Team Sonic Racing Impressions, Alex’s Take

The Sonic franchise is no stranger to the power of teamwork. Tails has been an inept, if occasionally useful, AI sidekick to Sonic since Sonic 2. Knuckles Chaotix was built around the idea of two characters using each other’s momentum to rubber-band around the stage. Sonic Heroes had players switching between different characters and using their strengths to get through stages.

These instances have one thing in common other than using the power of teamwork: they were all arguably lesser experiences because of it. I’m not sure Team Sonic Racing breaks this trend, if the brief E3 demo is any indication.

At first glance, Team Sonic Racing looks, feels, and even sounds a lot like Sumo Digital’s previous superb Sonic racers. The cars still control like a dream and seem to even have a little more weight to them this time around, which feels nice. The game’s focus on drifting is complimented by superb drifting controls which work as smoothly as ever.

Drive along your teammates yellow wake to slingshot

The weapons are common and useful enough to spice up races, but aren’t powerful enough to interfere with the game’s sense of speed. This time around, the weapons are based on wisps rather than generic items like rockets and banana peels. Some of the new wisps are basically just analogs for the old weapons, like the blue block wisp replacing the banana peels and the orange rocket wisp replacing the rocket. Others, however, are brand new, like the fire wisp, which leaves a trail of damaging flames behind the racer that used it.

The visuals are vibrant and colorful, as one would expect from a Sumo Digital SEGA racer. The frame rate does chug at points in the demo, but these sorts of performance issues are common in E3 demos and are often eliminated, or at least significantly reduced, by the time of retail release. The music fits Sonic’s world rather well, and the announcer is almost certainly the same guy from Transformed. Playing into the team dynamic, there is much more conversational interplay between characters this time around. Teammates encourage and thank one another and taunt their rivals, which adds a nice bit of character to the festivities, though hearing Tails ask Shadow who his daddy is was as weird as it was funny.

Sonic and Shadow are the only characters in the demo with the same stats

Despite all these similarities, Team Sonic Racing’s demo just doesn’t grab me quite as effectively as Transformed did when I first tried it at an event six years ago. The loss of the SEGA branding certainly plays a small role: the SEGA fan service in Sonic & All-Star Racing Transformed is an important part of the game’s charm in my opinion. Team Sonic Racing’s much bigger problem is its namesake: it’s team-based game play simply feels a bit clunky, at least in single-player.

As the name suggests, Team Sonic Racing is all about racing with a team of other racers. Even if you take first place, you can’t win if they do too poorly. On paper, this mechanic sounds interesting: rather than simply looking out for yourself, you have to also do what you can to help your team. You can pass them items, pass them close to give them skim boosts, and leave them wakes behind your car that they can use to slingshot and increase their speed. Your team in turn will offer you items, leave wakes for you to slingshot on, and give you skim boosts. Do enough of these team actions and you will fill up the Ultimate meter, which allows you to activate a team ultimate, which gives your team a super powerful speed boost.

Sonic activating a fire wisp as Knuckles and Tails flank him

In practice, however, it just isn’t very engaging, and can occasionally lead to some frustrating losses. You don’t have much control over the performance of your AI team mates, and while they are usually competent enough to not lose you the race, the interplay between you and them simply doesn’t add much to the experience. Using your team’s wakes to slingshot is fun enough, and receiving items from them can be helpful, but it doesn’t really add much to the kart racing formula.

To make matters worse, sometimes your team mates can completely fail, costing you the race even if you get first place. During my last race before writing these impressions, I was doing what I could to help my team, enough to to fill my ultimate meter. But despite my efforts, my team mates still ended up at the back of the pack, leaving me in last place. This only happened once, but that this happened at all highlights how poor this mechanic can work in single-player.

Omega is definitely disappointed by the performance of his fleshy comrades

Compared to the transformation mechanics of All-Stars Racing Transformed, Team Sonic Racing feels like a step back. Even the course itself feels like a downgrade from the transforming Panzer Dragoon course that was used to show off Transformed six years ago. It doesn’t feature any impressive set pieces and is generic in design.

Team Sonic Racing feels like something that would work better as a multiplayer-only mode, rather than the central gimmick of an entire racing game. I get the feeling that Team Sonic Racing’s team game play will work better in multiplayer, where your teammates will be other people rather than AI. I can imagine myself having a lot of fun racing alongside my mates from Sonic Talk, Jason and Chris, laughing as my mediocre skills bring down our standing as a team and cost us a race.

As a single-player experience, Team Sonic Racing isn’t awful. I still loved drifting and boosting through the demo, and I often got really into it. Much of the foundation that made Sumo Digital’s past Sonic racing games so enjoyable is still here. But if you were hoping for a game that built upon what Transformed accomplished, I think you will be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Gotta say that your impressions kinda confirm my suspicions. I think getting rid of the transformation mechanic will definitely be a step-back regardless of what it’s replaced with as it’s going to mean for much simpler level design again. What a shame.
    But anyway, I think the team mechanic could work a lot better for single player if the position of your other team mates didn’t matter; so if you come in first and they come in last then you’d be first. Makes sense, right?
    Still looks like I’ll get the game though, just hoping I’ll enjoy it for a while. Started playing Transformed again recently because of all the news surrounding this game.

