Maybe Sega really does make murder porn.
In all of Sonic's 15 years, there has not been a Sonic game I have not given a fair chance to. I own Sonic Shuffle. Sonic 3D Blast. Against warnings from my friends I bought Sonic Heroes and I actually gained a degree of enjoyment from playing it. Earlier this week I bought an Xbox 360 and pre-ordered Sonic the Hedgehog. Despite there being other games on the 360 I want, you could say I bought mine for Sonic. I didn't know what to expect; I knew that I had enjoyed some of Sonic Heroes, and I knew that, because it was Sonic's 15th Anniversary, Sonicteam had to put some effort into it, right? They couldn't just let his anniversary slip by on a mediocre product. Could they? I was pretty horrified when I actually began playing the game. It was worse than even my worst fears. While I found the storyline and music interesting and enjoyable - almost every other aspect of the game was an unpolished, unfinished mess. The City of Soleanna was a ghost town - for a place so large, very few people seemed to be out and about in the streets. The only time you saw cars were during certain missions. And any time there WERE more than a few people on screen, I was hit with massive and unacceptable amounts of slowdown (something that repeatedly happened within the stages themselves). Should I decide to take a mission, I would eventually have to sit through four separate loading screens (sometimes more!). Missions themselves were a pain to complete because of the frustrating controls - it wasn't so bad while playing as Sonic, Shadow, or Silver, but moreso any time you had to take control of their Amigos - for example, it would be nice if I could speed up, slow down, or stop when I am flying as Tails. Even simple tasks like flying through rings are extremely difficult as Tails because successfully steering him while flying is an unnecessarily frustrating chore. And Knuckles? Actually attacking with Knuckles is almost impossible. I can't even get lucky and use his mainstay gliding maneuver to harm enemies like I used to. The only attack of his I can repeatedly use is his Heat Knuckle. Anything else is impossible to aim or even control. The less said about Amy Rose the better. Controlling Sonic was a lot more difficult than it needed to be - not only because Sonic's movement was stiff and mechanical, but because hitting objects like dash pads would cause me to lose control of Sonic momentarily, sending him straight forward instead of where I wanted him to go. The Mach Speed/High speed sections of the game were also difficult to control; any time Sonic jumped, I could not control where I wanted him to land; making those sections some of the most difficult out of the entire game. Even simple things like Sonic's slide attack or Homing attack are a mish-mash of "hold this button for this amount of time" or "tap this button quickly" - making simple tasks a bit more complex than they needed to be. Control is the single most important issue in a videogame, because if you cannot control what you want your character to do, it does not matter how well the levels are designed; and this is perhaps the single worst issue in the entire game.
I witnessed many bugs; bugs that were easy to replicate - bugs that should have been fixed early in the game's development cycle - re-appear again and again. Many times while walking through Soleanna would one of my Amigos jump straight into the water and die - but that wasn't the problem. Eventually they would re-appear next to me, and die again, where their dead body would remain forever until I walked far enough away to make them respawn; this happened more times than I can even remember. Sonic's physics were embarrassing - when the game asks me to get Sonic's sliding move, you don't actually need it; you can squeeze Sonic under the space beneath the wall just fine if you just walk into it. Often times when I would try and use the light dash on some rings, Sonic would get stuck in mid-air; unable to move anywhere at all until his light dash eventually gave up. This happened while using the Homing Attack, too. While using first-person mode in Tails and Rouge, if you aim far enough behind you, eventually you can see Tails/Rouge's head and body clipping through the camera very noticeably. Even just walking around town is marred because of how the game (and camera) handles Sonic's movement. Any time Sonic transfers between a small ledge - like walking from the street up on to the sidewalk in New City - both Sonic and the camera jerk very noticeably. Many times when the game asked me to run up the side of a wall vertically (from flat ground), Sonic would suddenly dismount from the wall and fall off. This almost made Flame Core impossible to finish. There are even numerous typos and translation errors; near the end of Sonic's story, a Soleanna Guard warns me against doing a certain action, and "don't" is spelled "don' t" twice in the same sentence. I could spend an entire novel's length listing every single problem in the game, but I'll spare you, the reader.
