By this stage, Sonic is no stranger to the racetrack, as Team Sonic Racing follows in the footsteps of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. This next outing for Sonic and his blue car borrows heavily from the previous two games – minus the additional non-Sonic characters – but also a large chunk of Sonic Heroes to produce perhaps the best kart racer available on the Xbox One. For a few weeks at least, until a certain bandicoot comes to spoil the party.
Team Sonic Racing features family-friendly gameplay with a huge emphasis on teamwork, similar to the general premise of Sonic Heroes and the previously released indie game Trailblazers, just with a much more polished experience. Players choose a character from one of the 15 available that are assigned into one of five teams. Each team has a power, speed and technique character that react differently on the tracks eg. A power character can plow through obstacles and not be slowed down by them and a technique character is not hampered by slower terrain.
As with any kart racer there are pickups on the road to help and hinder, but the real difficulty comes from knowing which one does what. These pickups take the form of Wisps – an alien race that first appeared in Sonic Colors on the Nintendo Wii and DS – but it isn’t made immediately obvious which Wisp works which way wound. And no, I’m not sorry for that tongue twister. It is a case of trial and error and even then, some look very similar to others which only adds to the confusion. Just as well then that you can transfer items to your teammates in the hope they have something more useful, or recognisable.
Whichever of the three teammates is currently ahead of the others will leave a trail behind them for the others to follow, with the trailing car then receiving a speed boost. Work it correctly and you can have a team of three constantly benefiting from a speed boost, decimating the opposition in the process.
This isn’t the only way to race though: there is the more traditional race where team rules don’t apply. It is every man/hedgehog for themselves available in local play, and the Team Adventure mode features yet more race types than you will need.
In Team Adventure, Sonic et al. receive mysterious invitations from a new character called Dodon Pa, who has created these cars and racetracks for the teams to partake in. Sonic is sceptical though; he thinks Dodon Pa is in cahoots with Eggman, but the lure of winning the cars they drive is too much for them to turn down.
To progress in Team Adventure, players must fulfil certain criteria for each stage. Most race stages simply require the player to finish in the top three to earn a star and progress to the next stage, but additional stars can be awarded for better finishes from both you and your CPU team. Some stages move away from the standard race format and offer a more objective based stage, but all in all there is a lot of variation here, and some tricky challenges keep you trying again and again.
The way Team Adventures’ story is presented though does feel a bit cheap. There aren’t any cutscenes; instead character models fly in from the sides of the screen accompanied by a speech bubble to progress the story. They are all fully voiced but the presentation of these do feel a bit basic as we do not see any actual interaction.
Away from Team Adventure, there are modes for both local and online multiplayer. Some of the specific game types from Team Adventure are missing – such as Daredevil and Ring Challenge – but when you are playing against friends, the only thing that really matters is who is the quickest. Both team races and single races are available; you can also take your friends with you as a team online and climb up the leaderboards.
Anytime a race doesn’t have a full lobby of 12 players and bots will be utilised to fill the remaining numbers. But don’t expect them to lie down and not put up a fight, particularly on the Hard and Expert difficulties.
Each character has their own unique car, but they can be heavily customised with paint jobs, car horns and even body parts using Mod Pods. Mod Pods are essentially in-game loot crates – don’t worry there are no microtransactions – where players are awarded credits at the end of each race to spend. These customisation options can then be added and changed in the garage.
There are even some legendary customisation options if you are lucky enough to unlock them, while collecting keys in Team Adventure also offers unique options.
Team Sonic Racing on Xbox One has 51 achievements for you to go at, but don’t let this family-friendly presentation lead you astray – this isn’t the easiest completion. As mentioned before there are achievements associated with the unforgiving harder difficulties, and many requiring you to collect all the rewards in Team Adventure, which will take some time to master. Not only that, but each of the Wisps have achievements attributed to them where it will be hard enough to find yourself in the right position to use them, let alone complete the criteria.
Under this cartoony hood is actually a competent kart racer. Team Sonic Racing feels good to take for a spin, and there is enough packed in for a longer drive as well. The tracks are all varied enough, the cars feel really good to drive and Team Adventure is a decent Sonic story, if presented a little poorly. Aside from this and the confusing Wisp situation, the team at Sumo Digital have crafted another solid entry into the Sega and Sonic racing subgenre, and who knows, maybe that bandicoot will have to keep one eye on his rear-view mirror.