Sumo Digital has a long-history of creating Sonic racing games, starting almost ten years ago with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and now, Team Sonic Racing is just around the corner. This racer melds together the iconic characters of the Sonic universe into a fast-paced experience with a whole lot of team work. I got to sit down and get some hands-on time with Team Sonic Racing at E3 2018, and the more I played, the more I wanted to get some friends together to play this arcade racer.
The demo of Team Sonic Racing on show included all the characters players would expect to see from the Sonic universe, with a few locked away to be revealed on the game’s full release. Of the available characters, I had the opportunity to check out Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Shadow, Rouge, and Omega – six characters with their own unique driving traits.
Sonic is obviously the one who slots into the speed category, while Tails fits into “technique” and Knuckles into “power”. These three categories dictate what a given character is proficient at, an important thing to remember when constructing a team of drivers before the match. A character that slots into the speed category is going to be faster than others, but lacks some of the finer styling of the technique class. Technique has an easier time navigating winding tracks and avoids any penalty from going off the track and onto the grass. Meanwhile, the power class excels and smashing through traps and other players – perfect for the player that doesn’t want to worry about dodging.
Where Sonic Team Racing differs from a traditional racer is that it leans heavily on this team mechanic. Winning a race doesn’t just mean coming first, it also takes into account how well you and your team performed together. This focus on teamwork doesn’t detract from the core concept of racing, as the developers at Sumo Digital built the team scoring directly into the racing mechanics.
Allies leave a slipstream behind them, allowing you to tail closely behind for a boost, meanwhile if a teammate gets hit by an item, driving near them helps get them back into the race faster. Meanwhile, items collected via the on-track boxes can be gifted to another teammate, buffing the effect of a given item. A boost item might only contain a single boost charge, but when gifted to a teammate, it will be raised to three.
As I zoomed around Wisp Circuit, jamming to the Sonic-inspired tunes by Jun Senoue, this teamwork function became a boon to the experience. Instead of just tunnelling and trying to fight to first place, I looked for opportunities to work together with my AI friends, whether that was requesting an item from them, looking for a sling shot opening, or taking down rivals all in an effort to fill up the ultimate ability bar.
The ultimate ability gave me a massive speed boost and turned my character invulnerable for a short amount of time, and if I forgot to use it, my AI friends would remind me, “Hey, let’s use our ultimate!” This communication lent a real sense of collaboration between the team, even if they were computer controlled. Each character also spoke to one another differently, Sonic would speak to Tails one way, but address Shadow another. It was a small attention to detail, but one that really gave cohesiveness to the world.
Though I didn’t get to play it, an adventure mode will be available in the full game that includes a light story that is playable locally with friends. The story mode will introduce characters that will then be unlocked for later use in the game. It’s a neat idea that adds more depth to the standard arcade racer.
Overall, Team Sonic Racing is shaping up to be a colorful and exhilarating arcade racer that doesn’t shirk the classic fast-paced nature of Sonic Racing in favour of teamwork – the two work seamlessly together. With some light story promised in the adventure mode, and all manner of local-play compatibility, it will be exciting to see the final product when it releases in Winter 2018.