Published on June 4th, 2019 | by Zorbz
REVIEW: Team Sonic Racing
The Blue blur is back in the third installment of the Sonic Racing franchise and with it introduces the team racing mechanics. Does this new gameplay mechanic boost or hinder the kart racer experience? Let’s dig in.
Concept: Team Sonic Racing is all about (you guessed it) working as a team. Races pit you along with two teammates, either AI or player controlled as you battle against other teams of 3 to achieve the overall first place. Each pole position awards you points which are then added to your teammate’s overall score to determine the winning team. The team mechanics include swapping items and sling shotting using the momentum of a team member ahead of you to boost on ahead and are all used to fill an ultimate meter which can change the tide of a race in a flash. Each character has its own class out of three presents – speed, technique and power, all with their own perks, making some more desirable then others.
Concept aside, there’s a new story mode sprawled across a 2D hub screen where you tackle not only traditional races but different types of challenges ranging from coin collecting, drifting through gates and destroying enemy racers. New races and challenges unlock as you progress by completing the required objectives of the race which have a loose narrative attached to tie in to why you’re competing in these events. I say loose because it really just feels like a cheap tacked on story provided before and after races shown via still images and some of the worst voice acting in the Sonic series to date. It really is just awful, poorly written and so uninteresting that it became more of a nuisance having to skip through it just to get to the race itself.
Graphics: Playing on the Xbox One X, everything is crisp, vibrant and runs at a native 4K which in itself is impressive and it seems to maintain a steady 60fps in single player, with quite a few dips in multiplayer, but nothing that completely takes you out of the experience. Character and vehicle models are all rendered beautifully with great smooth detail which really pops on 4K displays. This can also be said for the environments/tracks as well, however a real lack of variety between these in comparison to the Mario Kart series where every race sports a new location, a majority of races sport similar designs with some adjustments to the track layouts, instead of a complete overhaul. Whilst the environments themselves are large and detailed, somehow they still feel somewhat empty which also doesn’t help when there is a real lack of distinction between some of them.
Gameplay: This is the one section I feel Team Sonic Racing has really dropped the ball in comparison to previous titles in the series. Races during story mode are fair and competitive and progressively get tougher without being too punishing however competing in a single or multiplayer grand prix outside of the story mode is excruciatingly frustrating due to an inconsistent difficulty level. One minute you could be coming first and driving absolutely flawlessly, only for the AI to take over with you winding up in 6th place with no rhyme or reason as to why. Your AI teammates are also at times an absolute joke and may come in last place, ruining your momentum to earn points in a race. It’s these inconsistencies that are just plain frustrating and made myself and friends want to just turn the game off altogether which is a shame as it’s something that was never an issue in the previous titles and sure as hell isn’t in any other kart racer I’ve played over the years.
Besides the racing itself, it’s the story mode that shines in terms of gameplay as you find many more challenges present that offer a mix of gameplay to break up the monotony, especially with the lack of track variations. Playing through these races earns you tokens that you can spend to unlock random vehicle upgrades, boosts, colour schemes and other decals. This is fun and exciting not knowing what you will earn with it feeling fair and not awarding you with unnecessary items, and also NO MICROTRANSACTIONS!
Whilst these unlockables are a nice touch, the colour schemes are set and you can’t just paint the vehicle in whatever colour you wish, the vinyls are automatically placed and the mods to the cars have pre-set stats that can’t be changed, so it is a bit of a bummer in that regard. It just seems for every positive there’s a negative.
Sound: Accompanying every race is unique rock/metal influenced tracks which are all quite catchy and badass; they really don’t fit the environments well though and seem quite out of place. One notable track is for the ‘sand road’ environment which uses the classic Sonic and Knuckles theme from the desert level and it sounds great with its new remixed version. I can’t understand why none of the other environments didn’t utilise remixes of other iconic Sonic music tracks. It just seems like a real shame that they chose to create new music that just doesn’t fit.
Besides the music you have the absolutely horrible voice acting, which is just grating on the ol ears and makes you want to instantly mute the TV or smash the skip button. That’s all I have to say about that.
Awesomeness: Due to the repetitive tracks and the lack of any consistency in the difficulty department, I found myself never craving to jump back into the game once the story mode was completed. This is a real shame as I was anticipating this release since it was first announced and now I am left utterly disappointed in what was presented.
Final word: This has to be the weakest entry in the Sonic racing franchise and a big step back. While the story mode and the racing itself is enjoyable, the lack of consistency with the difficulty modes means that without a future patch, this game is heading back to the shelf where it will collect dust unless there’s a real reason to have me re-invest in it.
Out of 5 Bugs!
Summary: The worst entry in the series :(