It's been an extremely long time since I've been excited about a Sonic game. To be frank, I was somewhat excited about the next-gen Sonic the Hedgehog, but after that turned out to be a mess of epic proportions, I, along with many others, vowed the franchise dead. But after seeing Sonic Unleashed in action, we can't help but feel that, perhaps, there is still hope left – especially after Sega went on to admit that 2006's Sonic was a disaster.
So here we have Sonic Unleashed, an all new entry into the series, and we can't wait to get our hands on it at this E3. The story focuses on a day and night cycle, which also has an effect on the gameplay. Dr. Robotnik (a.k.a Eggman) is at it again, and conjures yet another plan for world domination. This time around, Robotnik has caused a catastrophe that damages the world and unleashes a beast in the process. This beast has a direct, mysterious effect on Sonic, as well; so our hedgehog must embark on a journey to find the lost Chaos Emeralds in order to restore the divided world, and to end the mysterious hold over Sonic's body.
An all new engine that's been three years in the making will power Sonic Unleashed. This indicates that Sega's been working on Unleashed, if even conceptually, since before the revelation of Sonic the Hedgehog for PS3 and X360. The all new engine has been dubbed the "Hedgehog Engine" by Sega, and it boasts gorgeous visuals with seamless transitions between three-dimensional and and two-dimensional gameplay perspectives. Sonic Unleashed looks to mix the best of the Sonic Adventure games, with the best of the Sega Genesis Sonic games, and that has us extremely excited at the prospect.
From the footage we've seen, the game looks to be shaping up extremely well. If Sega can avoid marring the experience with boring apocalyptic stages, a gimmick, forcing us to play with anyone other than Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, and avoiding disastrous cut-scenes, then all will be good. So far, it's looking promising. Speed will also play a big role in the gameplay, especially during the two-dimensional bits where Sonic will be running through some of the wildest designed obstacles the franchise has seen.
To help you navigate your courses will be an assortment of new abilities and powers given to Sonic, all of which will also be helpful for when you're facing off against many of the game's opponents. One such ability is called the Quick Step, which allows Sonic to avoid obstructions in his path, all the while never losing speed.
The Sonic Boost ability will propel Sonic to immense speeds; it can be triggered by collection rings, which increase Sonic's Ring Energy level. Lastly, the Speed Drift ability will allow you to maintain constant high-speed momentum throughout the course's turns, helping you achieve lower times for course completion. It's also worth mentioning that courses will boast multiple paths to completion, and each path will boast unique encounters, obstacles, and varying rewards.
We can't deny that Sonic Unleashed looks beautiful. It's simplicity captures the look and feel of both the classic Genesis games, in addition to the first, and very fantastic, Sonic Adventure. Screenshots and videos exhibit very smooth image quality, so expect to see good use of anti-aliasing, a proper 720p resolution, and a very consistent framerate.
Normally, we'd approach a new Sonic game with extreme caution…but this just feels so right. Don't play us like a violin, Sega. Don't make these promises seem like a dream and ensure us that Sonic Unleashed delivers in spades. Expect Sonic Unleashed to launch this Fall 2008.