Team Sonic Racing Review
Sonic has always been about one thing: speed. It’s not surprising then that Sonic translates pretty well to a racing game, doubly so when the developer, Sumo Digital, was responsible for the rather eggcellent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Whilst it’s a shame that they’ve paired back the roster of Team Sonic Racing to just twelve racers it doesn’t take too much sheen off a racing game that dares to be a little bit different.
Most racing games out there are about you, your speed and your skill. Whilst that’s pretty much the sport down to a tee, Team Sonic Racing wants you to work together as a team of three, whether that’s with friends or some AI stand-ins. In the story mode these teams are set in stone but elsewhere you can have any makeup you like. For a bit of fun we teamed Sonic up with Mr. Eggman himself, sniggering like a child as we did so. What team racing does, though, is take the focus away from finishing first individually and instead, place the focus on finishing high in the rankings as a team.
The thing is, the placement of your teammates has a direct impact over your team’s overall score at the finish. Whilst you may place first, if the other two members of your team finish in eighth and eleventh then, depending on how the other teams finish you could easily miss out on a win. Thankfully there are methods at your disposal to aid and assist your teammates in the hope that they can battle back through the grid to a more reasonable finishing place. One rather visual method is that of slipstreaming. If you’re the lead car of your trio, a yellow tramline is emitted from the back of your car which your teammates can then follow to build up boost. If they’ve done things properly, they should then get a surge of speed when exiting this tramline and hopefully gain a place or two as a result. This does rely on your teammates being capable enough to follow and as far as we can tell the AI is pretty solid in this regard.
The more useful and, frankly, easier to execute method is the transferring of item boxes. Much like its mustachioed competition, you can collect items as you race to use against your fellow racers. They’re the usual fair of projectiles, boosts, course blockers and homing projectiles. However, some of them are frankly useless if you’re out front on your own; sure you could hoard it just in case but in Sonic Team Racing you could do something far more useful. You see, instead of discarding it, you can offer it up to your teammates who can then use that power up to hopefully take out opponents and gain places. There are also some powerups, or wisps as they’re known, that can only be accessed as a transferred powerup as opposed to one picked up on the course.
The more team-based things you do the more you fill your power meter which, once full, allows you to unleash your Team Ultimate. There’s nothing unique about it but it grants you a brief period of invulnerability and a speed burst so that you can, hopefully, cut through the competition or if you’re already out front, extend your lead. As you do so you can, irrespective of your racer’s class, cut through hazards, go over rough terrain and spin out opponents. Normally anything other than the technique class would suffer if you went off track. Equally, if you came up against obstacles like the chips on the casino level, only the power class would be able to push through. The third type, speed, is able to dodge projectiles if you time your boosts correctly but this is harder than it looks. The point is though, once you've activated your Team Ultimate, none of this matters. It’s just you, the course and a chance to make some ground. A reward for working as a team and helping each other towards one goal: winning.
The racing takes place on any one of the twenty-one tracks split across seven distinct worlds. Many will be recognisable in theme by fans of the series and feature plenty of hazards that you must navigate should you want to win. They’re wonderfully put together and feature plenty of twists, turns and alternate routes that can lead to some frantic and exciting racing. Often you’ll think you’re on your own up front only to see another racer appear from nowhere which, if you’re like us, leads you to scouring the track to find the shortcut they used. It’s a compliment to the track design that even after racing each track multiple times across not only the story mode but also in single-player events that we’re still finding new ways to traverse each course.
Speaking of the story mode it’s something that Team Sonic Racing could frankly do without. The voice acting is pretty awful, which goes hand-in-hand with a fairly wooden script. Thankfully it can all be skipped and unless you absolutely must know why Sonic et al are all racing each other and to what end, we would suggest that you do so. It’s a necessary evil though as you need to progress through the story to unlock tracks for single-player races. You’ll also come across some fun game modes such as drifting around poles in order to score points or taking out Eggman bots for points. The most entertaining one is elimination whereby on each of the three laps a number of racers are eliminated. When you throw the team mechanic in, as you can still boost and transfer items to your teammates, you then need to find the right balance between helping your teammates and keeping yourself in the race.
Outside of the racing you can customise your car’s look and upgrade it to suit your driving style. We’re not overly thrilled about using coins to purchase loot drops for these add-ons but thankfully it’s all just in-game currency for now. Equally the online ranked and casual multiplayer seems a little devoid of life but hopefully things will pick up soon. Team Sonic Racing has a big idea, that of racing as a team and profiting from each other toward a common goal. It’s a unique twist and whilst you can avoid this by playing solo in single-player you’d be missing out one of the more unique arcade racers of this generation. It’s not perfect but it gets enough right to make it fun and really, what more could you ask for?
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