After years of development, the popular blue hedgehog makes his triumphant comeback in the shape of a 3D platformer with the release of Sonic Frontiers. This game was developed in response to a surge of renewed interest in the character. However, after having some hands-on time with a linear level and a portion of the free-roam segment, we are left with a great deal of terror.
Only Sonic Heroes has distinguished itself from the mediocre likes of Sonic Adventure and the 2006 Xbox 360 iteration of Sonic, which came dangerously close to putting an end to this franchise for good. Over the years, an open-world video game that features this mascot has been a dream that has been almost impossible to realize.
But despite this, Sega continues to have faith that the formula can be successful, and when the announcement of Frontiers was made, everyone was as excited as they had been before. Does it deliver? To be honest, no.
Disclaimer: These are preliminary thoughts.
These are what I refer to as “early hands-on impressions,” and the reason for that is because they are precisely that. At the EGX expo that took place this year, I participated in a 15-minute demo of the game.
When I play the whole product, obviously, they might be subject to change. Nevertheless, during this demonstration, I was given the opportunity to both explore one of the Starfall islands and teleport to one of the more traditional linear levels that one would anticipate finding in a Sonic game.
The Cutting Edge of Sound
My journey began with the objective of acquiring two teleport pieces, which necessitated my discovery of a new region of the island as well as the development of my orientation skills. If these parts of the game make up the large bulk of the overall experience, then we have some issues to address.
In order to get there, you have to traverse an open area while making use of some of the more traditional Sonic gameplay elements, such as grind rails and bumpers. On the surface, it would appear that Sega has made an effort to make up for a significant portion of what was lacking in the version of Sonic released in 2006 by eliminating the tedious walk and chat component in favor of a playground filled with a variety of toys that may be interacted with.
However, if anything, these serve to further illustrate how this formula does not function at all in a three-dimensional open area. The feeling of speed is missing, the action consists of assaulting waves of monsters while searching for a set of things that are always the same, and the camera really doesn’t assist the issue at all, which is the most frustrating aspect of the game.
I was keeping my fingers crossed that Sega had figured out a solution to this problem since its previous tries, whether it was a more fluid manual camera control or a more intelligent automated option that provided you the optimal view at all times. In point of fact, it does not appear that the corporation has one since the lack of depth awareness for striking platforms continues to be an issue.
A smattering of the tried-and-true recipe
But after that, I proceeded through the teleporting throne to the subsequent section of the level, and, well, here is the peek of Sonic’s grandeur that I had been looking forward to seeing.
It was a high-speed, linear, three-dimensional run across a level with a variety of exciting obstacles and different paths, quite similar to Sonic Heroes. To put it another way, this is exactly what I envisioned the entire game to be like: a frenetic run that tests your ability to respond quickly in order to navigate the various areas of this vertically stacked level while trying to collect as many gold rings and power-ups as possible.
This moment felt fantastic, but it arrived after 75 percent of the demo had been dedicated to the free-roaming segment, which had been quite uninteresting up until that point. If this is the kind of pace we may anticipate, then my worries about the hedgehog’s well-being are only going to increase.
The blue hedgehog’s adventure on Xbox 360 in 2006 came dangerously close to taking his life. In some ways, Sonic Frontiers is an improvement on that template, yet that formula is unquestionably broken. It’s possible that the desire for unrestricted wandering in three dimensions should be abandoned.
That is not to imply that there is absolutely no fun to be had here. The speed and twitch-reaction gameplay is best displayed specifically in the areas that Sega stubbornly refuses to focus on, which are the levels with a linear layout.
However, everything is bogged down by an open-world structure that is repetitious and an unpleasant camera, which, unless anything changes, will make it difficult to suggest this game.