Seven years since its last kart racer, Sumo has unleashed its new take on the genre with Team Sonic Racing. After several innovations and tweaks from their previous title becoming incorporated into genre standards will we see another important step forward?
Right off the starting line it’s obvious that this time around the focus is on leveraging the teamwork aspects to make a unique racing experience for players. Each racer is part of a team of three, with each having their own defined class of vehicle specialised in a certain play style. Discarding the transformation aspect from the previous title and replacing it with stronger class based racers in a team setting may interest some people and reflects the more low key nature Sumo has taken the game in. Flashy transformations are now perfectly timed slingshots, changing track conditions are swapping specific wisp items between racers without access to them and races are won or lost on choosing when to activate your team super.
Team Sonic looks exactly as expected, full of colour with the classic Sonic look which will make fans very happy indeed, no petitions required here. SEGA wanted to bring the series back to Sonic’s roots, so the wider SEGA roster are forgotten to focus on his long time buddies and annoyances. This decision flows through into all the tracks locking into a Sonic universe design, along with gameplay systems such as the weapon system being made up of wisps. For the aforementioned Sonic fans this is likely another positive move but for those who just enjoy a good racing game it removes a lot of the variety and absurdity from the proceedings, no tank vs arcade cabinet here, as all the racers are quite standard looking.
The story mode could be straight out of a Sonic comic book, actually resembling one too, as each race on the Team Adventure board has a short optional slideshow telling the story of a weird Tanuki turning up on Sonic’s beach and asks them to hop on board his spaceship to blast off to Planet Wisp. This approach feels very low budget but generally ties into the races you need to pass well enough. Voice-work is on point as usual while the bulk of the music never hits the heights heard in Sonic Mania or even Transformed, but does the job okay. The opening title by Crush 40 hits just the right amount of amped up cheese required to put a smile on your face, more tracks in this style would have given the racing a bit more kick.
The bulk of your solo time in Team Sonic Racing will be moving along the Team Adventure board unlocking more events until you reach the big finale, picking up tokens for your quality of racing along the way which can be used in a vending machine to unlock vehicle parts and cosmetics. Events range from straight up Team Race’s to typical Team Grand Prix’s, over to slalom, drift and destruction solo challenges. Similar to Transformed these solo events don’t play to the strengths of the game and end up requiring lengthy trial and error restarts to perfect lines in order to reach the highest ranks, thankfully very few of these gate your progress so you can ignore them until your skills have improved and your ability to control your vehicle is closer to the standard required. Team Race’s are the meat and potatoes, with every aspect of the gameplay tailored to make them fun yet remain constantly engaged in the race. A great twist on this format is the Survival Race where the slowest racers are eliminated each lap which puts more pressure on staying out the front every lap and ensuring your team doesn’t fall adrift. It’s disappointing that a fully fledged battle mode isn’t included as all the key elements are there for a fun time, variations of the Team Race formula are locked to online multiplayer which is an absolutely baffling decision, as is the complete lack of a replay option. During my time with the game I was unable to find anyone online but local multiplayer is a fun time due to the focus on team tactics and options.
With tracks set in locations as diverse as a robot production line, seaside paradise and a casino you will for the most part love the tracks on offer. The casino tracks are definitely the highlight with branching paths, tight sweeping lanes and a ton of colourful neon lights surrounding all. A handful of tracks feel undercooked with some sections missing interesting elements but for the most part you will be constantly engaged in hitting boost pads, collecting wisps or avoiding hazards. Linking into these elements with your team tactics is key to staying ahead of the pack, or catching up quickly. The leader of your team puts down a trail you can use as a powerful slipstream to boost up to them and skimming a team mate who has spun out will boost them back into contention. During races watch out for your AI team dropping hints to hold your line so they can use your slipstream, swapping wisps in and out will also boost your team meter which once filled will give you a power-up for a massive invulnerable boost for the whole team. Knowing when to activate all these to maximise your speed and impact on the other racers is key to getting on the podium. Each racer in a team fits into speed, technique or power classes and each have their own group of wisps they can access along with obvious stat strengths. Speed users can blaze a strong slipstream for technique users to stay in the race with power types protecting them along the way. The aforementioned vending machine which randomly rewards vehicle parts and cosmetics also can give out one-off upgrades you can pick before each race which range from nullifying hazards to a start line boost. Vehicle parts themselves allow you to specialise further in stats, with 3 choices for each 3 part type but generally make more impact in one-off solo challenges moreso than races.
The team based mechanics on display here are a lot of fun playing solo but in a competitive environment with 2 allies and 9 opponents should be incredible compelling. If SEGA are willing to put the time into promoting Team Sonic Racing it could be incredibly successful in the long term. Outside of this 12 player environment though your time will be limited with most completing the Team Adventure mode in around 7 hours and requiring an online group to get the most out of multiplayer, one leader per team locally doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact of boosting the person next to you to victory. A worthy addition to the series but one that comes in a very unique style.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PLAYSTATION 4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW.
DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
With a team based approach to racing Team Sonic Racing is a very unique addition to the Sonic franchise, solidly executed across the board. It especially excels in larger multiplayer groups.
Interesting and fun team based racing mechanics
Engaging track layouts
Visually appealing from top to bottom
Interesting multiplayer variables are locked to online