Yep, I got it. Thought I might as well post my review here, to kick the discussion off...
Platform: Xbox 360
There are many things in the world of videogames which split fans down the middle; Cel Shaded Zelda for example, but it is safe to say that the vast majority all agree that the run of 3D Sonic games over the past seven years have not been up to par. Although some are genuinely enjoyable games (namely the Adventure games), all have struggled with camera issues, each instalment has added more characters to the already expansive list and of course, every one introduces a brand new gameplay gimmick in an attempt to breath new life in to the Sonic franchise.
With that in mind, it was not a surprise when Sonic Unleashed did not receive a great deal of positive feedback when it was first revealed. The general view, which I myself partly shared, was of a game with yet another pointless gameplay mode thrown in to make up for the fact that Sega were never going to be able to recreate that classic Sonic experience in 3d.
However, it seems that they finally have.
After the stunning opening cinematic, the player is thrown in to an action stage as the regular form of Sonic. After the disappointment that was the opening level of Sonic â€˜06, I was reserving judgement. After years of 3d Sonic games, the first thing I instinctively went to adjust was the camera, there was no need however, as it panned along with Sonic, the angle shifting smoothly as he shot around a corner. Yes, they have eventually got it right; Unlike the previous 3d adventures, if you die it will always be down to player skill, not a frustrating camera angle.HTML:[img]https://www.pokecharms.com/xnews/images/werehog1.jpg[/img]
Of course, a good camera does not automatically make for great gameplay, it is Sega's new Hedgehog Engine that provides that. At points it really does feel like playing some of the original platformers, as the game takes a side on view to follow Sonic as he charges through the level. Unlike the recent games, it is not very often that you will have to stop to solve a puzzle or clear a room of enemies in one of these action stages; It's all about the speed.
Of course, the regular Sonic stages are only half of the game. The Werehog levels ditch the speed aspect completely, instead making use of the new abilities of the wolf form to traverse platform levels. These reminded me a little of the treasure hunting stages from the Adventure games, but with a set path rather than a level to search through for hours. Surprisingly for me, the werehog levels are enjoyable in their own right and it is easy to see why this design decision was made; In previous games an attempt has been made to mix Sonic's trademark speed with the occasion puzzle and precision platforming, creating a hybrid that never really felt like Sonic. By splitting these aspects in to different gameplay styles the player gets to experience the best of both worlds. In comparison to the basic levels, the werehog stages can seem to drag on a little and it is easy to see how he button bashing combat could easily get repetitive.
Following the formula of the Adventure series and Sonic '06, Unleashed has a variety of Hub areas which lead to different action stages. Although these seem unnecessary at times, because the main levels are so enjoyable these hubs don't seem as annoying as those in '06.HTML:[img]https://www.pokecharms.com/xnews/images/screenshot1.jpg[/img]
Graphically, the game looks amazing. I have only played on the Xbox 360 version, but from what I have seen the Wii does not suffer too much from its lack of power. All of the characters (Don't worry, you only play as Sonic!) look amazing, particularly Sonic and Eggman in the opening cutscene. One gripe I do have with these however, is the younger tone which seems to be present. Apart from the opening, everything seems a bit jovial and kiddy, particularly when compared to some of the amazing and often dramatic story scenes in the original Sonic Adventure. Of course, this is just a minor gripe from a player who is not particularly in the target audience of the game. Maybe this complaint comes from the fact that most of the game does feel like it was designed for me- A retro Sonic fan.
Even the music throughout the Hedgehog levels feels a bit retro. Of course, there is still the main theme, performed by the lead singer of Bowling for Soup. Although this seems a bit lack-luster in comparison to songs such as Open Your Heart, it is a nice theme to go with the game.
All in all, Sonic Unleashed is a great game, combining the best bits of the 3d games with the classic Sonic gameplay we have all been wishing for. With the Hedgehog Engine creating amazing levels whilst keeping up with a supersonic pace, we can only hope that this is the start of a new era of Sonic games.