Monday, December 08, 2008

Sonic Unleashed: The Counterpoint

I wrote this on Pinoyxbox in reaction to all the negative press this well-polished SEGA game is getting.

******

Based on what I've read, the low scores for Sonic Unleashed are because a lot of the critics don't want to play as the Werehog, they want to play as Sonic. But judging from what I've actually seen of the game, the Werehog sections aren't so bad. SEGA probably added those in to add variety to the gameplay; they probably didn't anticipate it would have the opposite effect (with people looking for Sonic half the time). SEGA even gave the Werehog some cool bits like being able to string together moves to create combos (DMC4 style? perhaps a 'lite' version of it). You can also level up your Werehog to unlock even more moves.

Another thing which is debatable as either an issue or a gameplay mechanic is the game's camera, which is stuck in a certain angle and can't be spun 360 degrees when you're playing the werehog sections. This makes some of the platforming jumps extra hard. But then, it's debatable because....you can figure them out after three or more tries. It just takes a little extra patience. And when you play further into the game (which I'm sure many "professional" game critics didn't even bother doing) the difficulty of some of the jumps adds to how much more satisfying the game can get when you actually do accomplish some of the platforming sections.

Maybe all the casual games that have been released lately have really lowered people's standards for game-playing skill...perhaps one thing that most game critics consider now is that their non-gaming sister/girlfriend/grandmother should be able to play a game in order for it to deserve more than a 6/10. I, for one, disagree with this expectation; if you're going to pay 60 dollars for a game, it might as well last long, and it has to provide some kind of thrill. If there's no sense of danger or challenge, then that just reduces a game's lifespan, and I'm not a big proponent of that. I'm all for the trend for 'inclusive' gaming but I think there's room for both casual games and challenging games to co-exist. I wouldn't want every game to be developed with just a casual audience in mind.

Another thing that stands out with this Sonic game is how very few bugs are present in it. Me and my wife played (okay, TRIED to play) "Sonic the Hedgehog", the game released in 2006 for the Xbox 360 (we got it at a discount!). That game was a sad, horrible, buggy mess. I can't remember a game as buggy as that game....literally Sonic would bounce all over the place in some portions and you could see that the game was just incomplete. Now, I'm sure that THAT game deserved a 3.0/10.

But this Sonic game...I disagree that it deserves such a low score. This game is 10x better than the previous Sonic game for the Xbox 360, and it has little to no graphical / physics glitches. The environment is solidly rendered and in many, many cases, is very, very gorgeous looking. The framerate is solid at 60 FPS during the Sonic running stages. It only takes a few dips below 30 FPS during the Werehog stages but this happens very rarely and only when there's a lot of action onscreen (and I noticed the game was still playable even when it does have a framerate dip). I haven't found any parts of the game where your character can get stuck on a wall (Sonic 2006 had those), or any parts where you fall to your death for no other fault than your own. This game is quite solidly designed and well polished for a Sonic game.

And I haven't mentioned the running parts of this game yet.

The running parts of Sonic Unleashed are exactly how I imagined a Sonic 3D game with CG-quality graphics must look like. They're fast, they have tons of variety, and they're flexible (there's a path but there's opportunities to leave that path every so often). It's a visual feast just to see Sonic blazing through each stage. It's perhaps the stark contrast between these stunning sections (which end up short BECAUSE Sonic is just so damn fast) and the platforming Werehog sections which may have swayed reviewers to be so negative about the game.

I personally feel they haven't been fair because here we have a polished product, practically bug-free and arguably fun in many sections....getting scored worse than most other bug-ridden titles.

I just hope that the game doesn't get bad sales; I wouldn't want SEGA to get killed off because of these game reviewers who just don't know how to do their jobs. It would be a real loss to have SEGA disappear from the industry completely, and it would be horrible if the reason for that was a game that wasn't fairly reviewed by the game press which people just rely upon too much.

This game is a stellar effort; I'll be honest and say it's not a perfect game, but it's a damn fine Sonic game. I'd rate it an 8/10.

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