Sunday, May 26, 2019

Team Sonic Racing (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

A new review is ready and here for SuperPhillip Central's readers to enjoy. It's for a game that released this past Tuesday on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam--Team Sonic Racing. Let's step into the driver seat and check it out with this review.

Everybody's Team Sonic Racing (well, except SEGA's all-stars, of course!)

Getting the initial disappointment out of the way that SEGA's various all-stars are not included or represented in this game, Team Sonic Racing is a rather entertaining arcade racer that features the Blue Blur and his friends (and enemies) as they compete against one another to cross the finish line first. However, as the name of the game suggests, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Team Sonic Racing, as a primary mechanic within the game is racing as three character teams. 

Characters on the same team can perform all sorts of strategic racing maneuvers and abilities to edge out the other teams on the track, whether it's having the lead player on the team provide a trail for the lagging players to follow and receive a slingshot boost from to propel them further ahead, or passing by slowed down or completely stopped teammates to provide them a healthy pick-me-up boost. 

Before you ask, yes, solo races where every animal or Eggman
is for themselves is available in Team Sonic Racing.
Then, there's the clever item mechanic. Being a team-based game, you can pass items to your teammates by hitting one of the face buttons instead of using the item yourself. The player who essentially "calls dibs" on it receives a randomized but stronger item to use to help them get back into the race--or fend off comers-behind, as it were. I found myself having the items passed to me in first place, and many times it'd be a x3 weapon of some type that I could use two of them and then pass the final one off to another teammate who would receive a new item from it. 

Team Rose is ready and raring to go!
As slingshot boosts, slipboosts, the sharing of items, and also rival takedowns occur, a gauge that is always situated at the back of your character's vehicle slowly builds up energy. At its climax, you can use an Ultimate Boost, which greatly propels you forward, plowing through opponents at an insane speed. This can be hard to control, but it's an easy way to pick up a few places (or several) in a race. Ultimate Boosts last a decent amount of time and can be earned multiple times in a race, making it so it's invaluable to utilize competent teamwork. There is no "I" in team, after all--if you'll pardon the old adage and cliche.

The character who leads their team will leave a yellow trail for
their teammates to ride along on and get a boost from.
Of course, none of this competent teamwork works if you don't have competent teammates. This isn't so much a factor when playing with other players you can communicate with them (mostly in a local sense, as my online experiences in the PlayStation 4 version saw completely silent rooms), but when you're playing with two AI teammates, they can be a bit daft, to put it nicely. They aren't the best drivers on the track, and will often find themselves in the middle or back of the pack, requiring you to babysit them a little bit. Normal difficulty doesn't really have you encounter this issue much, but when you reach the harder difficulties in the game, you'll notice it and it's quite frustrating. Nothing like you getting first place while your teammates lag behind in the pack, costing your whole team a race or Grand Prix in the process. Yes, there is a mode for races where everyone is out for themselves, it fails to excite as much as team racing aspect of the game.

"Quit being so pushy, Sonic! I'm on your team!"
This leads to another issue with Team Sonic Racing. While I can appreciate the length of the tracks within the game, repeated playthroughs--especially if you have to replay a Grand Prix because your AI teammates weren't up to task in one of the four races--make them feel like chores to play. They're simply too long, with many taking upwards of five minutes total to complete. That notwithstanding, all 21 of the tracks are cleverly designed and all a blast to play on. That said, only about a dozen are actually brand-new. Others are lifted from past Sumo Digital Sonic and SEGA themed racers, albeit with a fresh coat of paint and have never looked or have been better than before.

The main solo mode within Team Sonic Racing is the Team Adventure mode. If you've played a past Sumo Digital Sonic racing game, then you'll feel right at home here. The mode puts you through a basic story with a budgeted look to it--for instance, there are no cinematics, just character portraits against a static background talking--where you compete in various challenges to earn stars. Progress is gated behind these stars, so you'll want to try your best in each challenge. These range from standard team races to elimination races, ring challenges with the goal of collecting as many rings as possible before time runs out, traffic attack challenges where you avoid static and moving robots on the track as you drive through gates, and daredevil challenges where you drive through rings on either side of a goal post and try not to brush up against the post itself. 

With the track design in Team Sonic Racing, the sky is literally the limit!
Team Adventure is the meatiest part of Team Sonic Racing, consisting of seven chapters and multiple challenge types, making for an enjoyable mode while it lasts. Like previous Sumo Digital Sonic racers, you can play with a friend in Team Adventure. This makes some challenges much easier, as your scores are added together as you play, making challenges that would otherwise be a pain to complete alone all the simpler to beat and earn all stars on.

Team Sonic Racing features three classes of characters: Speed (Sonic, Amy, Blaze, Shadow, and Metal Sonic), Technique (Tails, Chao, Silver, Rouge, and Eggman), and Power (Knuckles, Big, Vector, Omega, and Zavok). Speed characters have the highest top speed, Technqiue characters can drive off-road without being slowed down, and Power characters can plow through obstacles without spinning out. Each class comes complete with their own disadvantages as well, from Speed characters' low acceleration and defense to Power characters having a combination of poor top speed and lackluster handling. 

Speed characters like Sonic and Blaze have the highest top speed available in the game.
These can be remedied a little bit by the car customization options in the game with parts earned from a Gacha-like machine that uses in-game currency to use. While the customization options aren't too extravagant, you can alter the color (though you can only choose from a selection of paint job palettes instead of using whatever colors you want), place vinyls (also limited in what you can do), and change the sound of your vehicle's horn.

Familiar tracks bring new sights to behold in Team Sonic Racing.
Both local and online multiplayer are available in Team Sonic Racing, but at least with the PlayStation 4 version I was never able to find a full room in my time online. Part of me thinks this is because it's split up between ranked and casual and teams and solo, but another part just thinks the game just doesn't have the userbase on the PS4. Hopefully Team Sonic Racing is merely a slow burner, but things aren't too encouraging on the online player front at this time. The actual racing online fares better with near flawless performance, which I appreciated greatly. Once you actually get to race with opponents, Team Sonic Racing is a great deal of fun online.

If you mind the chatter, then you can turn it off in the Options menu.
While things like occasionally inadequate AI teammates and a lackluster online player base do throw a wrench in the overall enjoyment of Team Sonic Racing, it's crystal clear that Sumo Digital has once again nailed the feel of the vehicles and the overall joy of racing in the game. Controlling each vehicle is a pleasure, and drifting around corners is a thrill, as is performing risk vs. reward tricks in midair, where failing to land a trick successfully results in your character spinning out. 

If you take Team Sonic Racing for what it is, a Sonic the Hedgehog-themed racer that isn't so much a history of the franchise in racing game form and more of modern racer with Sonic characters, then you'll find a good deal to love with Team Sonic Racing. Sumo Digital's always stellar gameplay when it comes to the arcade racing feel is here, and the track design is pretty impressive despite lacking the transformation mechanics of their previous SEGA racer. Team Sonic Racing may not be "way past cool", but it's cool all the same.

[SPC Says: B+]

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