Then there's the matter of game play. Forcing me to play as these Amigo characters frustrates me like you would not believe. Not only does every single Amigo control worse than the main characters, but I had honestly hoped you guys were past trying to cram in too many playable characters. I don't want to play as Tails halfway through Sonic's level. I want to play as Sonic. He is the character I chose at the story selection screen. Not Tails, not Knuckles, Sonic. It's very deceiving. And even when I do get to play as Sonic, sometimes I have to carry the Princess around, which limits what Sonic can do, somewhat. Having to hold a button just to cross what should be normally solid sand makes me immeasurably angry, too, especially after seeing how Shadow plays through Dusty Desert in earlier videos. I had hoped Sonic could play through a level that large and wide-open, but I was unfortunately mistaken. The promise of a level called "Aquatic Base" had me hoping for a classic Sonic level set underwater, like Labyrinth Zone in the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Having to find three keys as Rouge without a radar or even hints is annoying, as well, and it took me over 10 minutes to find all three keys. Directly after that, Shadow was crushed by a falling piece of Castle debris in Kingdom Valley that I could not see until it had already killed me - it happened so many times in a row that I ended up getting a game over, because I had no idea where from or when it was coming. Rolling the balls in Silver's Dusty Desert was a chore, too, and I honestly did not expect I would ever finish that level. And then there's the problem that Sonic just won't shut his mouth - the fun of learning a game is gone because Sonic (or Tails, or Knuckles, or Elise) explains everything to me before I even have a chance to see what it is they're explaining to me. Most annoying of all is the fact that the only way I can damage enemies is through the homing attack or similar attacks - simply spin jumping straight into an enemy will not hurt them. If I could jump into enemies, like the old games, it would make the game just a little bit easier to control. It annoys me that Soleanna Forest is not only the biggest, but the most empty of all the Town Stages in the entire game. There's nothing out there. Any time you have to go to the forest, it just wastes your time because it's a big, empty, uninteresting field leading to an equally uninteresting forest. It's like it's there just so it can waste my time. The Adventure Fields in Sonic Adventure were large, but I did not find them boring. There was always interesting scenery to look at. Soleanna Forest is the exact opposite of that. Maybe Sonicteam thought they were being realistic. I've got a massive field just behind my house and it's not interesting at all, for example. But this is a game. Games aren't supposed to be uninteresting. A gigantic empty field followed by a gigantic empty forest, with the same two or three trees copied-and-pasted 40 times is not interesting. And, considering how floppy Sonic's trademark spikes are, maybe they thought there's no way he could damage a robot anymore just by spinning in to it - but what, honestly, is at all realistic about a super fast blue hedgehog in the first place? Let him spin jump through robots - you've already suspended the audience's disbelief enough with the fact he's a Blue Hedgehog, having him spin through enemies like he used to won't make it any less realistic. Or maybe it was just the pressure of a deadline that ruined this game; every now and then I'll see a glimmer of hope shine through - but almost always, any time I find myself having fun, the fun immediately stops. Radical Train was awesome - until I had to do the Mach Speed section. White Acropolis was pretty cool - until I had to play as Tails. Aquatic Base was fun - until it gave control to the Amigo characters. Almost every stage in the game is ruined because you're either carrying the Princess, will have to take control of an Amigo character, drive one of Shadow's stupid vehicles, complete a Mach Speed section, or solve an inane physics puzzle with Silver. Everything cool in this game is buried under a mountain of frustrating crap. This is a game that honestly would benefit from being released for Christmas 2007, as almost every aspect of the game I currently have in my hands is broken to some degree. After 15 years of dedication to the franchise, it was almost like a slap in the face. Sonicteam promised so much and delivered on very little. What I was presented with was a game that somehow manages to be even less polished than the original Sonic Adventure. Sonic Adventure was forgivable because it was one of Sonicteam's first forays into translating Sonic's gameplay into the third dimension, and it was a launch title for a new platform. Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, is not only a game released six years after Sonic Adventure, but also a second generation Xbox 360 title - giving it no excuse for being this broken. I was promised Sonic the Hedgehog would be reborn for the next generation; What they gave me was a prettier Sonic Adventure 3, with all the problems inherited from that series and far more. This is not only the most dissapointing Sonic game I've played, it ranks up there as one of the most dissapointing games I've ever played. And this is coming from a dedicated fan who's stuck with the franchise, through thick and thin, for 15 years.
For the first time in 15 years I am actually questioning why I've put up with all of this when it's quite obvious Sonic is nothing more than a brand-name they can use to exploit me for every penny I'm worth. Well, not this time - Sonicteam owes me $65.09. Steer clear.