Sonic Unleashed Hands-On

We spend some quality time with Sonic--in both his normal and werehog forms--just weeks out from the release of his latest adventure.

Sega's spiky mascot didn't exactly impress with his last outing--the eponymously titled Sonic The Hedgehog--but early indicators for the upcoming Sonic Unleashed look to be significantly more positive. Now just weeks away from release, we managed to grab some hands-on time with the Xbox 360 version of the new game, which included wrangling with some of the bosses Sonic will be going head-to-head against.

For the uninitiated, Sonic Unleashed isn't going to be purely about speed. Unleashed will feature two distinct gameplay styles--daytime levels will be your classic Sonic speed runs, while nighttime levels will be more akin to a beat-'em-up brawler (with Sonic transforming into a creature called a werehog). We're not completely sure how this relates to the game's story, but we do know that the evil Eggman is back and has somehow got hold of the Chaos Emeralds. Eggman uses the emeralds to fire up a superweapon, which splits the Earth into many different pieces, and it’s up to Sonic to get the planet back together.

The speed is well and truly back with Sonic in Unleashed.

We played through three different daytime levels during our hands-on session--a section set in Greece, which was the subject of our previous previews (now called Apotos in the game), the European city-inspired Spagonia, and the China-themed Chun-nan. Apotos is all sunshine and Mediterranean housing, while Spagonia features cobbled streets and plenty of tables on sidewalk restaurants to run through. Chun-nan, on the other hand, starts off with Sonic running along the top of what looks like the Great Wall of China before heading down into a low valley flanked by high mountain walls. If we're a little light on the descriptive phrases for these levels, it’s because Sonic moves through these areas so quickly that most of it becomes a blur--which is nothing but good news for Sonic fans. That trademark Sonic sense of unbelievable speed is well and truly back in Unleashed, with some cool motion blur effects adding to the feeling of inertia. Best still, the frame rate drops we saw in earlier builds look to be gone, with the new Hedgehog Engine holding steady during our game session.

And in even more good news for fans of the series, playing through these three daytime levels reminded us most of Sonic's 2D 16-bit days, where speed had to be balanced out with fast reflexes and knowledge of the best paths to take through levels. In the early Apotos level, getting and maintaining top speed was quite easy. But that task grew more difficult in Spagonia and Chun-nan, where quick runs could be stymied by a mistimed jump, environmental dangers, such as spikes or moving platforms, and not reacting quickly enough to oncoming obstacles. Sonic has several moves at his disposal to keep the speed up, including quick sidesteps to the left or right (done by using your controller's shoulder buttons) to rapidly move out of the way. The hedgehog also has a homing roll attack, which he can use to kill opponents without breaking stride. Finally, Sonic has his own version of NOS in Unleashed--pressing B will give him a temporary speed boost, with this ability being recharged by collecting more gold rings in a level. You'll also have to now deal with quick-time button press events (which are seemingly all the rage in games today). You successfully input the right button combination when these events pop up, and Sonic will take a different route that may yield more coins or fewer enemies. If you fail, you'll have to take the less optimum path.

Things are markedly different when Sonic turns into a werehog during the night levels, with all the speed of daytime replaced by a God of War-lite action brawler where Sonic uses his fists to take on opponents. The night Apotos level is the first you'll come across in Unleashed and serves as training where you'll be exposed to the werehog's various attacks. The Y and X buttons can be used to string together various combo attacks; A is for jump, while B is to grab enemies. You can also perform special finishing moves on certain opponents--pressing the B button whilst close to a wounded enemy will trigger yet another quick-time button press event, which when successfully inputted, will result in the werehog doing a flashy final hit on his hapless foe. The Apotos night level was mainly populated by lumbering and easily disposed of foes, which looked a little like evil versions of the Disney character Stitch. But by the time we got to the night Chun-nan level, much harder foes (including a fiery floating wizard that was more than reminiscent of Orko from He-Man) were on hand to give Sonic a decent challenge.

