Sonic Unleashed is fantastic during the day, good during the night, and excellent all around.
year anniversary of its release (fine, so sue me, i'm a couple months off), I rented it back in July, along with the ill-fated Sonic 2006 (which I may or may
not write a review for, if I can restrain my vitriol on the subject of bestiality). This game is fundamentally misunderstood. Yes, it does feel like two completely different games playing on the same disc, but this isn't entirely a bad thing. All in all, Sonic Unleashed is a well put together package that should please most, provided you expect several things going in to play it.
The game opens with Sonic battling Eggman in space above Mobius. Sonic goes super, entraps Eggman, but Eggman tricks and imprisons Sonic in a massive cannon. He harvests the emeralds from Sonic, and utilizes their dark energy to fire a beam into the planet, with the intention of harnessing the power of the beast "Dark Gaia". Dark Gaia is awakened prematurely, however, and collapses across the globe. The world is split into pieces, Sonic is left transformed into a Werehog, and Eggman shoots him back down to the planet. Sonic meets a new friend when he lands, whom he dubs "Chip" due to its love of desserts, and sets off to help Chip cure his amnesia, and restore the planet by placing the chaos emeralds back in their temples. The story is definitely "different" from previous Sonic games, though it definitely does rip off of itself- namely Eggman's attempt to harness a mythical beast (Sonic Adventure), and the amnesia sidestory feels done to death. The story is written well, it is light-hearted and cute, and overall should please most.
Sonic Unleashed is comprised of a shattered globe, on which you can travel to different hub worlds, which have merchants in it you can do various missions for, or purchase from using your ring supply (various foods which give benefits such as experience, the means to view extra content, various knick knacks). There are also various missions that can be done for the townsfolk for unlocks and experience points. The hubworlds aren't intrusive, in my experience, and it can be nice to score a little exp just by doing various odd jobs. Yes, Sonic Unleashed has RPG elements in place. Thankfully, they are well worked and don't feel tacked on. An increase in speed or strength feel as they should, and you will never need to grind.
Sonic Unleashed is at its very best during the day stages. This is not something I will dispute. Charging along at 300-400 mph makes the Blue Blur feel really ******* fast, which is as it should be. The camera seamlessly blends in 2D and 3D segments of the levels, creating nice throwbacks to the old games, while showcasing some truly great 3D Sonic gameplay. The levels are varied in both artistic design (which I will get to later), as well as in style. Each level, while fundamentally focusing on speed, will offer different obstacles and minor bits of platforming to keep you on your toes. Some stages even focus more on dodging obstacles, such as one which consists solely of rails which you must grind around a massive island- miss a rail and that's it. Overall, the day stages feel frantic, fast, and make you feel the way a supersonic hedgehog should feel.
Now for the Werehog. When night falls on Mobius, you assume the identity of the Werehog. The game shifts entirely in its style, and is now a God of War style brawler, where you must employ combos and finishing moves to take down creatures of darkness and Eggman's robot armies. No longer are you fast, but much slower and stronger. Sonic also inexplicably develops limbs made of taffy, which allow you to extend your reach to reach platforms, bars to swing off of, and to employ in your attacks. The combat does get somewhat repetitive over time, though I noticed on my second playthrough, where I utilized combos much more extensively, that it becomes less irritating if you vary your attacks. Mashing buttons works, but I would recommend getting in tune with the combo system. I will readily admit that I prefer the day stages stylistically, musically (the sole combat jazz tune gets irritating after the 10th time as the Werehog), and in terms of gameplay above the night stages, however the Werehog is fun to play in its own right, and can even be a nice break from the fast, furious day stages.
There are few (if any- I certainly didn't notice any) glitches- everything feels polished and well put together. There is notably very little slowdown. Ironically, the most slowdown I encountered was with the Werehog in the hubworlds, whereas the stages themselves are very smooth, even moving at maximum speeds during the day.
Really... sound has never been a problem for Sonic games. The music is fun, catchy, fast, and the sound effects feel right. The night time combat music, a lively jazz tune, does get irritating, as it is the only combat tune for the Werehog composed, but listening to your own music can be a fun way of overcoming this. The hubworld music is usually quite pleasant, and the day stage music stands out, as all music from Sonic games tend to. The theme of the game, Endless Possibilities, is awesome. It, again, is catchy, lively, and is very good as a Sonic theme. Now, the voice acting. It is good. Yes, the voice acting for Unleashed is good. While I have, up until now in general refused to take part in the Jason Griffith/Ryan Drummond pissing contest, I can safely say that Jason Griffith's performance as Sonic (Hedgehog and Werehog) was great in Unleashed, and the rest of the actors provided good performances. Overall, sound for the game was well orchestrated, and shouldn't leave you dry.
Sonic Unleashed looks gorgeous. From the modeling to the backgrounds, from the CGI to the effects, everything feels polished. There is little, if any, pop-in, and overall the game is brought to life by lively textures and colors, excellent stage design, and beautiful backgrounds. The CGI goes above and beyond the call of duty. The opening movie should go down in history as being one of the most epic opening movies in gaming history. It is absolutely stunning. Even if you don't get this game, at least look for the opening on Youtube and appreciate the meticulous labor that went in to it.
Sonic Unleashed is a fun, good-quality romp with the world's most famous hedgehog, and why it was trashed by the mainstream critics is beyond me. Even with the unexpectedly different gameplay styles populating the same package, everything is well done, and is satisfying. I would definitely recommend buying this game to Sonic fans, and would also recommend buying it to others. If you are worried about the Werehog, you should at least give it a rental, as I did- I wasn't disappointed.