We were invited this month to attend SEGA’s Team Sonic Racing Preview Event, hosted deep in the heart of London’s Shoreditch, and get our hands on the game’s latest build! What happened was an action-packed day filled with tournaments, time trials and a LOT of gameplay impressions. So, let’s get right to it!
On arrival we were treated to a short presentation, in which we were introduced to members of the Design Team from Sumo Digital including Derek Littlewood – the Design Director, who went on to give us a thorough introduction to the game.
Amongst topics such as game mechanics, moves, and parts (which we will discuss later), Littlewood introduced the 7 “zones” over which the races will be set, which included Planet Wisp, Seaside Hill, Glacier Land, Casino Park, Sandopolis, Orange Roofs, and Final Fortress. Of those 7 zones, there are 21 unique tracks – including 9 dubbed as “fan favourites” indicating that TSR will inherit some track layouts from its predecessors.
Once out of the presentation we were each sat at a table, handed a controller, and given free reign to explore any facet of the game our hearts desired.
My first port of call was the story mode, as I was desperate to find out more about Dodon Pa – the mysterious Tanuki who we have only really seen a few glimpses of to date. Right from the get-go, the game takes a tongue-in-cheek approach, with many of the characters suspecting that he is probably a henchman of Eggman, but going along with it anyway – and really shows Sumo have continued their tight relationship with SEGA to catch the Sonic Universe’s tone.
Diving in, the story mode is set out as a world map; once stages are complete or goals have been achieved, the next stage is unlocked. Should you achieve the top rank on any stage (the 3-star system, as has featured in previous Sonic Sumo titles) – you also unlock alternative and side routes which allow access to bonus challenges. The format of each stage is what you might expect, with each stage comprising of single races, Grand Prix (4 races), time trials, and challenges.
In my confidence with the previous racing titles I set the difficultly to “Hard” – that was my first mistake. The learning curve is very steep, as it was in All Stars Racing: Transformed, and although I thought I might have had a chance of winning, I received a severe punishment from all of the AI teams. Conceding, I set the difficulty back to Normal… once the game releases in late May I will no doubt be investing many, many hours in top-ranking all of these challenges.
Once back in the slightly-less-challenging setting, I found out what I really needed to do in the game, and that is work as a team. There are several ways the player can do this:
- Item Exchange: Items can be easily sent with a button tap to other players in dire need of a boost or a weapon. Or, as I found much more useful, items can be requested when you’re trailing behind. I found that once I got into the lead in several cases, I had no use for weaponry, and could then supply my team with a steady stream of ordinance and boosts
- Slingshot: When trailing behind a lead player, you can sit in their slipstream, marked by a golden trail, and really get a boost of momentum – it seemed very effective when you were following closely behind your team mate, and could capitalise on the boost with another action
- Skim Boost: This boost occurs when the player closely passes a teammate, giving them an extra kick as they pass – we found we could chain the Skim boost together with the Slingshot, which really puts you ahead if executed correctly
- Team Ultimate: All the while, the above three actions charge your “Ultimate meter” which once full allows your team to execute a Team Ultimate move in which the entire team temporarily gets perfect handling, top speed and invulnerability.
Generally, these moves work really well and are quite intuitive to learn, and I found that I had quickly picked up a technique that worked. In solo mode however, you have to direct the AI a little with regards to item sharing, and I often found the team could only execute one Team Ultimate move per race. However, once in multiplayer mode we found that we could execute multiple Team Ultimate moves, and that really made a difference to the outcome of the race (which we will talk about later). The controls in general are very similar to previous titles, and ASR:T veterans will likely pick this game up very fast once they understand how to properly capitalise on the team moves.
The means in which the Wisps are incorporated into the game is great, and feels a lot more thematic to power ups seen in previous titles, although it will likely take players several hours to familiarise themselves with the whole Wisp family and learn how to utilise them best.
The Jade Wisp makes it debut in TSR, and allows the player to take on the form of an apparition and pass through players and obstacles unchallenged. However, it does have its drawback in that powerups cannot be collected while the Wisp is activated, making it very much a Wisp with a double edge – but a great example of how much work has gone into balancing the game. My personal favourite was the Burst Wisp, which leaves a firey trail behind the player – zig-zagging across the road really maximised the number of players you could catch in your wake!
One of the new challenges included passing as close as possible to several posts on a course – points are achieved by passing through the yellow or red arch that extends from either side, with the score being based upon the number of rings passed through, or the number of the same coloured rings the player could chain together.
As players progress throughout the game and complete challenges, they earn “R”s which comprise the game’s currency. The R’s are spent at an in-game shop which takes the form of a “gachapon” machine (the capsule vending machines synonymous with Japanese toys) from which random car parts are dispensed. It’s worth pointing out here that the gacha mechanics appear to only involve virtual currency obtained by playing the game; we saw no evidence of any micro-transactions hidden away in here.
During the day, we were challenged to put our skills to the test in a time trail on Market Square, with the fastest competitor receiving a trophy and the admiration of their peers.
Out of the 30+ competitors, which constituted the likes of some well-known YouTubers, we managed to place a very respectable 4th place after many, many tries! While partially driven by a need to win, it was a great way to hone the single player skills, learn tricks around corners, and where to use the all-important Boost Wisps.
In the afternoon, we were split off into teams of 3, and set against each other in a Grand Prix of epic proportions! We are pleased to report that the TSS team managed to fight their way to the finals (maybe we aren’t so rusty in our old age) – and this is where using mutliple Team Ultimates really came into play! We were on fire! We were pipped-to-the-post by a team from the US however, who were really exercising what this game is about – teamwork and communication, and were able to triumph by talking to each other, requesting items, and keeping each other up-to-date on their position. Their spoils? A Team Sonic Racing branded race suit!
Overall, we think Team Sonic Racing is shaping up to be another top-notch Sumo title, with some novel new mechanics that will draw both old and new fans to pick up a copy.
Team Sonic Racing is available on multiple platforms on May 21st 2019.