When Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed released nearly 6 years ago, I immediately knew I was playing something really special. The racing felt just right, the transformation mechanic was an incredible addition and overall I found it to be a flawed but very enjoyable experience that still sticks in my memory to this day. I wanted more.
Naturally when Team Sonic Racing, the next game in the series was announced, I was over the moon. When I found out it would be playable at EGX, I had to see what it was about.
Whilst I am still looking forward to it, I must admit I walked away feeling a bit underwhelmed.
I think part of the problem is that the game feels like it should be a direct sequel to Racing Transformed. The game appears to be using the same engine as the previous entry and honestly one look it at and I immediately wanted to see the transformations, track designs and everything else from that game. It looks nice of course, but I don’t feel it is separating itself enough from the visual identity of Racing Transformed.
Which brings me to the other part of the identity problem – all those things above don’t exist here. The transformations and track gimmicks associated with them are gone. The huge cast of characters and levels has shrunk down to ones within the Sonic universe. The scope is much smaller and that’s very easy to notice.
There is still a massive amount of content that they can work with of course and I look forward to seeing what they do. It says a lot to me though that even though I knew that a lot of Racing Transformed’s parts would be missing from this entry before I went to EGX, there was still a heavy reaction of expecation vs reality going on in my head.
There are some interesting ideas at work here however. Developers Sumo Digital have really tried to put the “team” into Team Sonic Racing.
Teamwork is the main gameplay mechanic here. No racer works alone anymore but as part of a team of three and that opens up options. Teammates drifting around created slipstream paths we could follow to get a speed boost, items could be traded around between team members if needed and there was a team ultimate that could be charged up and used for a quick boost of speed.
At the end of each race points were awarded to every racer seemingly dependent on what place they came in but also seemingly other factors as well. Regardless of your own personal position when you finish, it is possible for your team to win even if you are trailing but also possible to lose even if you come first.
I have some concerns about this. On the one hand, I have no doubt that this system will make online matches very interesting especially if playing with a full team of friends.
Given how AI can be in racing games though I have worries about how this will translate to offline play. AI companions in games, especially racing games, are rarely good in my experience. It isn’t hard to picture in my head how this could lead to some very unsatisfying victories and defeats – I’m open to being surprised on this and I hope I am, but I can’t shake the doubts.
The actual driving itself feels pretty close to previous Sonic racing games. Going into drifts and going out of them is still satisfying, handling seemed solid, and overall it was what I expected.
As far as I can tell there will be 15 characters split into 5 teams at launch. This is quite a step down from Racing Transformed’s original 20+ roster, and with 12 racers on the track in every race I worry that seeing the same characters race after race will lose appeal very quickly.
In terms of performance there were several notable frame rate drops at times which is a little concerning but since this version of the game is likely an older version I’m not too concernes at this point.
I also really hope that more marketing is done specifically to show that this isn’t a sequel to Racing Transformed as I feel not enough has been done to bring this point home and I wouldn’t be surprised if some consumers buy into this with the same mindset I had initially.
Reflecting on everything I have realised that I am far more conflicted about this game than I initially thought, but I am still looking forward to playing the full game and I hope my concerns are unwarranted.