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Joystiq E3 eyes-on: Sonic Unleashed

Jem Alexander
07.21.08
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Sonic has had a hard time since he discovered the third dimension. Not only is he now chubbier, but his adventures in 3D-land have been met with lukewarm reception. The general consensus is that the last great Sonic game was on the Sega Genesis. With Sonic Unleashed Sega are hoping to reinvigorate the franchise with a focus on speed and platforming, as well as evolving the character (literally) into something unique.

The first thing you notice about Unleashed is that it's very pretty. Even with rough shadows and unfinished lighting physics, the game looks gorgeous. It looks like it might also play quite nicely, depending on controls. There are two different styles of gameplay in Unleashed which, together, could satisfy most Sonic fans.

For a lot of people the name Sonic is synonymous with "speed," and the day-time missions in Unleashed reflect this. The first level seemed simple enough -- hold the analog stick in the right direction and watch Sonic go, making sure to jump in time. Obviously, this won't be true throughout the game, later levels will feature more precise platforming sections and less non-stop running. There are also different routes to take throughout the levels, which require a specific button combination press in order to reach.

Gallery: Sonic Unleashed | 30 Photos


For those who enjoyed the 2D Sonic games for the exploration, the newly-revealed nighttime levels will be more to your taste. During the opening of the game Sonic is transformed into a Werehog. By day he is unaffected, but at night he becomes slower but far more powerful. His arms elongate and become elastic, allowing him to climb and batter his enemies into nothing with his fists.

These nighttime portions of the game feel reminiscent of old PS1 platformers, such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. There's exploration and combat mixed in, to give us a bit of downtime after the fast-paced daytime levels. Combat looks very stylish, with purple and blue sparks flying out of Sonic's now oversized fists. We just wish we knew how the controls feel.

Sonic Unleashed will be polished and will certainly look good when it's released this Christmas. If the entire game plays as platformy as the levels we've seen, then it will also play well. We're reserving judgment, for the most part, until we get some hands-on times with the game. Until then all we can say is that Sonic Unleashed is looking to be the best 3D Sonic game yet -- although that's not saying much.

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