To close off our game play session, we decided to take on some of the bosses Sonic can expect to tangle with when Unleashed releases later this month. Firstly, we took on the end boss of the night time Apotos level, a large shadowy figure armed with a large club that could send large shockwaves along the ground. Battling this creature turned out to be pretty easy (once we got rid of the dozens of minions surrounding our lone werehog, that is). Much more challenging was the daytime level boss we tackled, a wasplike ship called Egg Beetle piloted by Eggman himself. This boss battle takes place on what looks like a treetop highway in the African-themed Mazuri level and sees Sonic having to chase after the Egg Beetle whilst simultaneously avoiding his various attacks. The Egg Beetle liked to fly in front of our perky little hedgehog, firing out large spiked balls and fireballs directly in his path. You'll have to use Sonic's boost ability in order to catch up to the Beetle and quickly perform a homing attack to do damage. Eventually, the boss shifts his attack pattern, with the screen moving to a 2D view where Sonic has to avoid missiles being fired at him from above. This boss battle was definitely tense, testing out our skills and reaction time (just as a good Sonic game should).

Based on what we've seen so far, Sonic Unleashed looks like it'll contain plenty of what made Sonic great in the first place, at least as far as the daytime levels are concerned. We'll have to wait until we get the full game in our hands, however, before we make a call on just how well the slower, brawling nighttime levels fit into the entire package. Sonic Unleashed is due out on the 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and Wii at the end of November. Check back soon for our full review.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

115 comments
xspboy06x
xspboy06x

Werehog was better. But hedgehog was still pretty good. Like the mach speed zones from Sonic 06, which also ruled.

nathace
nathace

dose anybody remeber the sonic for dreamcast?? in my view that was the best sonic ever Apart from the master system/sega :)

gstealer
gstealer

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

gstealer
gstealer

The game sounds like the player can have lots of fun playing the game. But i dont know if that is enough to make the game excellent

alan_stealth
alan_stealth

Gamespot are a bunch of fools. There review is exactly why i dont read or participate in this website anymore. The reviewer is a double gimp.

Bader179
Bader179

Its pretty good game but there still a problem the stages are too short but thought that its still good game...!

Zelda9696
Zelda9696

Those people complaning about the new sonic games new styles like shadow the hedgehog, sonic chronicles, unleashed and the upcoming black knight should just stop whinging. If there was no change people would get bored.... go home to your sega megadrive grannys

E3master
E3master

I just play the game, BEST GAME EVER!!!!!!!! If people say that its awful, then go jump in a hole!!!!!!!!!!!

Link-reaper
Link-reaper

dj1909, if u like 2D sonic better, then why did u make ur icon a 3D sonic lol

dj1909
dj1909

i got sonic unleashed and its pretty good except he's hard to control when your speeding and you can't speed that much . its better in 2-D

splendormk7
splendormk7

i am interested in old versions.. old ones were so cool. even if sega genesis version. i don't want to see too much animation withing the game. i want to lead the sonic not Cpu. this looks well.

N0sferat_ninty
N0sferat_ninty

sonic is changing... dramatically omg im so glad this ''ultra super cool looking brutal werehog look'' will never be happening to mario, wahoo!! i hope like old sonic games are gonna be remade or something, good thing mario wont ever change (good old supa mario)

TNTWIIMASTER
TNTWIIMASTER

this game is great 10 out of 10 people !!!!!!!!!!!!

supersonikk
supersonikk

The Sonic series has seriously gone downhill, and I don't think this game will be anywhere near as good as it was in its glory days. It's just like the Crash Bandicoot series but they've kept the same developers.

Crispo1981
Crispo1981

Wonder if "Up, Down, Left, Right, AB, Start" will work on this one?

Leefendus
Leefendus

the three greatest 3d sonic games ever made: Sonic 3d blast, Sonic adventure 1 & 2 (on the dreamcast not the cube). sonic i sencerly hope this game puts you back on top.

Lisaanne30
Lisaanne30

Havent boughten a sonic game in a bit not sure about the werehog thing so will have to see how reviews go on it.

Kitsukage
Kitsukage

I'm going to save my views on this game, until I actually get to play it. Sonic has had a hard time when it comes to Next-Gen gaming, and I'd personally love to see that come to an end with Unleashed. Granted, no Sonic game of the future will ever be able to top the classic 16-Bit games, but they can try to make them enjoyable and playable. That is what I hope for in the latest of Sonic's games.

Dualmask
Dualmask

They could have left the werehog thing on the cutting room floor and focused on more of the 2.5D speed-running gameplay. Make a different mascot or give the brawler job to a more fitting character...like, say, Knuckles. Oh well. At least it looks nice.

