E3 has come to an end, and SEGAbits representatives came, played and conquered the event! While opinion pieces based on trailers and press releases are all well and good, nothing beats a hands-on preview. After the break, hear what Bartman and Kori-Maru thought about SEGA and Sumo Digital’s latest racing title!
We may not have the SEGA line up of characters (Or Danika Patrick, or Banjo-Kazooie or Wreck-it Ralph) but in turn this allows for greater use of the Sonic brand. Not only do we get original music and brand new voice overs, the emphasis on teamwork shows characters interacting with each other on a more personal level and giving way for a game that wants to stand out on its own, limiting asset recycling while still paying homage to the world of Sonic. The short Planet Wisp course was enough to show off the main features in play. We may not have transforming vehicles anymore but the car-handling mechanics are straight out of the previous racer. Including some of the control quirks involving drifting and executing tricks with the right analog stick. Teamwork takes a greater emphasis in this game as the place you earn determines how many points your team gets on the track overall. If you have teammates that lag behind however, your team will likely not earn the win. The demo may have shown shortcomings of relying on a CPU-controlled teammates, but the potential for cooperative based play sounds appealing.
Perhaps a polish of the team based mechanics might encourage players to not always try to go for the best shortcuts and try to help trailing or less skilled team members find higher spots without unfairly giving demerits to skill. Items are replaced with wisps that still serve the same purpose and action. Not only do they thematically mesh with the other Sonic characters, it gives off a bit of a vibe of an older item-based racer, Blur, which not only features vibrant neon colors, but was also a game several members worked on prior to working for Sumo Digital. While they symbolize what they do (Like boosting, landmine-like cubes, straight-forward rockets) being hit by an attack stops you in your tracks and when you’re being overwhelmed by items it’s hard to not feel that the game is being obnoxious with it’s overlapping systems. When the demo starts the game encourages you to trade items, draft behind other team members while skim boosting, take down rivals and skim boosting next to a teammate to build a team-ultimate meter, which grants extra speed to all team members at the press of a button.
It was a little difficult to do most of these actions, particularly when the teammates were lagging far behind. This also means other teams have no problem ganging up on racers that try to lone-wolf the track by leaving ‘cube’ wisps on the track and trapping you with hot red trails of fire. You also get more offensive weapons when further behind making it tougher for players in the lead to trade useful items, however the CPU does try to give good weapons to other teammates (Including you) when in leading positions. Aside from gameplay balance issues, there were a host of performance problems that usually come with pre-release Sonic-Sumo racers including an unstable framerate that dips below 30fps but still providing great detail on the track. That said the Planet Wisp level shown appears far more vibrant and colorful than the racers that came before it. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions were on display but played largely the same with the promise of parity between all platforms. The game mechanics can use some work and balance will be tricky to maintain but currently this could be a great game to play cooperatively than one you would play solo.
Dakota & Kori-Maru
Both Dakota and myself got our hands on the E3 demo of Team Sonic Racing. In the demo, Team Sonic and Team Dark were playable with Planet Wisp as the only selectable track. The game is similar to the All Star Racing series but is focused on team based gameplay where players can support each other by providing Wisp items and slipstreams to take advantage of the race. After finishing the race, you and your team will receive points depending on your and team members placement in the race. From my experience with the game, it ran in 30 fps, the A.I. was a little harsh at certain times while using Wisps items, and some of the unique Wisps items were kinda confusing to understand. This is the type of game that requires me to play multiple times in order for me to get use it’s mechanics. I also hope that there will be a non team play feature in the final version. While I’m a little disappointed that Team Sonic Racing is a step back from Transformed and removed SEGA great line of characters, it’s great to see Crush 40 back to compose the music for the game and this will pleased the hardcore Sonic fanbase to see their favorite character return in playable form from a long absence in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.