One of this summer's most anticipated racing games has finally released so let's see if Sonic and pals can outperform their previous racers.
As a huge fan of kart racers, I spent countless hours playing Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed back in 2012. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best kart racers ever released with a ton of variety in its characters and tracks as well as the ability to race on land, in the air, and with hovercrafts. Given the success of the title, fans have been looking forward to the next Sumo Digital developed Sega kart racer. Unfortunately, after playing Team Sonic Racing for quite a while now, I must say that you're better off sticking with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed if you want a top-notch kart experience. Team Sonic Racing is still a highly enjoyable game but it doesn't quite match the quality of its predecessor.
For starters, all of the characters are purely from the Sonic universe. Of course, the fact that the title doesn't mention Sega or All-Stars might be a giveaway but nevertheless, it's still disappointing to see that the characters you loved from the previous titles are missing here and replaced with lesser known (dare I say dull) Sonic characters such as the oaf Big, Vector the Crocodile, and the evil Zavok.
Characters are unlocked in groups and the core gameplay difference is that you race as a team. If you make it to first place but the rest of your team lags behind, you won't be rewarded as much. To help out your team, you can pass items and drive as straight as possible to allow them to coast in your slipstream, giving them a boost. You also fill up an ultimate move meter when you perform slipstreams, skim boosts, and pass items to your teammates to use which speeds up your team's vehicles drastically for a short period of time, allowing you to take out your opponents as you speed by them.
Passing items is an interesting concept but I never found it that useful as there are plenty of item pick-ups scattered around. Some items can only be found by passing items between your party and that seems to be about the only reason to do so. In single player, I tried helping out my team by passing them all the items that I collected but it didn't seem to make a huge difference as to where they stood in the pack so the whole sense of working as a team feels a little lost on me when it comes to playing with the AI.
Thankfully, Team Sonic Racing also has local and online multiplayer. When playing against local chums, you have 4 player split-screen to work with and you can choose to start a Grand Prix, complete a single Exhibition Race, or compete in a Time Trial. The first 2 allow you to play in standard mode or team mode. Although the rest of the game is stripped back in terms of gameplay, it's nice to see that they thought it was important enough to include local multiplayer because kart racers can be a big party pleaser. Anyway, online mode has you select a track type, standard or team mode, and a few other customization options including rules for how players can win the race.
Team Sonic Racing's single player Team Adventure experience provides a surprisingly solid line-up of events to work your way through. You move between markers on a world map while unlocking new events as you earn stars on previous ones. The event types include: Team Race, Grand Prix, Daredevil (which awards driving close to posts on a track), Ring Challenge (collect as many rings as you can), Survival, Eggspawn Assault (smash into enemies on the track), and finally, Destruction (destroy targets). Although it's a good mix, some events are duller than others and I often found myself gravitating towards the simple but fun Grand Prix races.
In total, there are 21 tracks within 7 themes, all of which are based on zones from Sonic games. I applaud the developers for maintaining this authenticity but again, I would much rather have seen a wider variety of tracks based on different Sega franchises. Also, some of the tracks are only slight variations of ones from previous Sonic racers, especially those based on the Casino Park zone.
Anyway, if you compare the tracks in Team Sonic Racing to an average kart racer, you'll find that they hold up as they're packed with twists and turns, jumps, shortcuts, and hazards. It's just that after having been given so much more in the previous game, it leaves me wondering why they would choose to cut back so much in the variety of tracks and not allow you to race on different terrains.
Along with the 21 tracks, you can unlock 15 characters across 3 different classes including speed, technique, and power. Each class provides benefits to different track types such as how the technique class prevents you from slowing down on rough patches.
The items that you collect while you race feature some decent variety. The more unique items that I appreciate are Quake (unleash pillars of earth in the way of those winning the race) and Violet Void (suck rings and items towards you). As you finish stages in story mode, you'll unlock pods that can be opened to provide you with either a mod for a specific vehicle that may or may not alter its stats or a bonus box that is consumed once and provides boosts such as improving your chance of getting multiple instances of an item.
Finally, I experienced a few minor glitches that continued to reinforce the thought that Team Sonic Racing was rushed such as sound effects not matching what's happening onscreen, character icons glitching out, and an online match that would not start as it kept looping the intro sequence. Fortunately, none of these were serious enough to ruin my experience with Team Sonic Racing.
Team Sonic Racing is an exceptionally fun kart racer but it doesn't quite do enough to make itself great. Considering the team mechanic doesn't bring much new to the table, I wish we got Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 2 instead.
- + Tracks inspired by Sonic zones are attractive and enjoyable to race on
- + Solid amount of content and customization
- + Lengthy solo campaign plus fun multiplayer
- - The focus purely on the Sonic universe limits its overall appeal
- - New team mechanic isn't anything special
- - Lacks different terrains to race on