Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: Sonic Generations (PC)

Sonic Generations: (PS3, Xbox 360 and PC)
PC Developer: Sonic Team, Devil's Details
Publisher: SEGA
Released: November 1, 2011
R.R.P: £19.99 (Steam)

Sonic Generations is the perfect homage to twenty years of brilliance. A cultivation of everything that has been achieved throughout Sonic Teams long-haul. From the 8-bit adventures, straight through to the transition to 3D, and now the current-gen era with every piece of Sonic's legacy intrinsically laid out for us.

The overall game is structured as 2 acts of classic and modern, inside of 3 different zones which when completed offer up extra challenges to the gamer in order to progress to a boss fight, followed by a further 3 zones, and so on and so forth as you continue to unlock the world map from left to right. The first noticeable thing is that the game-play is smooth and fluid. Rarely does the game-play ever seem disjointed, apart from occasionally in the modern acts where things can get a bit hectic and perhaps the level structure doesn't seem quite as intuitive as it could be. These are however problems that are inherent of speed in 3D games, and has plagued Sonic's transition to 3D ever since the first Sonic Adventure. The classic zones however excel in platforming. Although speed is an option, I feel you would be missing out here on what comes natural to the game-play. Exploration is fun. Rarely will two different play-throughs ever feel the same or take the same route, and this goes for the modern acts as well. This is one of the big factors that will keep you playing Generations for a while to come.

Possibly one of the greatest achievements of this game is the audio. Sure, you have all the expected sound effects from a Sonic game, and from that aspect you will find nothing out of the norm here. But where this really excels, is the music. This is an absolute treasure trove with remixes of all your past favorites, but also an endless stream of unlock-able classics and originals there for you to find. The way the acts are inherently structured, you have the classic and modern paths. The classic levels have typically Jun Senoue-esque renditions. Whereas the modern stages will sound more akin to the styles from Sonic Adventure, Heroes and onwards. A really nice touch here is how stages such as Green Hill and Sky Sanctuary are transformed effortlessly into the modern style, and vice versa with City Escape going back to Sonic's roots. They make this feeling stick well in the players minds, and reminds them that the game is running these eras in parallel. It works remarkably well and really helps the game carry its vision over to the player.

Another revolutionary introduction to the Sonic world, is the perk system whereby you earn points during the levels, and spend them on bonuses that you benefit from during play. Such as, after taking damage, rings lost will not disappear for 10 seconds. Your decline in speed will be minimized when going up sharp hills, and so on. This adds another dimension to the game and really encourages exploration of the best combos to make the time-attacks and challenges a lot more competitive and suit your own strengths and play-style.

Speaking of challenges. This is where the longevity in Generations really goes to a new level. I have always felt that previous Sonic games had missed out on this trick, as it is clearly a game that just begs for competitive time comparisons and head to heads with friends. Generations feels like it finally found its footing in this department. After fully unlocking 3 zones, you are introduced to mini challenges within them. Some of these are trivial and short. But others can be quite addictive, and just beg for playback and improvement. On top of this is the online system whereby you post your fastest scores throughout all the zones in the game. As well as the 30 second challenge whereby players see how far they can get through a level before the clock stops, allowing you to compare results with a friend.

The game on the whole feels brilliant. Yet, it is not without its flaws. Frequently I have managed to glitch the PC versions 'Havok' engine. Loop-De-loops getting caught midway for no reason and making the camera shake. Entire zones textures become invisible for no reason (all this on a machine that is clean, and fully up-to-date). Questionable voice acting is still present in cut-scenes with all of Sonics friends and comes across as hammish once again. If you base the games difficulty on the main stages alone, then in actual fact the game is too easy and does not take long to complete. You really have to look at the challenge modes to get the most out of the difficulty curb. The bosses are somewhat scripted, yet remain varied and fun. Frequently the modern stages will adopt a side scrolling platform view. And in some challenges it can be hard to remember which type of Sonic you are playing, and as a result which types of game mechanics you can take advantage of. The minor flaws present in this game though are ultimately few and far between however.

My favorite aspect of the game has to be the rewards system for completing challenges. Allowing you to piece together Sonics legacy bit by bit with unlockables such as concept art, music, characters biographies. If you aren't doing the challenges for the bragging rights, you'll be doing them for the unlockables. A very clever system that will appeal to all types of players.

Final thoughts:

Sonic Generations is a game that will take the hardcore fan a good 5 hours to play through. but the completionist a long time to master. There is a lot to do in this game, and the potential has clearly been realized. You can't help but feel however this is a swan song of the times that have passed, and perhaps a message from Sega to say enough is enough. It is now time to move on, embrace a new style and beginning. But whatever this new-found path Sonic Team shows us over the next 20 years, the game ultimately serves as a sentimental reminder that a good idea never get old.


Pros: Fluid and fun game-play. A whole host of unlockables. The best Sonic game to date.
Cons: Occasionally glitchy. Some challenges seem tacked on.

Reviewer: Barry Griffiths

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