As annoying as the werehog levels are, we could have overlooked them had they not taken up so much of your time with the game. You absolutely need to play them in order to collect enough sun tokens to open up more traditional levels, and those levels are so quick that you seem to spend the greater part of your time as the nocturnal nasty. It's a real shame as Unleashed is still the most accomplished Sonic game we've had in years. After the initial few levels you're presented with a world map, which is how you move from one part of the world to another. You can manually pass time, with the time of day determining if you're going to be playing as Sonic the Hedgehog or Sonic the Werehog.
On top of the two core level types, there's also a small amount of exploration and talking to characters in hub areas. It's here that you get a sense that SEGA is clearly designing Sonic for kids (not a bad thing at all, but perhaps disappointing for gamers who grew up playing the series), with the dialogue being akin to something you'd find in My First RPG. The human characters you'll speak to have a smart visual style similar to that seen in Pixar's Ratatouille, but you'll still want to rush through in order to get to the more proper gameplay. On the Wii these sections are presented via a rather plain map, and not explorable 3D worlds, which isn't a huge loss but a point of difference all the same.
Equally bizarre is Sonic Team's desire to put in quick time events at what feels like every possible opportunity. At times you'll suddenly have to enter a series of button commands while screaming along as Sonic, interrupting the flow quite spectacularly. You can also press a series of buttons to dispatch enemies while playing as the werehog. Your very first boss encounter in the game is entirely QTE based, with you firing missiles at targets based on the button above them. We know Sonic always has been and probably always will be a series targeted at kids, but do kids really like this extremely basic form of gameplay?
It's worth pointing out that the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed, while similar in terms of core gameplay, isn't a direct copy of the 360 game with inferior visuals. The 360 game actually has more stages and seems to have a better balance between werehog and normal sonic, whereas the Wii game includes support for the GameCube controller and Classic Controller, which makes the game far easier to play than when using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. While not a terrible version by any means, we'd recommend the 360 game if you have the choice.
We've already touched on the impressive visuals in the fast-paced Sonic levels, which feature far and away the best looking environments we've ever seen in a Sonic game, but this is just one part of the experience. The werehog levels once again let the side down. Without the speed the levels look bland and because of a ton of graphical effects whirling all over the place (the energy released by enemies and destroyed objects), the frame rate can get awfully slow. We're also somewhat bemused by the frankly terrible looking fur on the werehog. Again, this is a real shame as the production values elsewhere are extremely good, including the voice acting and impressive cut scenes. On the Wii the game does lose some of what makes the 360 version as fun as it is, with the visuals not popping nearly as much, but you still get some impressive speed and views.
Once again SEGA has released a new Sonic game that we really wanted to like, but numerous flaws bring down what would have been a solid entry in the series. The traditional Sonic levels are the best we've played since Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, yet they feel like the gravy on top of a rather overcooked roast that you're trying desperately to hide. The werehog levels reek of an idea born out of trying to turn Sonic into something that kids like, instead of just giving them the Sonic many of us grew up with. We didn't need gimmicks back then and we don't think kids need them now either. Ultimately we can't help but feel disappointed... yet again.
VideoGamer.com Score6 Score out of 10
- Fast Sonic levels are fun
- At times it looks gorgeous
- Werehog causes frame rate problems
- Werehog is terrible