Sonic Unleashed Review

Terrible level design, unresponsive controls, and a poor camera are just the beginning of the problems in this awful adventure.

Every new Sonic release carries a hope that Sega's blue hedgehog will be able to regain the form that made him a star in the early '90s. And most every venture into the third dimension has resulted in various degrees of failure. Sonic Unleashed was supposed to provide the unrelenting speed fans have been clamoring for, and it does finally offer a healthy dose of turbo-charged levels to burn through. Unfortunately, even with Sonic's trademark speed finally on full display, Unleashed lacks one very important element: fun. The imprecise platforming, absentminded camera, and poor level design make Sonic's levels an unplayable mess, while his baffling transformation into lumbering werehog comes with a whole new slew of problems. Put simply, there is no reason to play Sonic Unleashed.

Flaming punches and stretchy arms aren't as cool as they sound.

The story begins with Dr. Eggman shooting the world with a giant ray gun. Predictably, the planet breaks apart, but there is an unexpected side effect as well. Innocuous Sonic gets transformed into a giant, mean-looking creature called a werehog. This abomination emerges only when the sun goes down, and the game allows you to play stages during the day and at night to make full use of your dual personalities. Even though there are an equal number of hedgehog and werehog stages, most of your time in Sonic Unleashed will be spent at night, since the arduous combat levels take far longer to complete than the sprint-to-the-finish-line hedgehog races.

The werehog levels are extremely tedious. The levels are evenly divided between platforming and fighting, but both elements offer more frustration than excitement. Even though you can unlock more combos as you progress through the journey, your combat strategy never evolves beyond mindlessly tapping two attack buttons with an occasional jump thrown in for good measure. You're given a shield for when things get too hectic, but it's hardly ever necessary. The enemies are stupid, blithely standing around until you take the fight to them, and their lack of variety becomes oppressively obvious after just a few hours. You’ll be given a few checkpoints in each level, but these are awkwardly placed, so you'll have to repeatedly mash through the same battalion of enemies if you can't properly navigate the woeful platforming sections.

As a werehog you're equipped with stretchable arms and the ability to grab onto ledges. This should come in handy when venturing around these stages, but a few arbitrary restrictions have been tossed in to make even simple navigation annoying. First of all, you can only grab onto certain surfaces. If you mistime a jump, you often won't be able to grab a nearby ledge to save yourself, resulting in a quick death. Second, your arms' stretchiness varies at random, so while it may be possible to grab a ledge from a certain distance at one point, from that same distance later on in the level, you'll find your reach stunted. The camera also hinders your progress. You are given free control over your view when standing in the middle of a large plot of land. But when placed on a precarious walkway where a perfect line of sight is necessary, your camera control will be severely restricted, allowing only slight shifts to either side of your character. Because the punishment system is so immediate and severe (falling in water results in instant death), these miscues will quickly steal away your precious lives, leaving only frustration in their wake.

You'll learn plenty of useless information talking to townsfolk.

The Sonic levels don't fare any better than the lousy werehog parts. Your goal is to run as quickly as possible to the finish line, but the camera is rarely able to give you an optimal view and the controls are far too loose to provide the pinpoint accuracy you'll need. These technical problems mean you'll have to memorize stages before you can breeze through them. The game is not responsive enough to allow you to consistently avoid obstacles the first time you encounter them, so you'll find yourself repeatedly plowing headfirst into spikes and falling down countless bottomless pits before you finally know where each obstacle lays ahead of time. Extra lives--something you’re usually happy to see in a game--actually serve as a warning in Sonic Unleashed. Particularly cheap sections are often adorned by these markers, ensuring you can play them repeatedly to memorize their cruel layout and hope luck is on your side.

Even after you commit these stages to memory, though, you'll still die over and over again because of the unresponsive controls. A few levels take place on the water, making you sprint at top speeds to keep from sinking below the surface. Moving laterally while blazing through waves is sluggish, but you'll still have to swerve to and fro to complete the missions. In other stages, you'll have to perform wall jumps to succeed. This ability only works on certain surfaces, but even when you find an ideal place to ricochet from, the finicky timing means you'll try and fail until you do it perfectly. Certain sections require you to slow down and perform precise jumps across tiny platforms. The controls are built for speed, though, so a slight push on the analog stick will send Sonic sprinting to his death. The game also tosses in quicktime events at random moments. Some of these will catapult you to different parts of the level, but other times you'll be hit with an instant death if you can't meet their strict deadlines.

