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.