PS2 Review: Sonic Unleashed

Sonic unleashes his inner-beast, making yet another disappointing game

Sonic has had a hard life. He started out in some great games in the 2D days but is the one franchise that’s never felt quite right in 3D. The last Sonic game on the next-gen consoles was a disaster thanks to poor controls, an annoying camera and the most irritating boss battles of all time. SEGA has decided to return the series to its roots by adding in a 2D view whilst in 3D plus keeping the 3D moments included but add in something that ruins it completely…yes, I’m talking about the Were-hog.

In this new adventure, Dr. Eggman is up to his evil antics again, in his quest for World domination, he unleashes a powerful ray that divides the world into several continents and transforms Sonic into a beast-like state. Sonic must travel across the globe, completing action-packed stages to retrieve the power of the Chaos Emeralds to ultimately save the world… and himself!

The story is typical of a Sonic game and feels more like a return to form than the silly stories in past games. The game takes a very slow pace through tutorials that need to load one at a time and then you have to access a town’s areas through pointless dialogue to open up levels, I don’t see the point in that at all. From there, you can play the standard levels as Sonic during the day and the Were-Hog during the night.

Playing as Sonic has never been so fast and fluid; the team have done a great job here. The 2D sections are the best part of the whole game and the 3D portions are much better than in past games. Then they go and spoil it all with the Were-Hog who is incredibly slow and the sections are twice as long because of it. It becomes a sub-par platformer/button basher through combat with loads of enemies that die in a few hits. There’s no challenge to fighting, you can rake up an enormous combo with your eyes shut…it’s just silly.

The Were-Hog sections are purely a gimmick that once again doesn’t work. Sonic Unleashed takes a step forward and 2 steps back because of them alone. It seems that in each Sonic game, they have to add something that doesn’t work. With Shadow the Hedgehog it was guns, with Sonic the Hedgehog it was the character Silver and now with Unleashed…it’s the Were-Hog.

As with each 3D Sonic game, you get ranked at the end of each stage. Only this time you get different objects for getting higher ranks depending on which character you are playing as. They don’t really do that much on the PS2 other than being something to get, it adds a bit of replay value…but it’s not that enticing. There are a few quick-time events in the game that work well, although they aren’t that original. Sonic Unleashed also introduces a sidekick character who has lost his memory. Sonic just refers to him as Chip but he is irritating as hell with bad voice acting. Sonic isn’t so bad and him trying to do an impression of Solid Snake when he’s a Were-Hog is priceless for all the wrong reasons.

Gameplay during the true Sonic sections is the highlight of the whole thing. There are multiple paths to take and are very fast, but ultimately too short when compared to the lengthy, dull combat sections of the Were-Hog. What I don’t get is what fans demanded that Sonic change into this creature? Sonic Team listened to our demands to return him to classic gameplay, yet they added something that we never wanted. The idea of him being a Were-Hog sounds ok on paper, but the reality is that it just doesn’t work. Going from super speedy to slower than a turtle doesn’t make any sense…also, what Werewolves are slow in movies? Everyone I’ve seen has been very fast, so there’s no excuse really.

Visually, the PS2 version is average when compared with the other versions. Character models are jaggy and lack detail, it also made my HDTV go a bit odd at first. Load times are very long and frequent…there is a load time for everything, which gets annoying fast. The day stages themselves are well designed and look great, although the Night sections look bad and are horrible to play. The music returns to the classic Sonic games and not the rubbish stuff from past games, which is another improvement…it’s just not enough.

The Verdict

Sonic Unleashed had so much potential. The Sonic sections are amazing and fun, but the Were-Hog just brings the gameplay to a halt with its clunky and slow combat. Once again, the team have failed to deliver on another unwanted gimmick…hopefully next time, they’ll just listen to the fans and give us what we want…a classic Sonic game without gimmicks!