At the risk of it being a little too plain, Team Sonic Racing’s best trick is having an easy to remember and incredibly descriptive title. It is to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed what Rocket League was for Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. This is Sonic (sans fellow Sega alumni) racing and in a team. Simple.
Instead of racing on your own in this game, you’re always trying to win as a team of three, with your respective positions as you cross the finish line earning your team points and collectively trying to beat the totals that your opponents can manage. However, that’s all well and good to say, but you need to actually feel like you’re working as a team for it to actually work, otherwise it’s just racing.
So, in order to engender team play, you have a shared power up meter that can lead to a Team Ultimate boost, giving you a good few seconds of added speed that can hopefully propel you and your buddies to the front of the pack. Boost can be earned in a number of ways, with knocking opponents out with the Wisp pick ups (a concept that was first introduced in Sonic Colors) being the most obvious. In addition to that though, driving closely to your buddies, either by ‘skimming’ past them or getting a ‘slingshot’ slipstream gives a bit of a speed boost in addition to filling up your Team Ultimate.
There’s also an interesting way in which you can pass Wisps to an ally, with a context sensitive button letting you take, request or gift these pick ups. Why you’d want to do that isn’t immediately obvious, but it’s a way for players to have a second backup ability if already holding one, and these are then rolled with a more powerful version. So you might have a single rocket, but pass it to your buddy and it could be three rockets to use instead.
This E3 demo (conveniently playable for us prior to E3) locked everything down to just single player races on a single track and with the AI on a low difficulty. It still gives a good idea of how the game will play and where Sumo are taking their karting game, but outside of the team racing aspect, it feels like a rather straightforward and to the point kart racer. Drifting round corners is nice and easy to control, earning you a boost if you drift for long enough, the pick ups are easy to figure out, and the one track in the demo had a nice sweeping layout with a section that split out into three paths. Oh, and there’s jazz rock, which was awesome.
There’s no vehicle transformations here, so you’re not switching from car to boat, to plane and back again, and the Wisps pick-ups are pretty in-line with the kinds of weapons and abilities that you find in the genre – missiles, homing missiles, hazards, boost, and so on. That’s certainly not a bad thing, with not being too gimmicky making it easier for people to pick up. Certainly, you’re not having to learn three different handling styles just to be able to get around the tracks!
What’s difficult to figure out from the single player demo is how it will all come together in multiplayer. With Onrush, it’s clearer, as you have race objectives that aren’t just about crossing the finish line first, but coming in at the front is the goal in Team Sonic Racing. A team that’s split with one or two racers at the front and the other separated isn’t going to be able to boost together with the skimming and slipstreaming, but thankfully, once you’ve earnt a Team Ultimate together, you’re able to use it individually.
While it’s only just been announced and the start of the build up to the game’s release later this year, I really wish they were showing more of the game at this point. It could have been a demo with a few more tracks to learn, upping the difficulty so that I could feel challenged by the game, or better yet a multiplayer demo to show how the game could work in its ideal setting, I just want to get a better feel of how it fits together. Even so, there’s some neat ideas in Team Sonic Racing, and having Sumo Digital developing the game means I have high hopes they can replicate the excellence of the last couple of Sonic kart racers.