Sonic Unleashed Impressions

Coming this holiday, Sonic Unleashed is the first Sega title built on the Sonic-loving "Hedgehog Engine," a next-gen platform in development since 2005. Perhaps to show off the new engine's muscle, Sonic Unleashed will take place in real world settings on a fractured Earth and feature both 3D third-person and 2D side-scrolling action. I caught a glimpse of the first level set in Greece and the fourth set in an unnamed European city during Sega's recent Gamer's Day.

The multiplayer-free game has Sonic traveling through the fractured chunks of an Earth recently shattered by Dr. Eggman, collecting Chaos Emeralds in an attempt to return the planet to its former state. The game will include stylized humans, but likely no hot hedgehog-on-female action.

The developers said one version of Sonic Unleashed is being developed for the Xbox 360 and PS3 and another for the PS2 and Wii. The Wii version of the game will allow you to use the remote and nunchuk or the classic Gamecube controller.

The developers showing off the game to media said that, while the engine was designed to "work well with Sonic titles," it can be used for other games.

Sega brought on Yoshihisa Hashimoto to lead the project because he "knows what needs to happen to make Sonic new and relevant again."

It was unclear if that meant the occasionally over-the-blue-fur look of the game or the yet to be unveiled "surprise" about the game, which I suspect might be his still-unconfirmed werewolf nature.

In our short session watching the game, it felt to me that playing through the third-person perspective sections of the game could be, if not nauseating at times, at least very daunting. The developer who ran us through several sections did just fine, though I imagine first-time gamers wouldn't be as adapt at jumping and maneuvering through the maps with such little warning of approaching turns.

Sonic Unleashed will have day and night gameplay and maintain the ability to collect ring energy. The faster you collect the energy the more you obtain. Eventually you can use it to boost your speed, making Sonic go so fast it blurs the scenery.

The sections we saw did include a couple of split paths, giving the game at least a bit of replayability.