Thursday, 17 January 2013

Game Review - Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Wii U)

I'm going to start posting reviews of games I play, big or small. To start off with; I am reviewing Sega's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on the Wii U.

I must say, I was thoroughly disappointed with this game. Sega has never been quite as big as the powerhouse Nintendo in many game genres, but racing games has always been something that Sega has done quite well, perhaps even better than Nintendo in some regards.

The game appeared to me to be an extremely rushed job. The game was originally released for Playstation 3, and was ported to the Wii U as a release title. But it was clearly not a very good port.

The Wii U did not have very many launch titles when it was released on November 30 last year, and the few games that were released got a lot of time in the spotlight with such little competition for the attention of brand new Wii U owners.

It seems to me that Sega, desperate to have a launch title for Christmas, did not polish the port and do the testing required to find the extensive number of bugs and glitches.

The content itself is quite good. The campaign has no story, but doesn't feel too repetitive, and has a good balance of work and reward. The physics felt realistic and the vehicles were responsive and well-balanced.

One thing I didn't appreciate was the fact that only one player's data is accessible during multiplayer games. So all the work that player 2 puts into the game and all the exp they get and the achievements they unlock etc, are all attributed to player 1. It's a fairly important problem for a game so dependant on multiplaying for its real entertainment value.

The levels themselves were often not fun to play either. The poor level design made navigation nearly impossible for anyone who was not already familiar with the track. The was a distinct lack of visual cues to aid the player in things like upcoming turns and hazards, and the overall layout of the level, made worse by the lack of minimap on the screen, something almost every racing game before it has had.

As with all games of this genre, powerups and items play a huge role in the game, but it's not a strength for Sega at all. Half of the items require guessing, and the other half require luck. And if you're hit by an opponents weapon, it doesn't just slow you down a little bit, it sends you back four places in the race.

A well-timed combo of weapons can send a player from first to last instantly, and it can be extremely frustrating. I know this is to be expected in this style of game, but the races are far too dependant on luck, making for random games with random outcomes.

There were a few things Sega did right though. The changing layout of the map was fluid and fun, and made for very interesting gameplay in a genre dominated by driving in the same circle over and over. And the changing terrains and vehicles, though clearly inspired by Nintendo's Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS, were original, and intuitive.

I don't want to mention the awful controls, the inconsistent framerate, and the predictable and mass-produced AI, since I've probably ranted long enough.

Overall, the game has merit. It's not a bad game, and the design and concept is all there and well done. The game had so much potential, especially with no other family racing games available on the Wii U yet. This game could have been huge if Sega had been patient and polished their game before they released it. But instead of a superstar game breaking records for Sega, it only resulted in thousands of dissatisfied customers returning the game for a better option.

The rushed job and lack of polish makes it horrendous to play, and simply ugly at times. It almost feels like an early beta release, before any of the bugs were fixed. I feel like I'm waiting for the final version to be released to the general public.

Unfortunately though, this is the final version.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed by Sumo Digital and Sega.

4/10 stars.

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