Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Outdated Reviews #1: Sonic Unleashed

So, something has occurred to me recently.  Thus far I have yet to review anything I hated.  Prototype had a lot of issues and I didn't like it much, but I didn't hate it either.  With that in mind, I've decided to dig down to the past a bit and bring up a truly awful game to give my take on.  So my first of Outdated Reviews will be my review of Sonic Unleashed (on the Wii).
It's no secret that Sonic in 3D has not turned out well.  Every one of these games gets a massive amount of complaints towards the style of play and all of these complaints seem to go consistently ignored by SEGA and the Sonic Team.  Sonic Unleashed initially appeared as though it may finally break this chain of crap.  Unfortunately, several problems that were present in the previous games but weren't often complained about (overshadowed by the more obvious complaints) became a lot more apparent in this title.  At best, this game feels like a brief concept of the type of game they were going for.  Nothing in this game feels complete or polished in the least aside from the cut-scenes and the background music.  Also note that the cut-scenes are good only on a visual level, the voice work matches that of Prototype (terrible).
Sonic Unleashed is split into two separate styles of play.  First, you have the standard Sonic levels which take place during the day.  The amount of praise that these sections of the game get is...perplexing at best.  Every level has occasional 2D gameplay mixed in with the 3D which was what initially had me excited for the game.  The 2D sections last all of about 2 seconds each and if you have any sort of momentum prior to entering them (which you always do), you effectively go through them on autopilot.  The 3D sections are just as awful as in previous 3D Sonic games.  You appear to be in an open space but you're more or less bound to a very specific path, resulting in it feeling like Sonic is part metal and there's a magnetic strip that travels down the center of the stage.  It is possible to go off that strip but doing so is useless in almost all cases.
You occasionally (i.e. very rarely) find something to go off the main path for but even managing to do so is a huge pain.  Again like previous 3D titles in the series, Sonic mysteriously lacks the ability to stop, turn around or even turn left or right if it's not part of the level's main path.  Worse yet, though, Sonic's speed is a liability in this title.  Combining the lack of decent directional control with a character who moves too fast (something that should never be a problem in a Sonic title) makes exploring a level next to impossible.
The praise that the 'day-time' levels get is simply unfounded and I can only attribute it to the fact that these parts of the game give you a break from the even worse 'night-time' levels.
So, the second style of play:  the night-time levels where you play as the laughably-titled Werehog version of Sonic.  As many people have pointed out in the past, the phrase 'werehog' doesn't make sense.  The former part of 'werewolf' is derived from 'wer', an Old English word meaning 'man'; so the phrase 'werehog' gives no literary indication that this version of Sonic is part wolf.  This is obviously unrelated to reviewing the (lack of) quality of the game itself but worth pointing out to those who weren't already aware.
Playing as the Sonic-Wolf-Thing, you're introduced to different gameplay mechanics than the day-time levels.  Now, you're playing an arcade-style action brawler with insultingly basic puzzles scattered throughout the stages.  The fighting mechanics themselves actually show potential but the controls implemented are, for lack of a better word, broken.  Nothing you press/no motion you perform seems to result in the action you expect it to and the hit-detection on the enemies is very wonky.  Traversing these levels is almost as much of a pain as the day-time levels but remains the lone aspect of the "Werehog" sections that tops the Sonic sections.  This time around, walking in multiple directions is possible and you can actually jump and land where you want to.  Traveling through these stages is fine so long as you don't use the Wii Remote & Nunchuk.  Motion controls for climbing and swinging do not work right at all.  The game thankfully supports both the Classic and Gamecube controllers.
Level design for the night-time levels is incredibly bland and predictable.  Every stage has areas where you have to defeat hordes of enemies that last far too long in order to advance.  The enemies themselves are dull in design and have remarkably poor AI.  Most of the puzzles presented are akin to 'go back 5 steps so you can press that switch that you passed'.  In short, the night-time levels, which are more frequent than the day-time levels, present nothing but boredom in multiple forms at once.
If only the flow of awful stopped here.  Brace yourself because it does get worse.  I tried very hard to make it through this game because I actually got it as a gift...but I had to give up on account of the sections that come between the levels.
Between every main level (to clarify, there are optional stages), you have to navigate through multiple towns and cities of what I assume is Mobius; Sonic's home planet; speaking with the locals in order to collect information.  These parts of the game are set up like point and click adventure games...for some reason.  First off, none of what you do during these parts has any bearing on the game other than opening the next main level.  I'd have no problem with this if it was just a quick, simple way to connect the story with the game, but it actually takes up more time than the levels themselves.  I often found myself with too little information to realize who I should even be talking to which further lengthened these investigations as I talked to every person/thing available just to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

Well, let's wrap up.

1.  Being fast should never be a problem in a Sonic game.
2.  Arcade brawlers are just something Sonic Team should stay away from.
3.  Most importantly:  playing a game should never be less than half of the game.

Do not buy.  Do not rent.  I encourage you to smack anyone who tries to claim this is a good game.

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