroes (GC version): 74%
Shadow the Hedgehog (GC version): 52%
Sonic 2006 (360, PS3): 45%
Sonic and the secret rings: 70%
Sonic Unleashed (Wii): 68%

The 360 version is 66% while the PS3 is, surprisingly, the best rated version with a 74%.

So, "Unleashed" has ranked better than "Sonic 2006", its slowly approaching the same numbers as "Secret Rings" and "might" surpass the first GC games.

Don't know about you, but it seems things are slowly coming into place.

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 02, 2008

Sonic Heroes shows up at the highest there (74%).

Sorry, this data has to be THROWN OUT.

I wish things were coming into place. Now all I have to hope for is that Sonic and the Black Knight isn't terrible.

I can't stress enough that the Werehog portions are gamebreakers, at least for me. They made the game almost unbearable to play. I think they weren't gamebreakers from some reviewers but, in all honesty, don't die by the score, die by the text. From what I've read in other reviews and seen in my own, we all have the same complaints.

D_AverageDecember 02, 2008

Some gamebreakers are more of a gamebreaker for some than others.  For me, gamebreakers always break the game for me and bring me back to gamebreaking reality.  That said, I will trust Nron's opinion here and avoid this game-breaker-breaker-1-9.

SchadenfreudeDecember 02, 2008

Quote from: D_Average

Some gamebreakers are more of a gamebreaker for some than others.  For me, gamebreakers always break the game for me and bring me back to gamebreaking reality.  That said, I will trust Nron's opinion here and avoid this game-breaker-breaker-1-9.

What?

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 02, 2008

At least he didn't try to edit his poast.

PeachylalaDecember 02, 2008

I will give SEGA the benefit of the doubt, they did listen to their fans when they set out to make a 3-D Sonic game with 2-D game play. The problem, however, is that their focus on the gameplay went all over the place. Why do we even need the Warehog? Why do we need to explore towns for pointless cutscenes? Why all this extraneous bullshit?

This is the problem with SEGA and Sonic Team. Sonic’s name has fallen so much that the only recent thing that he is remembered for is for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. All Sonic has to keep him afloat are his loyal fans, and these said fans exist in North America and Europe. Sonic was never popular in Japan, so it’s frustrating that SEGA doesn’t listen to us when we have been pointing out the obvious for eight fucking years.

I do have some faith that they HOPEFULLY listened to us about the flaws in Sonic and the Secret Rings. It had a simple story, it wasn't all over the place gameplay wise and the level design was great. However, the camera was a bit iffy, the jumping controls were annoying, music was terrible and there were TOO many side missions. Sonic and the Black Knight looks great, but if it has flaws that weren’t fixed, then someone should consider disbanding Sonic Team/Sega Studio USA.

Or give Sonic to Nintendo, where they will treat him with respect. Which is highly unlikely to happen. (Then again, wasn’t Nintendo the reason Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games turned out okay?)

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 02, 2008

Sega could launch a new console thanks to Mario&Sonic success.

PlugabugzDecember 02, 2008

Quote from: Djunknown

All I can hope for now is that Sonic and the Black Knight is at the same level of Secret Rings.

The Sonic Cycle starts again.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 02, 2008

Quote from: NinGurl69

Sonic Heroes shows up at the highest there (74%).

Sorry, this data has to be THROWN OUT.

The numbers are for the GC version. The PS2 and XBOX version received the worst numbers, with the belief that the GC version was superior.

trip1eXDecember 03, 2008

Quote from: nron10

Quote from: trip1eX

Nothing against the score except in relation to his other scores.  Shouldn't gameplay be a 4 too then?  It just seems the 4 makes scoring the other categories irrelevant.  Why bother then?

Quote from: nron10

The gameplay is an even split of good and bad for me, even though that even split is altered in the final score.

Well that's the problem.  The scoring isn't consistently figured out the same way. 

And if the subscores don't have much to do with the final score then why bother with them? 

Do I need to know the graphics are a 9 if the game is a 4?  :) 

It's a larger issue.  NOt just this review mind you.

Kind of like the Animal Crossing review.  It got a 10 for lastability, but the author scored it a 7.5 or something overall based on it mostly being the same game as on the DS.  That scoring seemed inconsistent too.    Hey it's the same game you played, but it will last you a long time?!???! 

vuduDecember 03, 2008

That's the reason why a review is more than a series of numbers.

I've never played an Animal Crossing game before so I wouldn't mind that it's essentially the same as the previous two games.  (I'm not going to play it for other reasons, but that's a topic for another thread.) 

trip1eX, I get what you mean, and it is a much larger issue.

It is a very tricky rope to walk across because it all comes down to the whole "greater/less than the sum of its parts?" argument. In this case, while the game looked beautiful, sounded decent, and controlled fine, it just wasn't fun to play. I'll also still stand by my reasoning for the gameplay score and the final score. Half of the gameplay was good and half of it was bad. About 40% or so of the final game was good and the rest was bad.

