Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: June 17, 2019
Team Sonic Racing is a combat kart racer available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Sonic’s history of racing games actually dates back to over a decade and a half before Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing in 2010 as Sonic Drift 1 and 2 released on Game Gear in 1994 and 1995 respectively before Sonic R released on SEGA Saturn in 1997 and PC in 1998. There was a trilogy of mobile racers in 2002, 2003 and 2005 in Japan before returning to home consoles with Sonic Riders on GameCube, PS2, Xbox and PC in 2006 followed by Sonic Rivals 1 and 2 on PSP in 2006 and 2007 respectively, while a sequel to Sonic Riders titled Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity released on PS2 and Wii in 2008. Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing brought Sonic racers to the following generation on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PC, while Sonic Free Riders also released in 2010 on Xbox 360, while a sequel titled Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed released on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Vita, 3DS and PC in 2012, although there was almost a 7 year wait until Sonic’s kart racing escapades would continue in the form of Team Sonic Racing. Can Sumo Digital continue to build upon the quality of the Sonic and All-Stars Racing franchise with Team Sonic Racing?
Team Adventure is essentially the career mode; involving Dodon Pa inviting Sonic and his friends to a team focused racing competition. The competition begins at the Wisp Circuit with every race thereafter having to be unlocked via accumulating enough stars from succeeding in three separate objectives including earning a star for finishing on the podium as an individual; winning as an individual; and winning the race as a team. However, keys are also needed on some occasions were the player has to complete a further objective such as performing a team ultimate move in addition to completing any of the three objectives.
Local Play mode includes grand prix, exhibition race and time trial gameplay. Grand Prix mode allows the player to choose from any of five preset groups of four race championships in a standard or team grand prix. Exhibition race mode allows the player to select an individual track to race on in a standard or team race with customisation options of 1 to 11 A.I. competitors or two to four competing teams in standard and team race respectively, while race length can be 3, 4 or 5 laps. Time trial mode sees the player having an infinite quantity of laps and three speed boosts per lap to set the fastest lap time in any kart on any track in comparison to a pre-determined bronze, silver, gold or platinum ghost lap time or alternatively racing against your previous fastest lap time from that particular track.
There are a multitude of event types including team race were your chosen character’s team of three competitors attempt to collectively earn more points than their opposing team; a team grand prix comprises of four races in the form of a championship; and king of the hill tasks the player to remain in first position to collect points towards reaching the points required to win the race. Elsewhere, destruction races tasks competitors with destroying target obstacles to earn points; a lightning race sees periodic lightning strikes potentially hitting your kart; survival race is the equivalent of an eliminator race; a vampire race sees racers collecting rings to increase their speed; and much more besides.
Sonic fans will appreciate the character design as there are 15 characters to choose from in total, although only three characters are available at the start of Team Adventure including Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, while all Local Play gameplay allows players to choose any character. The further 12 characters include Amy, Chao, Big, Blaze, Silver, Vector, Shadow, Rouge, Omega, Metal Sonic, Dr. Eggman and Zavok with each group of three characters within their own team for a total of five teams.
Every character’s kart has a unique set of five attributes including acceleration, boost, defense, handling and speed, alongside three different preset kart types such as speed, technique and power. Each kart can be customised with a variety of unlockable performance related front and rear components and wheels, alongside cosmetic customisation including numerous unlockable paint kits, vinyl sticker designs and horn sounds. There are also four sets of unlockable optional loadouts focused upon performance of the front and rear aerodynamics and tyres, alongside cosmetics.
Power-ups are also referred to as wisps that can be fired backwards at opposing racers in an attempt to extend your lead at the front of the field as well as forwards when you need to progress towards the front of the field in an effort to overtake your team’s opposition. There is a wide variety of wisp that provides temporary power-ups such as a cyan laser that spins out your opponent; invincibility; magenta rhythm obscures the vision of your opponents; orange rockets bounce off trackside barriers and walls resulting in a well timed ricochet shot being just as effective, while orange rockets are also capable of clearing your preferred racing line of obstacles positioned by opposing racers; violet voids bend space to absorb rings, item boxes and slows your opposition; white boost gives an immediate speed boost; yellow drill provides a simultaneous speed boost and invincibility; and much more besides.
Track design is quite diverse as there are 7 sets of tracks, although the seventh set of tracks has to be unlocked. The half a dozen sets of tracks available from the beginning during Local Play modes include Planet Wisp, Seaside Hill, Glacierland, Casino Park, Sandopolis and Rooftop Run that each contains three tracks based upon varying themes. Mirrored track layouts in exhibition race within Local Play mode that effectively doubles the quantity of tracks as players will have to become accustomed to the alternative track layout due to right-hand corners being flipped to left-hand corners and vice versa. However, despite the inclusion of a mirrored track layout for every track; there are no reversed or reversed mirrored track layouts.
Rather surprisingly, there is only a single camera angle that is positioned from a third-person perspective positioned a fair distance behind the kart, alongside the ability to look behind your kart before firing a wisp power-up backwards at an opposing racer. It would have been more preferable if Team Sonic Racing had a multitude of camera angles to choose from such as a camera positioned at the front of the kart without any bodywork; a bonnet view showing the bonnet’s bodywork; a driver’s eye view from the perspective of your chosen character with the steering wheel and interior of the kart on display; and a Micro Machines or MotorStorm RC styled camera angle that would be situated above the course as though a helicopter is dynamically following the racing action. However, there are no replays or photo mode that would have further elevated how players could view and remember their favourite races.