  2. “Team Sonic Racing feels like a step back.”

    Pretty much all Sonic games in the past 7 years. (with the exception of Mania)

    I know Sumo Digital is developing this, but it wouldn’t feel like a Sonic game if someone didn’t force a gimmick down our throats that makes the game worse. I really hope this Team thing is optional.

  3. It’s a shame that the AI is poor from your experience, I was really hoping they would nail that down. Framerate I guess I don’t mind, the uninspired tracks might be a concern but I’m still holding out somewhat. I do wish they would show off the better parts of the games they make more to inspire hope, it would make me fear less for the game if there was more to see. Thanks for the insight anyway, really interested in seeing where this goes.

  4. Hello Everyone,

    This is my first post on this site so I hope I don’t embarrass myself.

    Warning: Wall of Text.

    When I heard about this game, I thought the team based format is going to be like you pick 3 characters for each track, 1 character for each lap. Like how in the Summer Olympics, they have the 400 meter relay dash and there are 4 participants in a team and each of them run for 100 meters while in between the person who ran before will give a cylinder shaped object called the baton pass, to the next person to run an additional 100 meters and so on until all 4 participants completed the 400 meter relay dash.

    Seeing how this game is team based, an easier way would be we pick three characters and choose which character we want to play as for each lap and it is not restricted to just having one speed, technique or power character in a team. You can pick all Speed characters if you want.

    Also the transformation aspect of the previous game was the best thing about it. You can add new mechanics to it like Speed characters are better in Car Mode, Technique characters are better in Plane Mode, and Power character are better in Boat Mode. So it is important to pick which character is the best for which track.

    In regards to characters, if you can have 12 teams in a track but switching between 3 characters, that means you have to have 36 characters for each track but only 12 characters at time for each track and having 15 characters is very low. If Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can have over 36+ plus characters that are mostly Mario characters while a few of them are Nintendo characters from other series like Link, Villager, Isabelle and Inklings, then this game is no exception to the roster and here are 36 characters I can think of plus 16 race tracks, each track from one sonic game.

    Name of game: Team Sonic Racing Transformed

    SPEED—TECHNIQUE—POWER
    1. Sonic—Tails—Knuckles
    2. Metal Sonic—Tails Doll—Metal Knuckles
    3. Blaze—Silver—Gemerl
    4. Shadow—Rouge—Omega
    5. Amy—Cream—Big
    6. Marine—Ray—Mighty
    7. Espio—Charmy—Vector
    8. Fang—Bean—Bark
    9. Shade—Tikal—Chaos
    10. Jet—Wave—Storm
    11. Infinite—Dr. Eggman—Zavok
    12. Bayonetta—Nights—Akira

    RING CUP
    1. Green Hill (Sonic the Hedgehog 1991)
    2. Chemical Plant (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
    3. Ice Cap (Sonic the Hedgehog 3)
    4. Sky Sanctuary (Sonic & Knuckles) “Sanctuary Falls from Transformed”
    SPRING CUP
    5. Stardust Speedway (Sonic CD)
    6. Press Garden (Sonic Mania)
    7. Speed Highway (Sonic Adventure)
    8. City Escape (Sonic Adventure 2)
    CAPSULE CUP
    9. Seaside Hill (Sonic Heroes) “Ocean View from Transformed”
    10. Cosmic Fall (Shadow the Hedgehog)
    11. Crisis City (Sonic the Hedgehog 2006)
    12. Rooftop Run (Sonic Unleashed)
    EMERALD CUP
    13. Starlight Carnival (Sonic Colors) “Galactic Parade from Transformed”
    14. Dessert Ruins (Sonic Lost World)
    15. Mystic Jungle (Sonic Forces)
    16. Sega Carnival (Sonic Riders)

    Some notes: Spoilers from Sonic Games
    *Dessert Ruins is from the 3rd Act of Desert Ruins Zone where they changed the name from Desert to Dessert, the one with Candy Objects.
    *In the Lava Mountain Zones Act 1 and Act 3, It looks as if Sonic killed of all members of the deadly six except for Zavok. All the others went “poof” while Zavok fell down in the lava like Bowser in the Mario games and Bowser is still alive from that, so Zavok could be alive in the same manner while the Koopalings didn’t go “poof” but rather escaped after being defeated.
    *Infinite is still alive, even though the Phantom Ruby has been destroyed, so he is back to being who he was without a mask. in the comics it showed him his face.
    *Press Garden Zone is from Act 2, the one with snowy fields and cherry blossoms.
    *Gemerl is alive after the end credits of Sonic Advance 3.

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