As a note to everyone that's speaking up about this review and its scores, I'm enjoying this thread even though my review's getting questioned. None of you guys are throwing out personal attacks, and that's great.

Note: After saying that, this is probably going to get slammed by some Sonic fan site.

IceColdDecember 04, 2008

Tokyo EAD could make the best Sonic game ever.

Neal, you suck and you're the worst reviewer ever.  I JUST BROKE THE THREAD

We'll be reviewing our review process soon.  I think it's time to tinker with it a bit.

IceCold - totally. Sonic Team can't make a good Sonic game anymore. I'm convinced.

Does that mean we can give our review process an arbitrary score?

Graphics: 2.0

The presentation of our review process is very plain. It's all a bunch of text. Text is boring.

Sound: 0.0

There is none. Lame!

Final: 5.0

GoldenPhoenixDecember 04, 2008

The review and the reviewer is stoopid and has a goofy face

Quote from: IceCold

Tokyo EAD could make the best Sonic game ever.

You could replace the word Sonic in that sentence with any word or phrase and it would be just as true.

PeachylalaDecember 04, 2008

I still stand by my belief that Yuji Naka and Sega of Japan ruined Sonic after that Sonic X-Treme tragedy.

I wonder what Hirokazu Yasahara is up to, he was the level designer for all three Genesis Sonic games (and he helped out a bit on X-Treme). Maybe Sega should ask him for help?

SchadenfreudeDecember 04, 2008

Quote from: insanolord

Quote from: IceCold

Tokyo EAD could make the best Sonic game ever.

You could replace the word Sonic in that sentence with any word or phrase and it would be just as true.

I don't think Halo, Half-life or numerous other games would work.

Luigi DudeDecember 04, 2008

Quote from: Hugh

I still stand by my belief that Yuji Naka and Sega of Japan ruined Sonic after that Sonic X-Treme tragedy.

Actually that's a well known fact.  That incident showed that the higher ups at Sega didn't give a sh!t about Sonic since he was never popular in Japan.  Which is why Sega has never allowed Sonic Team to have enough time to properly even finish developement of a 3d Sonic, and that's why every single 3d Sonic game was a rushed, buggy mess.

Now some of these messes were better then others, but when the best 3d Sonic game is only mediocre, that says something about how poor the quality of the series is.

Oh well, now we wait until Black Knight comes out and the Sonic Cycle starts to move again.  Of course in Black Knights case everyone started hating on it when it was first show and then started liking the idea when more info came out.  In the other cases like Unleashed, people like the game right away and then start hating when more info comes out.  Does this mean the Cycle has been broken?

Probably not but right now we can still hope at least.  :(

Given our site's policies, I don't see how that final score was produced.  5 on our site means an even amount of good and bad.  4 implies that there's more wrong with the game than there is right.  Given all of the praise in the other areas, and nothing glaringly broken (just unsatisfactory), I don't see how it could be below a 5.  "Almost halfway to being a good game" does not mean almost halfway to a 10.  I actually think Neal's original score rather than the edited one was proper and was shocked to see the final version.  Even given TYP's score formula, which seems reasonable, I don't think the werehog portions were bad enough to warrant something as low as a 2.

trip1eXDecember 04, 2008

I'm just poking fun at the scoring system. 


GoldenPhoenixDecember 04, 2008

Quote:

best 3d Sonic game is only mediocre

Sonic Adventure was great.

SchadenfreudeDecember 04, 2008

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Quote:

best 3d Sonic game is only mediocre

Sonic Adventure was great.

Was it great or only good? It did have Big the Cat.

GoldenPhoenixDecember 04, 2008

Quote from: Schadenfreude

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Quote:

best 3d Sonic game is only mediocre

Sonic Adventure was great.

Was it great or only good? It did have Big the Cat.

I loved fishing.

DAaaMan64December 04, 2008

Sonic Adventure 2 is bestest.

Quote from: MegaByte

Even given TYP's score formula, which seems reasonable, I don't think the werehog portions were bad enough to warrant something as low as a 2.

I do.
I've played some bad games over the years, but the Werehog portion of Sonic Unleashed was one of my least favorite experiences. And it is the majority of the game. My distaste with this game might be enlarged by my past love for Sonic games but even still, this game is a very bad overall package.

I hate all the 3D Sonic games.  Every single one.  The idea that Sega should aim for recreating the "magic" of Sonic Adventure is so sad.  They should move forward and do something new, different, and better, not look backwards to a mediocre and overrated launch title that is now approaching ten years old.

While I enjoyed Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 (much in the way I enjoyed movies like the Ice Pirates and Battlefield Baseball), Jonny is so right.
My favorite game in the series still stands as Sonic 2, and even that doesn't hold up as well as I thought.

