Developer: Sonic Team
Reviewed on: PS5
Also available on: PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 8th 2022
Price: $74.99 - Amazon AU
The general format of Sonic is something that has bored and annoyed me for years now, the rinse and repeat formula, the bad graphics and the pretty much just boring gameplay is something that I haven't enjoyed for a long time. So when Sonic Frontiers was announced I, like most, was extremely hyped. Touted as the future of the Sonic video game franchise, this open world adventure promised something fresh and new, so I was immediately all for it. If you read our review for Sonic Colours Ultimate, I was just about ready to call time on the little guy due to the seeming lack of ambition for the franchise. So of course I wanted to review this, I wanted to see if there was still life left in Sonic the Hedgehog yet.
Visually, it's pretty darn good. Some of the textures, specifically the flora, are some of the better looking shrubbery, grass and trees I've seen in a video game. I don't know if it's just because it took me by surprise a little. Did the lack of expectation make me appreciate it even more? All I know is it looks great. There are still aspects of it that could be improved, such as the enemy design and Sonic and friends themselves could all look a little more like the movie in terms of visuals, but hey, compared to the last few, which looked pretty terrible in my opinion. This is a breath of fresh air.
The next paragraph contains a very minor spoiler for anyone not wanting any. (Character appearance)
One thing I hoped for Sonic Frontiers was a good story line, I mean, any open world game relies pretty heavily on story to keep it interesting so this for me was something I was really hopeful for. Unfortunately, I was left pretty disappointed to be honest. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some good elements, ones I won't discuss in detail to avoid any spoilers for anyone. These elements however, are too few and far between to really keep it flowing nicely. There are definite pacing issues, and the whole main story itself was pretty uninteresting. One of my biggest gripes however, was that Knuckles is in fact involved in the game, however the way in which he is, is never explained. I actually had to google it and the only way to find out is to watch a YouTube video explaining it. This is bizarre to me and not something I think should be a thing. Anyway for the story element, Another of the biggest issues here for me is that the whole story itself seems rather pointless. All the information you pick up along the way is largely optional, and whether you take the time to find it all out or not, the story will still be told to you art the end which ties everything together and makes finding the information along the way completely redundant. I'd say the story is just below a pass mark honestly. It could have either been improved upon, or made the gameplay something different so that it doesn't need to rely so heavily on the story to keep it interesting.
The level design is good, nothing spectacular, but good. It is designed in a way to purposely have you explore as much as possible. I personally am somewhat of a completionist in games like this. I like to go everywhere and see everything which is where the environment and level design is pretty clever. Quite often just in your field of view but out of reach will be a grind rail or a platform that plates like myself will then spend copious amounts of time trying very hard to get to, just so I can say I have. This almost gives you the sense that there is more to do that there actually is and is a pretty smart move from Sonic Team.
The gameplay itself is something I've flip flopped on a lot. Let's just get to the point, the combat…. Terrible! I know it's sonic, and I know he has a formula that has to be somewhat stuck to. But the button mashing and auto aiming of your attacks make it pretty mindless. I'd have preferred a little more strategy and variety. Aside from combat, the game is pretty fun, the traversal of the world is as you'd expect, you just sort of Sonic around the place. But like I said earlier, there's so much to do in terms of hidden collectibles, ways to interact with the environment and just a lot to discover if you're so inclined to do so. This does eventually become a little repetitive and a bit boring as the game goes on. Almost every island has an identical formula to the last. I said almost because there is one island that flips the script which did change things up a bit to actually be quite interesting. Overall it's probably about what I expected it to be from a gameplay perspective aside from that combat, I don't know what I expected here, but I expected something more. Probably the first hour or so of the game is extremely boring. It sort of drops you in as a bit of a tutorial with absolutely nothing of interest to keep you going. This could have been much better. Once you get past this however and the game opens up a bit, it does become much more fun, so stick with it.
Personally, I can see a future for Sonic, something I couldn't after Sonic Colours Ultimate. The saying “flogging a dead horse” was extremely fitting. So to see them try something new is refreshing and is something that was very, very desperately needed.
Overall, Sonic Frontiers absolutely has a solid foundation to build on. The open world Sonic idea is excellent, it's definitely one that I think needs to persevered with and improved upon for future titles. I think there needs to be a much bigger investment in a story and the storytelling elements along the way, I think it probably needs to be a bit more fun, and I think the combat needs definite work, but there's definitely something here with Sonic Frontiers and I am excited to see where the franchise goes from here.