- Original Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
- Original release: 24th November 2008
- Version Played Xbox 360
- Available to buy: Yes
After almost defeating Dr Robotnik but falling into a trap, energy is drained from Sonic to power a weapon that splits apart the planet and releases Dark Gaia. Sonic turns into a “werehog” and is sent tumbling down to the planet where he stumbles upon Chip, his new companion who has lost his memory.
In Sonic Unleashed, the stages take place in fictional locations that are inspired by real-life ones, and they all look stunning with wonderful music that mixes Sonic music with a style that matches the region the level is based on. There’s a lot of background detail, too, with lots of buildings – the European city inspired Spagonia had what looks like thousands of houses in the background as you ascend and drop down from a large clock tower.
Unleashed is split into day and night stages. In day, you play as Sonic, while night stages have you playing as his Werehog form (thankfully, the game never uses the Werehog term). The day stages are immensely fun, utilising the boost like Sonic Rush, but in this it’s gained from collecting rings. Another major change is that the homing attack now has a reticule (first doen in Sonic and the Secret Rings), which is a big improvement as you know you’re going to hit an enemy instead of flying to death because you weren’t targeting what you thought you were targeting.
The main stages are incredibly good fun, using a mixture of 3D parts with twist and turns, ones where you run straight and use the shoulder buttons to sidestep, 2D platforming sections that can be fast paced or more focused on precise platforming. It keeps the longer levels Unleashed has feel like they’re comprised of interesting segments. There are also some additional smaller levels which focus on singular mechanics and can be very difficult.
My main issue with the day stages are the quick time events. Quite often you’ll hit a big ramp and have to hit a series of buttons to reach the higher route. They seem to be there because everyone was doing QTEs back when this came out. Still, it’s just a minor flaw.
In the night stages, you play a God of War-like fighting game with Sonic in his Werehog form. I actually quite enjoy this, and I think it’s one of the better “non-Sonic-style” types of additional gameplay in Sonic games. Combat is satisfying to do, with lots of combos, being able to pick up enemies. It does have a QTE issue in that you can perform a finisher, which has a long animation. I found myself ignoring this quite a bit as it seemed quicker to just carry on pummeling some enemies (except for the evil wasp enemies, those were annoying to fight). The platforming sections of the night stages aren’t great, as the grab feels delayed and some camera angles make it incredibly difficult for you to aim your jump (the lack of a shadow beneath Sonic also makes it far more difficult). And some levels just have a lot of walking on narrow platforms.
The big problem with Sonic Unleashed is the pacing of it. Between levels, you have to explore multiple hub worlds. I do like the sections where you talk to people, do some side quests, as it makes the game feel big in scope. There’s a secondary hub area where the levels are located in “gaia gates”. You will have to locate these levels (some of which require specific abilities), but you need to meet certain conditions to enter. First, the level needs to be available at that point in the story (sometimes you need to speak to a professor to tell you to head there, and the level isn’t available unless you talk to him first), and secondly you need to gather enough Sun and Moon medals to access it. Unless you’re an expert who has played the game many times, this means a lot of replaying previous levels. The Night levels also seem to have the most medals and due to the pacing you can take your time exploring the level (whereas in the day stages, you mostly stumble upon them at random), so most of this repeated playthrough will be as the Werehog. Sometimes it can be hours between playing Sonic levels.
If the game properly directed you to the next level, and changed the Sun and Moon medals to unlocking extras, than Sonic Unleashed would be a brilliant game. Unfortunately, this incredibly dull padding sours the game quite a lot.
Where to get
- Xbox 360 (playable on Xbox One & Series)
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