Review by Ep1ph0n
"Huge potential. Huge letdown."
There once was a time when the name Sonic was synonymous with quality video gaming. The legendary blue hedgehog was a surefire good time for individuals of all ages; controls were fluid, sound was rich and memorable, and the sense of speed dazzled yet never overwhelmed. But SEGA's flagship character has grown increasingly tired with each year that passes. Dozens of spinoffs have created a mire in which the series now sits and rotates. Sonic the Hedgehog for the XBOX 360, a game that shares its name with the original Genesis classic, is SEGA's latest attempt to revitalize the lagging series for the next generation. But instead of propelling Sonic to new heights while recapturing the zeal of its legendary predecessors, this new iteration ends up slamming the series firmly into the ground with godawful controls, unforgivable bugs, and some of the lamest load times ever to grace a game.
To begin, you're tossed into a cheesy kingdom where a princess has been kidnapped by series mainstay, Dr. Eggman. If she isn't rescued, all the land will be engulfed by the wrath of an angry sun god. With that in mind, you proceed to quest through enormous action levels that are bookended by bland, frustrating RPG-inspired city levels. Sonic speeds through the streets of generic-looking towns while speaking with citizens in a poorly constructed RPG knockoff that ultimately slows the game's pace down to a crawl. You'll perform absurd tasks for people and are rewarded in rings based on minor grading criteria. The rings can then be used to purchase items at shops that lead to new abilities for your character, some of which are legitimately useful and some of which are legitimately garbage.
As you progress through your quest, you'll meet up with series mainstay Shadow the Hedgehog and newcomer Silver the Hedgehog. After engaging with each, players will gain access to additional storylines where Shadow and Silver are playable characters. While Sonic blasts through stages with aerial combo attacks, Silver moves slower and relies on telekinesis to launch objects at enemies, and Shadow maintains a similar speed to Sonic, but brings powerful vehicles into the mix which he can use to mow down enemies. Beyond Shadow and Silver, you'll also team-up with familiar faces such as Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rose, and others. Shadow and Silver are both serviceable, but Sonic's longtime companion Tails gets a vote for "Most Useless Sidekick" in a game this year. The flying fox's attacks are laughable, using fake ring cannisters to either slowly snipe or carpet bomb areas, and his movement and controls are so loose you'll find yourself darting around the screen chaotically, yelling at the little orange bugger to just go where the hell you want him to.
After rolling around the starting town of Soleanna, Sonic is blasted headlong into the first action level and is greeted with vast, sprawling landscapes and enormous obstacles such as vertical loops and banked turns. But don't get too excited, because everything you see is a potential deathtrap (and for all the wrong reasons).
A big draw of past Sonic games was the ease in which you tackled the environment, soaring through intricately crafted courses with what seemed like impossible ease. Despite the blazing speed, players always felt as if they were in full control of where they traveled. Double-backing and exploring secret areas was a breeze as well. But that sense of command amidst chaos is lost here, as the unbearably loose controls will send you hurtling over edges dozens of times, and sometimes, despite proper player input, the game will launch you to your death anyway. Even sections where Sonic is speeding along without your control -- sections where theoretically you should be able to put the 360 sticks down without worry -- can end in death. Speed boost pads that should send you rocketing towards the next goal will often kick you off at strange angles, over cliffs, and into walls. The slightest nudge of the joystick at an inopportune time is often more than enough to send your character to their death. The result is a game that makes you afraid to take risks. There are juicy secret paths and fantastic-looking obstacles that branch from the main drag, but the prospect of a quick death discourages any desire to attempt daring acrobatics or insane jumps.
A wonky camera that provides all the wrong angles at all the wrong times only exacerbates Sonic the Hedgehog's problems. Sudden camera switches will trick your eyes and lead to endless frustration, especially during platforming sections. Mix the controls and camera with a plethora of bugs and you have a gaming experience that could have been epic, but is instead endlessly annoying. Sonic and company will get stuck on tiny edges or invisible walls and spazz for long chunks of time while enemies proceed to pound on their helpless, mangled bodies. When all these issues coalesce, you'll find yourself dying ad nauseam, ready to toss the controller in anger. But fortunately, you can take time to cool down during one of the hundreds of loading screens that assault your eyes. You see, everything gets a loading screen in Sonic the Hedgehog. After accepting a quest from a villager, you'll wait on a ten second load, which is followed by five seconds of dialogue, and then another ten second loading screen. That's right: loading screens for loading screens. Intense portions of the game will suddenly be stopped mid-sprint to load a new section, wrecking immersion and wasting time.
Graphically, Sonic the Hedgehog is a mishmash of last-gen textures painted onto flat palettes mixed with next-gen processing. The result is a blur of muddy, simplistic locales that flash by quickly and are then forgotten. A handful of stages do well to serve as eye-candy, such as Crisis City, a crumbling, flame-engulfed post-apocalyptic metropolis filled with tornadoes and explosions, but other regions, such as the main town of Soleanna, are so drab and boxy that they look almost Playstation-like. For a 360 game, Sonic the Hedgehog does absolutely nothing to push the graphical limits of the console.
Plug your ears as well, because it's another round of the forgettable technopop and rock that has become the hallmark of the Sonic series. Music has little relevance to each level and happily blares along for the ride, complacent in its hollowness. Voice acting is mediocre at best, with poorly synched, overstated anime-style jabbering coming from each character. Townsfolk yammer in short Charlie Brownish "Wah wah"'s and all other sound effects are ripped straight from past Sonic games.
Beyond the standard branching main storyline, Sonic the Hedgehog also offers multiplayer where you and a friend can team up to complete stages in tandem or race against each other for victory. The pace is serviceable, but slowdown can crop up at inopportune times, and when mixed with all the glitches and camera faults, you'll probably find your 360 with a different game in it after the first level.
The sad thing about Sonic the Hedgehog for the XBOX 360 is that there is so much wasted potential. There really is an interesting -- almost breathtaking -- game here, but the glitches and errors pile up so high so quickly that it's ultimately pointless to try. Only a couple more months of developer polish would have easily made the experience exponentially more enjoyable, but at the end of the day, this version of Sonic wasn't any fun. Here's hoping the next iteration of the blue hedgehog's adventures, "Sonic Unleashed", can succeed where "Sonic the Hedgehog" has failed.
Exciting, but ultimately wrecked by garbage controls, camera and bugs.
Far, far too touchy for a game of this speed and precision.
Mediocre at best. Tunes are forgettable as is the voice acting.
Looks good... sometimes.
Fun Factor: 3/10
I really, really want to have fun with this game. Too bad it wont let me.
Overall: 3/10 (Docked a point for unnacceptable bugs and load times)
Originally posted: 5/11/08
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 05/12/08
Game Release: Sonic the Hedgehog (US, 11/14/06)
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