Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing - 360 - Preview
360, PS3 (this preview was from the PS3 version but it applies to 360 too; Wii and DS versions were not at E3)
I'll be frank: I was not excited to hear that a new Sonic racing game was in the works. It didn't make much sense. Why release another Sonic offshoot at a time when the series is in trouble?
Those feelings came from the assumption that it would be just another game you rent and never play again. In reality, this might just be the most fun and most replay value-drenched Sonic game of the past decade.
Conceptually, the game doesn't seem that complex. Choosing to race as either Sonic, Amy, Aiai or Amigo (many more characters are promised but Sega's reps were sworn to secrecy), you hop in an over-the-top, character-inspired vehicle and race across various Sonic-inspired lands. Now let's think about that for a moment: racing and Sonic-inspired lands. Sonic has always been about speed. On the Genesis, his level designs were amazing. What might happen if you were to take those elements and bring them to a 3D racing game? You'd get Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing.
Two courses were unveiled at E3: Seaside Hill and Blizzard Castle. They're very important because, in addition to being great courses, they are distinctly Sonic. It's as if the developers have merged the best of Sonic's past with a modern racer. The closest 3D game you could compare it to is Sonic Adventure, but this game is much more impressive than that. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and are coming close to rivaling GRID, DiRT and Project Gotham. Yes, they are that good. Structurally, each course feels like a roller coaster. Shortly after the start of Blizzard Castle, you'll be racing across bridges in somewhat of a medieval land. When linked together, the bridges almost mirror the look and feel of a wooden coaster. You won't be faced with a constant run of flips and corkscrews, but there are plenty of surprises that'll keep you engaged.
Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing's controls are just as impressive as the course designs. No matter who you control, steering is tight and responsive (as every arcade racer should be). The vehicles are tough; they can take a beating if necessary. And believe me: it is necessary. Power-ups are handed out as frequently as they are in Mario Kart. With them, you'll be able to speed up quickly (Sonic Running Shoes), attack with a homing missile, or leave a spiky ball trap to annoy and punish your nearest following opponent. There will be many other power-ups in the final version, and you can bet their quality will be equal to those already revealed. Plus, each character is gifted with a special feature that lets them perform exclusive moves. Sonic, the fastest hedgehog on Earth, can turn into Super Sonic, allowing him to cruise faster and withstand any attack.
The most amazing thing about Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is that everything you just read has allowed the developers to create a racing game that actually feels like a Sonic game. Words can't describe it. But when 2010 arrives, the finished game most certainly will.