It began well enough. Sega announced that they were bringing Sonic to next generation consoles, the game was simply going to be titled Sonic the Hedgehog, a bold move which seemed to indicate that Sega were taking the hedgehog seriously. Despite the promising beginnings, after enduring the game it is clear that Sonic the Hedgehog has been rushed out the door, the game feels incomplete and is quite simply one of the worst titles on the Xbox 360 and one of the most boring Sonic games ever, to celebrate Sonic's 15 year anniversary with a title like this is just abysmal.
You'll start off in Soleanna, which acts as a hub for all of the levels. You'll need to walk around talking to the AI which will give you a few hints on where you'll need to go next. All you have to rely on is the AI so you may immediately become confused before you've even played a level. As soon as you find the first level, you'll need to endure a lengthy loading screen before can play the game. Within minutes, the problems of the game become apparant, it is unnecessary to list absolutely everything wrong with the game, but there are some major problems which ends up making the game feel incomplete.
First up is the camera system. It seems that Sonic Team just cannot get the camera working correctly on a 3D Sonic title. Often the camera will get in the way of your characters and sometimes it will zoom in far too close, showing some of the graphical blemishes that the game posseses. A few times the camera will even get stuck, so if you can't look around you've got no choice but to make a blind jump. The jumps are hard to time simply because the characters in the game are so difficult to control. Sonic is particularly sensitive and the game is very unforgiving, if you fall off a ledge you're dead and you'll need to go back to an earlier checkpoint. There are parts of a level where Sonic will run at super speed. These are the toughest parts of all because Sonic is running so fast and the controls are so poor. If you run into a wall, a tree or just miss your target (which isn't always entirely clear), then you'll lose your rings and by the time you can recover from this, you've likely ran into another tree and you're dead. On the other side of the scale, sometimes Sonic is so much on a roll that you don't need to press anything at all, the game plays for you.
In most games these days, the idea of characters having lives has been abolished. However, Sonic Team still restrict the number of times you can die in a level and once you run out of lives then you'll have to do the entire level again, which is ridiculousy frustrating especially when you've died due to the mistakes of the game rather than your own. There aren't enough checkpoints in the game either, so there may be three or four different challenges in a level, you may fail the last challenge and have to replay all of the first part of the level to even get to where you died five minutes ago, considering how unforgiving the game is it would have been better (and less frustrating) if you were able to resume from where you died.
Just to round off the package, the game also includes quite a few glitches that only add drag Sonic's name through the mud even further. At one point I was stuck in a shallow fountain and for about ten seconds I couldn't move Sonic at all. Eventually he was able to move but not after a certain amount of cursing had been done, by me of course. Another time I was stuck in between the grass and the land. Glitches like these occur far too frequently and really should have been ironed out in the testing phases of the game.
In the game you'll not only take control of Sonic but also a few other characters. You'll be able to take control of Tails, the adored by everyone Shadow the Hedgehog and the token new character; Silver the Hedgehog. Silver the Hedgehog possseses the ability to control objects with his mind, which is cool but a little bit difficult to get used too. If you're wondering, the poor controls carry over to other characters as well.
Sonic the Hedgehog isn't entirely bad though. At some points during the game you'll marvel as you speed through the level jumping off bumpers and comboing enemies, but unfortunately mostly everything in the game has been done in previous Sonic games. We know Sonic Team probably didn't want to alter the gameplay too much but it would have been good if everything didn't feel so familiar, dated and superceded.
Graphically Sonic the Hedgehog looks rather average. Soleanna looks like it is from the Dreamcast era, the level design is okay but lacks detail. For example, the water doesn't look glistening, it just looks dull and slapped together. The animation is okay for the most part, but something that affects the whole game is the pop-up. In some of the levels you'll be moving so fast that the game just cannot keep up, which is not good enough. Overall Sonic really hasn't made an impressive next generation debut. Despite the fact that Sonic the Hedgehog doesn't appear to be pushing the Xbox 360, you'll still endure lengthy load times that add to the frustration. The game feels the need to load when anything decent happens, which results in a lot of waiting around.
The audio doesn't fare any better either. In Soleanna as you walk around talking to the AI, they will grunt at you. Now initially I thought you'd just come across as grumpy sailor who hadn't had his breakfast, but every character will grunt at you, which sounds terrible. All of the dialogue is delivered through text, which is actually better than the grunting AI. The game's music is average, it doesn't particularly stand out but it isn't overly annoying either.
If you have the patience, (and seriously, it is a challenge in itself) there are quite a few levels in the game to complete. There are also twenty three achievements to be unlocked and you'll need to repeat levels to achieve everything. The game also supports downloadable content, so Sonic Team could bring out extra levels down the track. Personally, we'd rather they brought out a patch.
Sonic the Hedgehog is quite clearly one of the worst games of the year. With a poor camera, dull levels, repetitive gameplay, long loading and average controls the Hedgehog is as good as dead. Sonic Team may have started the development of this game with the best of intentions but it has ended up as a mess. It is the 15th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog and the developers have paid homage to this by bringing out one of the worst Sonic titles yet. A complete disappointment.