PeachylalaDecember 05, 2008

Quote:

Actually that's a well known fact.  That incident showed that the higher ups at Sega didn't give a sh!t about Sonic since he was never popular in Japan.  Which is why Sega has never allowed Sonic Team to have enough time to properly even finish developement of a 3d Sonic, and that's why every single 3d Sonic game was a rushed, buggy mess.

It's always been common knowledge that a vast majority of Sega's more famous Sonic Team icons (Sonic, NiGHTS) have a bigger fanbase in America and Europe, and we are the most vocal of them.

To bad they don't listen to us.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusDecember 05, 2008

I agree with Jonny. All 3D Sonic games suck and it appears this one is no exception. Maybe if we scream at Sega loud enough, they will eventually get the message that Sonic is meant to be in 2D.

GoldenPhoenixDecember 05, 2008

Quote from: Mr.

I agree with Jonny. All 3D Sonic games suck and it appears this one is no exception. Maybe if we scream at Sega loud enough, they will eventually get the message that Sonic is meant to be in 2D.

Yeah except some of us didn'tcare much for the 2D Sonics. For myself, I didn't really enjoy the series until Sonic Adventure came out (Though I did enjoy 3 a bit). The variety in SA was amazing, the boss battles were tons of fun, the Sonic levels were fast and well designed. The branching character paths was still pretty new to gaming and I loved how everyone's story connected from a different perspective. So I'm sorry I have to say I completely disagree with both you and Jonny. Then again it seems to be the popular thing now to attack Sonic Adventure after Sega has run the series into the ground.

Sonic Adventure 1 was a great achievement in visuals, level design (for the most part), variety(It had gameplay styles for everyone),  and had an interesting story as well. Most of the characters were vivid and you cared for them even if it was on a more basic level. Heck even the CHAOS were a fascinating addition with the VMU. Not to mention it had some of the most breathtaking action sequences in 3D platforming. There is nothing I'd change about the game besides some of the scavenger hunts and the camera. It may not have been the simplistic formula of past Sonics, but it was a very good game in its own right and did lots of things quite well, and DESERVES some respect.

I enjoyed Sonic Adventure 1 & 2. I didn't think they were perfect when they came out, but I spent lots of time with them, only cringing at points. (I never though Big's levels were that annoying, BTW. Knuckles', however....)

I don't think the first one stands the test of time--and certainly the GC port made things worse. I still have fond memories of the second one, but have no pressing desire to relive its love-hate duality in Sonic Unleashed.

Sonic 2 and Sonic & 3 Knuckles are still the most timeless entries. Everything since Sonic Adventure 2, besides the 2D handheld entries, has been bad or worse, though.

GoldenPhoenixDecember 05, 2008

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

I enjoyed Sonic Adventure 1 & 2. I didn't think they were perfect when they came out, but I spent lots of time with them, only cringing at points. (I never though Big's levels were that annoying, BTW. Knuckles', however....)

I don't think the first one stands the test of time--and certainly the GC port made things worse. I still have fond memories of the second one, but have no pressing desire to relive its love-hate duality in Sonic Unleashed.

Sonic 2 and Sonic & 3 Knuckles are still the most timeless entries. Everything since Sonic Adventure 2, besides the 2D handheld entries, has been bad or worse, though.

Wasn't Sonic Heroes a pretty good game? (I never played it)

DAaaMan64December 05, 2008

SA2 had amazing racing multiplayer.

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Not really.

PeachylalaDecember 08, 2008

Quote:

Wasn't Sonic Heroes a pretty good game? (I never played it)

Controls were terrible, camera was awful, some levels took nearly ten minutes to complete, there was no real different between the four teams, they ruined the story line by not making Eggman the main villain, Shadow is alive, too much music by Jun Sunoue.

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 08, 2008

Sounds pretty good for 5th graders.

Sonic Heroes had horrid pacing, and one or two bosses made me so angry I stopped playing. I never could get the hang of the special stages in that game, either....

EDIT: Thought I'd throw in a link to my old Sonic Heroes review--the last 3D Sonic game I reviewed, I think. In hindsight, I was a tad generous with the scores. I think Jonny made a better call.

I think Jonny's review of Sonic Heroes perfectly displays my sentiments towards the series when I played Heroes.
I remember thinking that game looked promising, and then I played it. Typical Sonic bait-and-switch.

NinGurl69 *hugglesDecember 10, 2008

Ubisoft Presents

No More Sonic

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Sonic Unleashed Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Sonic Team

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic Unleashed
Release Nov 18, 2008
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Sonic World Adventure
Release Dec 18, 2008
PublisherSega
eu: Sonic Unleashed
Release Nov 14, 2008
PublisherSega
Rating7+
aus: Sonic Unleashed
Release Nov 13, 2008
PublisherSega
RatingGeneral

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