Team So nic racing
Team if you wanna go faster
Gotta go fast? If you want to win this team-based karter, coming first isn’t always the way to win.
We’re on the final lap and down in seventh position. We’re not going to finish in first, that much is clear, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit back and go through the motions. You see, there are three of us in a team, and if we can just knock Knuckles, who is one place ahead of us, off his stride, we may just clinch the race for our team. That’s the essence of Team Sonic Racing’s spin on the battle racer. It’s a game of teamwork, won by having the highest joint score in a match (defined by finish position and also rings collected, which you can get by attacking other racers). Adding some depth to this new dynamic are various team moves, such as swapping power-ups with your teammates or following their tracks on the ground closely to get a speed boost after a couple of seconds (potentially overtaking them, at which point they can do the same to you). Pull off enough of these moves, and you all sync up for an ‘Ultimate boost’, which gives you several seconds of improved speed and handling.
Just how well the system works will only become fully apparent after extended play alongside fellow human beings (there will be four-player local and 12-player online multiplayer), but it gels nicely from what we’ve seen. If, for example, your mate picks a speedy character (like Sonic, duh), you could pick a heavier build and dedicate yourself to ramming opponents, hoovering up their rings while protecting your teammate’s precious position. Or if you’re further behind the others, you can take a glance at which team is winning, and target its lower-placed characters, so when you overtake them it may just swing the race your team’s way.
Coming from Sumo Digital, the developer behind the excellent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Team Sonic Racing handles generously, making it easy to drift around large portions of
“If your teammate picks a speedy character, you could pick a heavier build and go around ramming opponents”
track for speed boosts, and not punishing you too hard for flying off the track like a wally. It’s made for everyone.
Total eclipse of the kart
Speaking of flying, Team Sonic Racing is strictly a kart racer, unlike its predecessor which would switch between karts, boats, and planes – often in the same race. This is also strictly a Sonic game, so you won’t find tracks from Sega’s other IPs or guest characters like Wreck-it Ralph, the Team Fortress lot or, er, Football Manager from Football Manager. These cutbacks feel like a gross loss, particularly if the cast of Sonic is a bit shrill and infantile for your tastes (weren’t they all more appealing before they learned to speak?).
The previous game, while mechanically competent, shone thanks to its wacky diversity, its tracks ranging from the cel-shaded downtown of Jet Set Radio, to a camp-spooky party at the House Of The Dead mansion. The Sonic series has never been renowned for its eye-catching environments, and the two tracks we played here – a Green Hill Zone-type course and the obligatory icy one – didn’t tickle our nostalgia or dazzle us with garishness. They just weren’t that exciting. But if the new teamplay system pulls through and begets all manner of team strategies and character combos, there could be enough excitement on the track that you won’t have time to fawn over the pretty backdrops. It all feels like a bit of a gamble, but an intriguing one at least.
The first track we played looked like it was inspired by Green Hill Zone… not that it was all that inspiring…
Pick a larger character, like Big, and you can bully your rivals while your speedier teammates race on ahead.
Collecting rings adds to your team’s final score – just remember that your rivals can steal them off you. Dedicated Sonic fans may cheer at the character selection, but some of us will miss the last game’s wackier, more diverse roster.
Characters fall into three brackets: Speed, Technique, and Power. Knuckles looks like he fits in the latter category.