The Vita is adequately covered in the car combat racing genre with games such as ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed and Table Top Racing, although given how long it has been since a racer of any genre released on Vita; there is still room for another Sonic racer on Vita, although a Vita port seems unlikely, but remote play is a consolation. Team Sonic Racing’s remote play performance is excellent as the graphics, audio and general performance maintains the quality of the PS4 version. Team Sonic Racing’s remote play control scheme optimisation allows gameplay during remote play to feel as natural as playing Team Sonic Racing on PS4 or even the Vita native port of Sonic and All-Stars Racing as the remote play controls involve acceleration being remapped to R, braking and drifting moving to L, alongside the rest of the controls remaining identical resulting in a very comfortable remote play control scheme; therefore Team Sonic Racing is as entertaining in remote play as when played on PS4.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with a responsive control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; holding L2 to brake or when accelerating and steering into a corner to drift; pressing X to use a power-up or beeping your horn when a power-up is not equipped; pressing triangle to perform a team ultimate move; pressing O to give a power-up to a racer on your team; holding square to look behind your kart; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer to steer your kart; moving the right analogue stick up or down or from side to side to perform a stunt; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a list of players, while vibration occurs when driving over an on-track boost pad or engaging a boost, being hit by a power-up from an opposing racer and hitting the trackside barrier. However, there is no light bar implementation that could have produced a colour representing the currently equipped power-up such as orange when having an orange rocket power-up equipped. Meanwhile, a partial attempt at a classic retro stylised control scheme re-maps accelerating to holding X, although braking and drifting moves to R2 when perhaps it should have been mapped to square, alongside using a power-up or beeping your horn being mapped to L2.
Graphically, Team Sonic Racing has improved in the intervening years since Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed from the previous console generation. Character models and kart models are excellent with fluent movement and animations throughout racing, drifting, performing stunts and utilising power-ups. Meanwhile, track layouts and trackside environments are themed in a way that rather effectively produces intriguing tracks.
Team Sonic Racing’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, team adventure menus, local play mode menus, split-screen multiplayer and online multiplayer menus, track selection menus, character selection menus, kart customisation garage menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on characters racing their karts in close quarters, a chequered flag and track locations depending on the mode, menu or option selection.
Voice-overs reflect the personalities of their respective characters from Sonic cartoons such as Sonic proclaiming to his opposing racers, “Step aside, I’ve got places to be!” and Big making statements such as, “I’ll just squeeze through” or asking, “Am I doing this right, Sonic?” or when firing an orange rocket that hits Amy’s kart only for her to angrily say, “Sonic! I thought we were friends”. Sound effects include collecting power-ups and rings, accelerating, braking, drifting, boosting, using power-ups, performing stunts and ultimate team moves. The official theme song titled Green Light Ride performed by Crush 40 and remixed by Qemists, alongside additional music really captures the close racing action of Team Sonic Racing. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation, although it could have produced voice-overs or power-up sound effects.
The trophy list includes 52 trophies with 40 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the You’re Fired bronze trophy for causing an opponent to spin-out using a red burst power-up; the Roadside Assistance bronze trophy for performing a skim-boost on a slow-moving teammate; and the This Time It’s Personal bronze trophy for modifying a kart in the garage. Harder trophies include the Can You Feel the Sunshine? gold trophy for earning every star in Team Adventure mode; the Cagophilist silver trophy for collecting every key in Team Adventure mode; and the Well, That Wasn’t So Hard gold trophy for completing all Team Adventure chapters on hard difficulty. Multiplayer trophies include the Let Me Introduce Myself bronze trophy for finishing an online multiplayer race; the A Friend In Speed Is A Friend Indeed bronze trophy for setting a faster time in comparison to a friend’s leaderboard time in time trial mode on any track; the Sonic Heroes bronze trophy for completing a team race with two additional local players on your team in split-screen multiplayer; and the But There Is A Me bronze trophy for placing in first position in an online multiplayer race. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including normal, hard and expert with the major differences being the aggressiveness of the A.I. controlled opponents in their consistency of pace throughout each race and how effective they are in utilising their power-ups. However, there are tracks that are naturally much harder to learn than other tracks, especially tracks that are tighter and twistier such as Roulette Road and tracks with far more obstacles such as the pink ghostly barriers, quicksand and multiple swinging knight’s axes in Boo’s House. Without learning an entire track; it is possible to drop back rather quickly from being in contention of the race victory to not even being on the podium due to specific areas of tracks making for a fascinating conclusion to some races.
Split-screen multiplayer supports 2 to 4 players in Team Adventure mode, alongside standard and team race variations of grand prix and exhibition race gameplay within Local Play mode. Split-screen multiplayer retains a full field of 12 karts that is potentially as much as quadrupled depending on the quantity of karts in close quarters to each player yet the graphical fidelity and performance simultaneously always remains as consistent in split-screen multiplayer in comparison to single player gameplay.
Online multiplayer supports 2 to 12 players, although A.I. controlled racers flesh out the field when there are not 12 players within an online multiplayer race. Players can participate in casual or ranked team race and standard race or casual quick play with performance that is as polished as single player and split-screen multiplayer, while players vote on one of the four available races to choose from as the next race. Performing well during online multiplayer races improves your rank resulting in being placed into a match against similarly ranked players within online matchmaking, while gradually achieving a higher rank earns better emblems, alongside online leaderboards for fastest lap times.
Team Sonic Racing’s replayability originates from the objective focused career mode esque Team Adventure mode, Local Play modes, over 20 tracks and a mirrored mode to double the quantity of track layouts in exhibition race gameplay, competitive and co-operative split-screen multiplayer and online multiplayer, online leaderboards, kart customisation and three difficulty levels will have players returning for many hours.
• Title: Team Sonic Racing
• Developer: Sumo Digital
• Publisher: SEGA
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Split-Screen Competitive or Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-12 (Online Competitive or Co-operative Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
• Hard Drive Space Required: 16.31GB (Version 1.02)