FlamingFury
FlamingFury

Only the gba and ds Sonics have been decent, and even then they weren't great, and the story in the ds ones were a bit meh. 3D sonics are normally crud, and I suspect that sonic unleashed won't be worth picking up. Sega needs to move on, start a new franchise, because this is getting painful. Or just stick to 2D renditions on ds.

Wrecked69
Wrecked69

Havent picked up a sonic since Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, which was pretty fun IMO, but the rest that followed seemed to be very lacking. Hoping this one will be great!

gonleo
gonleo

The Sonic games recently launched don't give the feel of the old ones.

UnknownPerson55
UnknownPerson55

i thought sonic was on a planet called mobius i guess im getting too old for the new odd turns to games originally from my early days as a gamer ...get off my lawn you crazy kids

fatmike2127
fatmike2127

the game looks good, but why did they make sonic a werewolf in this game?

PesmergaYuber
PesmergaYuber

Sonic has always been capable of branching off into different genres. I think the werehog portion of the game will offer something more to players who may not otherwise play sonic. For example Sonic Spinball for Genesis was a great game, in a completely different genre. The graphics look great in this game too, and with classic villain Eggman you can't go wrong. But I'm not going to get my hopes up considering the record of Sonic games thus far.

T-man1212
T-man1212

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

T-man1212
T-man1212

im happy theres a lot of speed but the werehog is just ... not sonic at all. GOOD GRAPHICS!

william623
william623

nice graphic, sonic evolution!!!

sub-raid
sub-raid

naaa don't think i am gonna get there is better games that i should buy

StayFrosty
StayFrosty

ima rent this game before i buy, it i hope the Sega really does good by this title

rrojas_1926
rrojas_1926

no way it could be worse than sonic the hedgehog back them in 2006 this game better be great in any case i wont play mario games either

Suriena
Suriena

I think the game seems very sexy. I also don't think that the nighttime levels will kill the game outright, but we'll wait and see.

zozi_xy
zozi_xy

I wish this game is going to be cool although the originals are better

kitty
kitty moderator

I'm not sure if this is the right step for sonic. But I can't really say if it's a bad one because I haven't played the game yet. Let's hope that this is a good sonic game.

bigmack_20_20
bigmack_20_20

Sega why do you kill our spiky blue friend so slowly. the game looks good in the daytime levels but sega being sega just has t find a way to fudge it up with this werehog business. It's just like the sonic adventure 2 sonic and shadows levels were fun but they had to have to shoot stuff or search for master emerald pieces. I find it insulting to see that sega knows what their fans want and give it to us half heartedly. I know one thing the combat system for being a werehog better be nothing short of awesome or i will officially denounce my fanboyism

E3master
E3master

I wonder if sonic the black night will be cooler then this?

Platinum_Pikmin
Platinum_Pikmin

This game looks to be awesome, well, half of it does at least. The Sonic portions of the game are like a return to form for the hedgehog. But I fear that the slow, beat-em-up style for the Werehog will kill this game.

Treflis
Treflis

Now I'm starting to have some hope for Sonic. Will probably pick this up around spring time.

pmay007
pmay007

looks insane, defanitly hope to get this at christmas.

sakaiXxX
sakaiXxX

Hope it will be good as the good old sonic days

Johiden
Johiden

Lets just hope that this does not turn out like Sonic the Hedgehog did with LONG loading times. But what I have seen it looks like it is going to be rather decent

Amir29
Amir29

I'm not crazy about the werehog concept, but we'll just have to see how it pans out. I'm happy to see the sense of speed has returned, so I'm crossing my fingers that they don't screw up yet again.

Kikouken
Kikouken

I'm not really feeling the werewolf thing -_-'

MichaelRD777
MichaelRD777

@KevComesRipping: you're criticizing a game that hasn't even been released yet(not even the demo has been released).Rent it or play the demo first then rate the game

Arkady_16
Arkady_16

i seem to remember robotnik being called ''robuttnik'' by sonic much to his fustration :P

taxievil
taxievil

They could just make one massive 2D game. Keep it simple! And where did werehog come from? Is super sonic no good any more? Still, I'm sure when kids who watch the new sonic series grow up they'll complain that its changed, in the same way that I complain that its changed from the days of princess sally and mobius :)