Even the between-stage hub is a total drag. Though the professor is supposed to guide you to the next goal, he does little more than point you in a general direction and send you on your way. You'll have to talk to specific citizens to open some levels, and trying to track down the one person with pertinent information is an out-of-place burden. The level entrances are often hidden in random locations and hunting them down can be maddening. Worse, when you finally find one of these entrances, you'll often be kept from entering it until you collect a certain number of moon and sun pieces from previous levels. Collecting items in platformers is expected, but the loose controls and obstinate camera make searching for missing pieces grueling.

Unleashed is at its best when you're barely interacting with Sonic.

The boss fights follow the theme of the other elements in Sonic Unleashed. These battles are long and tedious, forcing you to play the waiting game for minutes on end until the giant beasts open themselves up for attack. The sheer length of these ordeals makes the fights far more aggravating than they would otherwise be. The attack patterns are easy to learn, so you'll spend more time standing around waiting for them to let their guard down than actually attacking them. Even worse, their attack patterns don't drastically change through the fight, so you'll be repeating the same basic dodge maneuvers until you can finally vanquish these oversized annoyances.

The lone bright spot in this otherwise painful mess are some cheery, bright visuals. The graphics are far from cutting-edge, but the frame rate stays high even when you're sprinting at top speeds, and the levels are pleasantly colorful. The game is at its best when your interaction with it is minimal and you're able to simply admire the view. The camera adjusts for cinematic impact while you tear through loops and grind rails as Sonic, and though you're doing little more than pushing right on the analog stick during these sections, it is entertaining to watch Sonic swoop by. It's sad that Sonic Unleashed is only enjoyable during the moments when you're hardly in control of it.

Pretty pictures aren't enough to make up for the miserable gameplay. Almost nothing else in this game even reaches the level of mediocrity. The Sonic levels are poorly laid out and have unresponsive controls, the werehog portions have monotonous combat and a wonky camera, and even the hub world is so difficult to navigate, you'll spend way too much time searching for the next level. There just isn't any fun to be had in Sonic Unleashed.

The Good
Looks good
The Bad
Monotonous combat
Imprecise platforming
Inept camera restricts your view
Tons of control issues
Horrendous level design
3.5
Bad
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Discussion

20 comments
razzle0227
razzle0227

I think the reviewer is a terrible gamer. S++-ranking Ikaruga should be required for gaming journalists

sonicphoto
sonicphoto

The Wii version deserves this score not the HD version. My main console is Wii, well at that time, so I got it on the wii, and for the first time I was horrified by a Sonic game. Time later I got a 360, and decided to try this version, and wow it was soooo different they day time stages worked much better and had a real sense of speed and werehog is not doing waggling.

GulliversTravel
GulliversTravel

I dont understand why he gave this such a lower score than the Wii version, the daytime levels in the 360/PS3 version are better.

l3igl3oss
l3igl3oss

Played this recently... I gotta say that this was a step forward from '06 and the previous game physics of Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog. Tighter when running forward at high speeds, but still loose when moving in circles. They gotta give Sonic escalating speed for as long as you hold forward and tighten it up for normal running, since this game insists on using platforming events here and there, in normal stages and before you enter them. I think this game's problem is definitely in design choices and not execution, but the gameplay evolved to what I love in Sonic Generations' Modern Sonic.

XxOskarxXTBXx51
XxOskarxXTBXx51

The DAYTIME levels sucked, they had no platforming or exploration, the Werehog was okay, but inappropriate for a Sonic game.

XaviorChaos
XaviorChaos

this game is way better than sonic06 and it go t a 4.4 you gave it a 3.5 are you stupid

ArkhamInmate9
ArkhamInmate9

I can't believe you gave it a 3.5! Sure it's not a masterpiece but I LOVED Sonic Unleashed! At least a 7!

burnouttrainer
burnouttrainer

Anyone think this (including the werehog levels) AND '06 are getting 7.9'ed?

