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Sumo Digital brought together numerous Sega IPs in their All-Stars racing games. I would say Transformed is one of the best arcade racing games out there. Their next racing game in the Sega universe would be Team Sonic Racing and from what I researched, it’s not part of the All-Stars series. Developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sega, Team Sonic Racing was released for PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in May, 2019. For this review, we played the PC version. Despite this not being a sequel, I was excited to jump into it coming off of Transformed.
There is a story in Team Sonic Racing and quite frankly, it’s horrible. A tanuki sends invitations to Sonic and his friends to compete in a series of team-based races which take them to numerous locations. The characters are suspicious of him, believing he might be working with Eggman. The story is conveyed through interactions between characters and these can be skipped which may be for the best. The plot is uninteresting, predictable, and most of the jokes fall flat. It seems like the target demographic for the plot is young children, which is fine, but the story is not engaging and feels like an afterthought as if they threw it in at the last minute. Most of the interactions feel like filler. Characters will discuss and argue and things transpire that you don’t actually see because there’s no traditional cut scenes and then they race to solve disputes. It’s terrible.
All characters can accelerate, brake, drift and drifting does charge up boosts. You’ll drive off ramps and inclines and you can perform stunts in the air which does grant you a speed boost when you land. Each character has different stats in acceleration, boost, defense, handling, and speed and these can change once you’ve unlocked some performance parts. Furthermore, characters are split up into three classes – speed, technique, and power – and each type has its ups and downs. The game revolves around team racing so the characters are separated into teams of three. You can play online or with others locally and up to three players can be on the same team. In the Team Adventure mode, you unlock more teams as you progress but all characters are unlocked in the other game modes. If playing with others in the Team Adventure, you must play as characters on the same team but in the other modes, you can play as any character from any team and still be on the same team which is nice.
In team races, your finishing position determines how many points you earn and the team with the most points at the end of a race, wins. This means fellow team members can bring you down. We found that if two team members do well, that’s usually good enough to secure the win. That said, the friendly AI usually does okay during races. Usually. Team members can’t attack each other but they can give each other or transfer Wisps and they leave behind slip streams or slingshot trails as they speed along the tracks. The other team members can drive into the trail and receive a boost. It’s actually quite helpful if you wipe out because the trail can prevent you from falling too far behind. Completing certain actions liking giving each other items fills up your Team Ultimate meter. Once full, each team member can activate their Team Ultimate which temporarily grants them a speed boost and invincibility. It can give you an advantage during a race and sometimes it’s best to save the Team Ultimate for a later time.
Scattered along the tracks are rings and capsules containing Wisps or invincibility. The more rings you have, the faster you go but if you take a hit, you’ll lose all of your rings. The Wisps grant you power-ups or items and certain Wisps are only available by transferring them to teammates. Most are fun to use and are quite useful. You can launch missiles, attack opponents with a laser, leave behind cubes that opponents can crash into, and the rhythm Wisp causes music notes to fill the screen, distracting opponents. There are several others and they can be a big help during races, especially when racing against the AI. There are three difficulty modes – Normal, Hard, and Expert – and on Normal, the rubber banding is often very noticeable. The opponent AI seems to rubber band to the player in first which can result in the other players on the team struggling to catch up. Sometimes it feels like the game decides when you can and can’t win and it’s not subtle about it. There’s been times we’ve gained significant speed boosts and couldn’t catch up to the AI because their speed increased along with ours. That can happen when you drive on a boost pad or activate a Team Ultimate, too. Other times we would be the victims of an onslaught of attacks dropping us from one of the top three positions to last place or close to it. We don’t mind a challenge but when it’s obvious the game is doing everything possible to stop you from winning, the racing feels cheap and more about luck than skill.
The Team Adventure mode is the story and each chapter has different stages or events on a map screen. To progress, you need to complete the events and earn stars. If you meet certain requirements, you can unlock keys that grant you access to alternate paths. The requirements include things like performing a Team Ultimate a specific amount of times, collect a certain amount of rings, use less than a specific amount of Wisps, and they do get more challenging as you progress. You’ll have to participate in team races and grand prix events but there’s also Daredevil events where you have drift through star post gates, ring challenges where you have to collect as many rings as possible, and traffic attack requires you to avoid traffic or obstacles on the track. Our favorites are Destruction and Eggspawn Assault. The goal of Destruction is to destroy as many targets as possible and in Eggspawn Assault, you have to try and destroy as many eggspawns as possible. The events can be completed solo but some are easier to complete when playing with others.
Team Sonic Racing does support online multiplayer but I couldn’t find any games to join. However, there are other local game modes like Team and standard Grand Prix, Exhibition Race, and Time Trial. In whatever game mode you decide to play, you’ll earn credits for participating in races or events. The credits can be spent to request Mod Pods which unlock new performance parts, car cosmetics, and bonus boxes. These are random so you never know what you’re going to get. The performance parts will alter a character’s stats and car cosmetics include paint jobs, vinyls, and horns. In fact, the cosmetic portion of the customization includes quite a bit of content. A bonus box can grant you a bonus like starting a race with a specific item, faster charging drift boosts, increased Team Ultimate duration, and other things along those lines. You can select a bonus box before starting a race.
There are over twenty tracks in the game and three of them need to be unlocked. They’re all based on locations from the Sonic franchise and some tracks from the All-Stars racing games are present. There are mirrored variants and they can all be grouped into different themes or categories. In the Team Adventure mode, it often seems like you’re racing on the same tracks over and over again and it doesn’t help that many of the tracks within the same category or theme tend to look and feel the same. I had no idea there was over twenty tracks until I actually scrolled through the list in the other game modes. Boost pads grant you speed boosts, you can utilize shortcuts, drive off ramps and inclines, and you’ll have avoid hazards like different creatures, lasers, lava, blades, and other obstacles. There’s nothing really exceptional about the tracks.
Team Sonic Racing does look pretty good although sometimes things on the tracks blend in with the backgrounds and some portions of the tracks are too bright. The backgrounds are detailed with things moving around and depending on the paint jobs, the vehicles can reflect their surroundings which looks pretty cool. There are nice visual effects accompanying the power-ups which helps make them look and feel satisfying and characters will shout lines during races. They’ll even shout at each other if they strike an opponent or take a hit and some of the dialogue can be humorous. You’ll be racing to some rocking tunes and many of the songs are remixed versions of songs from various Sonic games. On the technical side, we encountered some frame rate dips here and there but we didn’t encounter any bugs.
When all is said and done, Team Sonic Racing could have been a lot better. It feels like it was developed on a budget and lacks any kind of innovation. The story is terrible and feels like an afterthought and the awful rubber banding can take the enjoyment out of races. It’s hard not to think of Team Sonic Racing as another entry in the All-Stars series since it shares several mechanics with those and they were all developed by Sumo Digital. And if you played Transformed, you know Sumo can do better. We didn’t hate Team Sonic Racing but it could have used more development time. The customization aspect seemed to get a lot of love, specifically the cosmetic stuff, but anything that would actually make the game fun to play feels neglected in some way.
Team Sonic Racing released for forty dollars retail when it came out as opposed to the usual sixty here in the states but we would still recommend you wait for a sale if you’re at all interested. Gameplay-wise it’s not terrible but it’s not incredible either. It can be fun playing with friends and if you’re a Sonic fan, you might get a kick out of this but there are better Sega arcade racing games out there.