Sonic and his friends (and some of his enemies too) are at it again in their newest fast-paced, action packed racing game.
Team Sonic Racing is the newest racing game from the developing team over at Sumo Digital. Sumo Digital is the same team behind Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. This time around the talented team has created a team-focused racer that encourages players to work together to be the fastest they can be.
There’s a mysterious plot afoot for our heroes in Team Sonic Racing. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow and ten more characters have been invited to race across a range of zones by Dodon Pa, a perplexing tanuki that the team knows isn’t quite who he seems. As the races grow more and more dangerous, it becomes pretty obvious that Dodon Pa didn’t invite them just out of the kindness of his heart; he might actually be working with Sonic’s biggest enemy, Eggman. Sonic will have to team up with his friends and other acquaintances across the Sonic universe in order to find out Dodon Pa’s plan and defeat him.
When it comes to the racing, things will feel pretty familiar to anyone who’s played last generation’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Minus the transformation part and a few other things here and there, the two games are pretty similar. The controls are practically identical, and of course many of the characters, and even a level or two, make a comeback, albeit with a modern facelift. That isn’t to say that Team Sonic Racing doesn’t have a slew of brand new things to see and do.
Let’s go over the basics. The main thing you’ll be doing in Team Sonic Racing is racing against your opponents to see who can finish first as a team. In Adventure Mode, you will come across different kinds of races with different objectives, like ones where you have to grab as many rings as possible within a time limit, or survive elimination. You’ll learn how to accelerate, drift and speed around the tracks like a pro.
Along with the racing elements you’ll also be able to use items called “wisps”. These wisps make an appearance in Sonic Colors which came out on the original Wii and DS. The wisps allow you to help your friends, help yourself, and hurt your enemies. For example, bomb wisp shoots a bomb in front or behind you and will blow your enemies to smithereens. The boost wisp will give your car a brief speed boost, and the rocket wisp will allow you to shoot a rocket in front or behind you to force an enemy to spin out. There are a wide selection of wisps that you’ll come across and learn to strategise with.
Just like the name suggests, Team Sonic Racing is all about teamwork. When playing a team race, you’ll be matched up with two other characters and you’ll all have a cumulative score at the end of each race. That means even if you get first place, if your teammates come close to the bottom you’re going to score pretty low overall. Sounds unfair right? Well, there are lots of ways that you can help out your teammates.
During the race you’ll have the chance to give your teammates the wisps that you pick up if you think you won’t need them. When giving your teammates wisps there’s a chance that they’ll upgrade and become more powerful. This could mean that you might have one boost, but when you share it with a teammate, it’ll turn into three. There are also some wisps that only show up by sharing them with another teammate. Along with sharing wisps, during the race you can use the slipstream of your teammates to speed past them in what’s called a slingshot move. If you spin out and a teammate races past you, you’ll also recover much faster. Finally, throughout the race you’ll build up an “ultimate”, a powerful boost that also makes enemies spin out if you run into them. If you and your teammates activate it at the same time, you’ll get a bonus. These elements really make it imperative that you work as a team and help each other as much as you can.
Team Sonic Racing has lots of different customisation options for vehicles. During the game, you’ll collect points and you can spend those points on a coin machine of sorts to earn random customisation elements for each character’s vehicles. Some of the items are simply aesthetic, like gold rims and paint jobs if you simply want to pimp your ride. You can also improve a vehicle’s stats by equipping different performance parts, making them faster, handle better, or accelerate quicker.
However, as fun as racing with Sonic can be, Team Sonic Racing has a host of technical issues that taint the experience somewhat. Choosing characters on the character selection screen is sluggish for a start. Each time you enter the menu your cursor will automatically start at Sonic, and there’s a delay when moving to other characters. It’s a minor issue, but it makes character selection more of a chore than it should be. Along with this, I ran into a pile of framerate issues on many of the maps when playing in split screen multiplayer. On Xbox One S, the Market Road course is almost unplayable in certain sections. But on any map where there’s a lot going on, the framerate is inconsistent in local multiplayer.
Things run silky smooth in single-player, however, and on Xbox One X the same issues are not present. Still, it’s disappointing that the game has not been optimised well for base consoles. There are a few other minor niggles, like character thought bubbles and Xbox achievements being intrusive on an already cluttered screen during races, but thankfully you are able to turn these off in the game settings.
Back on the positive side of things. Team Sonic Racing’s courses are colourful, exciting and downright fun. I recognised a few locations from some of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed‘s tracks, but most are brand new. Controlling your vehicle feels different from previous titles, so if you’ve played as much Transformed as I have, it may take a few races to adjust to. But controls are responsive, and whizzing around the track, passing your opponents and throwing a helping hand to your team is consistently a lot of fun.
When it comes to the nitty gritty of it all, Team Sonic Racing might not be the strongest, most innovative racer out there, but fans of Sega’s previous karting games as well as fans of Sonic will definitely find something to enjoy. The team elements are very well implemented, and it’s nice being encouraged to work as a team in a game where you would otherwise do everything in your power to take your friends down. Even the game’s story mode will keep you hooked until you find out what that pesky Dodon Pa is really up to. Ultimately, Team Sonic Racing is flawed, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with it. I’ll be pulling it out at parties with friends for months to come.