bonnin40
bonnin40

My god this is a biased review. Really biased, i mean this guy (Tom Mc Shea)  is just trying to find things to hate. Reading this review, its like he wants this game to be bad, and that's why, throughout this review, he is constantly nit picking. He goes on about the camera being horrible, yes the camera is quite buggy in the were hog levels, and is bad, but in the day time levels, the camera is just fine. Gameplay is horrible, well yes in the night time levels, they are slow and monotonous, but they aren't even that bad, if you think of it on a comparative level. The gameplay in the day time levels are great, their fast and fun, but they also add in enough platforming, so that your not just holding forward. And even though the werehog levels were bad, at least their trying something new, unlike most game developers today who are piss scared to take a step outside the box, and continually produce generic shooters and uninspired games. don't get me wrong, i love Cod and battlefield, but c'mon, their getting old. anyways, back to sonic... i personally love this game, because the day time sonic levels are fantastic, the night levels, while boring, are bearable, and the game has a good charm going for it. Now if Tom doesn't like the game, that's more than ok, i respect peoples opinions, but hes getting payed to review this game, and hes really biasing the product on his own opinion, not for what it is. By nit picking and never pointing out any of this games great moments, he's completely turning people away from something because he doesn't like it. That's like if a new kanye west album was released, and i said i hate it, then turn around and say megadeths 13 is the greatest album of all time, they can both be good, but its personal preference, and for him to judge this game because he simply doesn't want to see any good in it, is not what should be done in a professional sense. i would've given sonic unleashed at least a 6. The only 3.5 that should be here is your review, lousy, biased, one sided, and completely unprofessional. Sorry for the hate, just felt like speaking up for many fans. 

LiveandLedZep
LiveandLedZep

Wow, I'm not just an angry fanboy but the dude who reviewed this game said he loves platformers as much as vaseline on toast :P he makes some valid points, but maybe pick someone slightly more "adept" to the game style in hand to review the game? But reviews are just opinions, you can't blame him for that

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Really a 3.5 what did he want from the game. At the least 6 or 7. 7 if your a fan of sonic.

bonnin40
bonnin40

The day time levels had great level designs, and were fast and fun. the night time levels were lousy, but that doesnt make the entire game bad. i can tell this reviewer played the game for 10 minutes, said this sucks, and turned it off, just because it was sonic. instead of giving this game to a reviewer that doesnt like platformers, give it to someone who does, because i can garuntee they would give it a different score. im not saying the games amazing, but its sure as hell better than a 3.

narutomanfan123
narutomanfan123

so what's wrong with it. camera is not a problem. Controls are simple. Day time levels are great. Night levels are ok but not as bad as gamespot is saying in this review.

XxOskarxXTBXx51
XxOskarxXTBXx51

@bonnin40  

The daytime levels don't have NEARLY enough platforming, LESS than nearly enough platforming to make them decent.

BarnacleSamurai
BarnacleSamurai

 @bonnin40  I also loathe this game, its up there with Sonic 06 as the worse and an embarassment of the series. While 06 is overall the worse game, Unleashed's werewolf sections are among the worst parts of the entire series. I'm gonna say I agree with this reviewer, and at no point does it genuinely feel like he's "searching for things to dislike". If he were, he probably would have complained about more subjective flaws like the soundtrack or the art direction, but sloppy controls, awful camera and monotonous gameplay are more objective facts. Speaking of knowing the difference between subjective and objective, it makes no sense to compare video game critiques to that of music albums, since the latter is infinitely more opinion-based than the former.

XxOskarxXTBXx51
XxOskarxXTBXx51

@bonnin40

 @narutomanfan123 

DAYTIME LEVELS SUCKED, THEY HAD NO PLATFORMING OR EXPLORATION WHATSOEVER, JUST HOLD X AND RELENQUISH CONTROL OF SONIC.

 There is seriously no player input in the daytime stages. 


I love it how you imply that this game is a platformer, wow, it is severely lacking platforming.

XxOskarxXTBXx51
XxOskarxXTBXx51

@narutomanfan123  

DAYTIME LEVELS SUCKED, THEY HAD NO PLATFORMING OR EXPLORATION WHATSOEVER, JUST HOLD X AND RELENQUISH CONTROL OF SONIC.

 There is seriously no player input in the daytime stages.

Sonic Unleashed More Info

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  • First Released
    • BlackBerry
    • PlayStation 2
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Wii
    • Xbox 360
    Sonic is charged with saving the world after Dr. Eggman breaks it up in this fast-paced game featuring the custom-tailored "Hedgehog Engine."
    7.2
    Average User RatingOut of 3823 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Sonic Unleashed
    Developed by:
    Gameloft, Sonic Team
    Published by:
    Gameloft, Sega
    Genres:
    Platformer, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence