Sonic the Hedgehog 4 review (XBLA/PSN/Wii)
After waiting 16 years, Sega finally decided to deliver the goods when it come to returning to Sonic’s roots but the sad realization is that, like pizza, the end product became cold after a lengthy route to eager fans. Lacking the sense of speed, clever level design, entertaining boss battles, and a catchy soundtrack, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 pales in comparison to its brethren.
Sonic has always been about a combination of two things: speed and platforming. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 attempts to offer both, but fails to capture what made the series so popular when it was at its peak. Upon booting the title up, it may seem as if everything is fine and that the developers have corrected all that was wrong with the franchise in the past dozen or so years, but the more players progress, the more they’ll see the flaws that riddle the title.
Too many times the title asks players to rely on the addition of a homing attack that automatically pulls Sonic towards an enemy or object rather than manually attacking either or. Occasionally, the homing attack is a blessing in disguise, but it ultimately removes the challenge of platforming and can be a nuisance when it doesn’t work properly. The reliance on the homing attack took away a lot of effort to concentrate on taking advantage of Sonic’s speed and it also added an element that needs an overhaul: the physics.
The level design is among the criminal acts that plague Sonic the Hedgehog 4 from ever becoming more than a cheap imitator. After the first level in each act, it’s clearly evident that the development team opted to reuse and recycle assets rather than creating new tilesets to play through. When looking back to the original Sonic titles, it’s almost a direct rip-off of what fans appreciated back then. It’s as if the team felt it was all right to go through the motions and call it a day with a video game that looked like a classic Sonic title, but didn’t feel it was important enough to do anything unique for it to stand out from the shadow of the Sonic prestige.
Even the boss battles are uninspired from beginning till the thankful end. By the end of the game, fans should expect odds that are easy to overcome until the last battle that asks players to play through all the boss fights all over again in succession, with very little rings to collect to stay alive. If cheap deaths are deterrence for fans, then the last boss fight should have their anger level reach an all time high in Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
Another aspect that is amiss is the soundtrack. If fans would like to hear a mockery of Sonic name, then Sonic the Hedgehog 4 should be at the top of their list for soundtracks to listen to. There’s not a single track that captures the essence that is Sonic; instead, the soundtrack only furthers the notion that Sega has no clue on how to recapture the glory of Sonic.
There are items that can be looked upon as a success for the team to take away from the project; namely the graphics and special stages. The backgrounds and 3D interaction with a few of the environments have a nice touch to draw interest beyond blazing through the levels at record speed and ignoring the hard work by the artists and designers. Running on cards – even if automated – was a sight that many Sonic fans should appreciate. In addition, the animations are smooth, even if they don’t properly represent the old Sonic from his heyday when not a single soul could keep up with him in a race.
To cap it all off, Sega implemented mine cart levels, torch puzzles and even limited lighting – all in the third act – to piss off fans. Thanks, but no thanks Sega. I’ll go back to playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Xbox Live Arcade in the meantime.