Team Sonic Racing Review – Driving Around at the Speed of Sound
Released on the 21st May, Team Sonic Racing is an arcade-style kart racer that rivals the likes of Mario Kart 8 and Crash Team Racing, while also bringing some fresh ideas to the kart racing genre. It is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Nintendo Switch.
Team Sonic Racing sets itself apart from other games in its genre by focusing on teamwork, like its title would suggest. Working efficiently with your team is more likely to secure you a win rather than just one of you getting past the finish line first. Teams are made up of three characters, and in one race, there are four groups of three. Even if you manage to zoom past the finish line first, there’s still a good chance you won’t win overall if the rest of your team are lagging behind.
As Team Sonic Racing’s prime focus is on teamwork, you have to play cooperatively. If you manage to finish first, but your other two teammates finish in ninth and twelfth place, the glory will go to the team who placed behind you, but better than your pals. The point system at the end of a race works around your team’s combined points rather than focusing on one player who secured first place.
With twelve characters in a race, it’s important you pay attention to where the rest of your team is and you don’t just abandon them. Teammates can hand you items when you’re running low or are dropping behind to give you a boost. Whoever’s at the front in your squad can also leave glowing trails called slipstreams behind their kart for you to follow that will sling you forward. This is invaluable for times when you or another teammate is dropping behind because of a well-timed missile from another squad.
You can also slingshot off a teammate when you drive past them to gain an extra burst in speed. Drifting around tight corners also allows you to drive faster, as does performing tricks when you jump, and collecting rings scattered across stages. Like Sonic says, you’ve gotta go fast!
You’ve Got A Friend In Me
As you speed through stages, you’ll notice these containers with question-marks engraved on them. Unsurprisingly, these are power-ups, or Wisps, as they’re named in Team Sonic Racing. Wisps grant you abilities that give you an advantage in a race and can push you and your team into victory. Speed boosts or projectiles to throw at other opponents to knock their kart out of action for a few seconds are good ways to turn the tide of a race. Additionally, if you don’t need a power-up, you can give it to another teammate, and vice versa. This is especially useful to bring someone back in the frontline when they’ve been stuck at the back.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of variety with these power-ups. They’re the sort of items you’d expect in any kart racing game, like speed boosts, traps, and projectiles. Nevertheless, they bring a bit of diversity to a race and being able to give an items to teammates is a helpful feature.
The cooperative aspect of Team Sonic Racing also makes use of a shared ultimate for teams. When you and your crew have powered up your ultimate ability by helping one another out, such as transferring items, you can unleash a short but effective speed boost that can really change the outcome of a race. However, all teams have the same ultimate, which is slightly disappointing.
Poorly Plotted and Loot Boxes
Team Sonic Racing offers a campaign mode called Team Adventure but it feels like more of a tutorial. There’s a bit of story, but it’s pretty forgettable and clearly isn’t the main focus of the game. You only have access to one team at first: Team Sonic (Tails, Knuckles, and Sonic). As you progress further, more teams are unlocked for you to play around with. There are only five teams in the roster, so don’t expect Mario Kart 8’s level of characters to choose from.
The cutscenes aren’t animated, and instead, feature static stills of your favourite Sonic characters with some truly poor voice acting. The dialogue is cheesy and the voice acting is devoid of all personality. It’s like someone reading a speech off a cue card they wrote in five minutes.
Playing through Team Adventure does reward you with tokens but playing any mode will also reward you with these. Tokens are needed to unlock various cosmetics, items, and upgrades to your team’s vehicles in the Mod Pods section. These can be different colour finishes or horns for a vehicle, or one-time consumables to use in a race. There’s a surprising amount of customisation, as each character has eighteen parts to unlock for their vehicle.
Strangely, the way in which the game gives you these different items and cosmetics for characters is via a loot-box system. Luckily, there are no microtransactions, and tokens are very plentiful. It shouldn’t take too long for you to unlock everything for each character, especially if you play through the entirety of the campaign.
Despite the underwhelming campaign, there’s a lot of gameplay options to choose from in Team Sonic Racing. For example, there’s an Exhibition mode that allows you full customisation of the racing rules, a Grand Prix mode which involves gaining as many points you can to win, Time-Trials for speed racing, and even a mode that eliminates the bottom three racers with each lap. More modes are also available, which means the game is never short of content to keep you busy.
You can play in teams with AI teammates, or against real people online and in local or couch co-op. You can also play as a solo racer if you’d rather skip the team aspect. Playing against real players can be difficult as it’s hard to communicate as a team. This can make it irritating, especially if you’re doing most of the legwork, but your other two teammates aren’t up to scratch. Sometimes the best teammates are the AI ones.
There are twenty-one stages in Team Sonic Racing, and all of them are well-designed and pleasant to whiz through. The music that accompanies the races also brings an added layer of energy and mayhem, ranging from poppy funk to more metal and rock-esque tunes that fit the design of the stages nicely. Overall, the presentation of Team Sonic Racing is very polished and makes playing the game even more enjoyable.
Team Sonic Racing is a fun and entertaining kart racer that brings a hefty amount of fresh ideas and features to make it stand out from the crowd. The focus on cooperation and teamwork works well and doesn’t feel like just a gimmick. It’s a nice change of pace as just because one player finishes in first place, it doesn’t mean they will win overall. This can really make for some frantic and exciting races.
The story is lacklustre, but there’s plenty of other modes and content to keep you busy for quite some time. Team Sonic Racing makes a good effort to prevent you from growing bored or tired, as there are lots of different gameplay options to choose from.
If you’re on the hunt for a good kart racing game or fancy a change from Mario Kart 8, then Team Sonic Racing is a worthwhile and fun addition to anyone’s collection.