Time changes a man. It can also change a racing game too - the highly anticipated Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has seen some tweaks since I last saw it.
Sumo Digital, has clearly been responding to feedback from fans of its 2010 predecessor, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
. The result is an experience which is finely-tuned for customisation, and a broader scope for fan-service.
Over the last few months, a number of new characters and stages have been revealed for the game - most notably tracks inspired by SEGA Saturn classics Panzer Dragoon
and NiGHTS into Dreams
, Vyse (from Dreamcast RPG Skies of Arcadia
) as a playable character and... erm, real-life race driver Danica Patrick.
I had a brief play of a new track, based on Golden Axe, with the newly-announced Joe Musashi (the protagonist of Shinobi
). The track is possibly one of the longest ever seen in the All-Stars Racing
series, taking a good four minutes or so to lap. Cars transform into boats to cross lava pits - with the juxtaposition of real-world physics in a cartoon game feeling strangely natural - and into planes to jet through caverns. As you proceed through the course, the road crumbles and cave-ins dynamically alter the track.
For what it?s worth, Joe Musashi feels like a character that?s better suited for advanced players. He can reach some serious top speeds, but his handling is rather floaty, requiring a fair amount of control in order to maintain his momentum. But I?m told that there will be an opportunity for players to rectify that at their leisure.
Each character has their own experience bar this time around, and by adding to it you can unlock mod packs to tweak their vehicles and make them perform as you like. Don?t worry, though, the Player License from the first game is still here - but it?s now based on a sticker system. Said stickers are awarded to you whenever you perform a particular trick or discover a specific secret. There are a number of stickers to collect in each course.
The graphics and lighting effects are absolutely stunning on the PlayStation 3, and control is as delightful as it was in the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
. The Wii U version was also available to play, but is quite clearly behind the PS3 and Xbox 360 builds at this stage in development.
Screen tearing was apparent, and the framerate was slower than the Sony counterpart. I have every confidence that Sumo Digital will bring it up to speed and make it just as awesome as the PS3 version, but as SEGA is targeting a similar release window (reps wouldn?t give me a more exact launch date than ?sometime in the Winter? as nobody knows for sure when Nintendo will release the Wii U) for all versions, these technical differences are worth pointing out.
Having said that, the ideas contained within the Nintendo version are to be admired. When playing solo, the GamePad displays a top-down map of the course along with the race?s current standings. With a flick of the touchscreen, you can swap the two screens around - so you can continue the race on the GamePad whilst showing a mere map on the TV screen (offering family members the chance to switch channel when you?re not looking).
You can also hold the GamePad up to use as a rearview mirror, and in multiplayer mode the GamePad user has the advantage of having their own screen. Certain minigames will be included that take further advantage of the Wii U?s tablet features - one in particular is based on Super Monkey Ball, and tasks players with collecting bananas while the GamePad holder tilts the tablet to move the stage and roll balls around.
I have no doubt that Sumo Digital will pick up the slack and fix all of the technical issues that are currently dogging the Wii U version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
. If it does, it?ll have a sequel worth shouting about on almost every single platform on the market. And that?s going to make fans - and SEGA - very happy indeed.