Last year at EGX, there were racing games everywhere. It was the year of Forza Motorsport 7, Gran Turismo Sport, and Project Cars 2. And this was before you got into the various kart racers in the Rezzed zone (the area for indie games). This year there might not be the hardcore simulations, but Sega are catering for racing fans with Team Sonic Racing.
If you’ve played one of the previous Sonic kart racers, you’ll know what to expect. Huge powerslides and powerups are the order of the day here. Handling is a nice mix between Mario Kart and Ridge Racer. You’ll find yourself sliding around huge corners and then carrying it on for as long as possible along the straight before releasing it for a huge boost. It can take a few moments to get the hang of it, but pretty soon you’ll be driving sideways like a boss.
Of course, the tracks are designed with powerslides in mind. They are wide, with sweeping corners. You’ll often find boost pads on the outside of the track to help you build your speed even more. There are several split points where you have to choose whether to go left or right. There are also some multi-level sections where you can stay on the top level if you have enough speed to make the jump to the next section. These are a lot more intricate tracks than you find on Mario Kart 8, but they still manage this without you ever getting lost or confused.
The big addition to this game is the team aspect. You’re put into teams of three with your final result being calculated by the three cars added together. I finished my first race in second place, but because my teammates finished in third and seventh, that gave us enough points to be the top team. The team aspect isn’t just featured in the scoring. You can pass pickups between teammates and working as a team builds up a gauge that allows you to unleash an ultimate boost.
Visually the game has a nice level of detail for something that is going for a more cartoony look. There are subtle details like the tread on the tyres that liven the game beyond just more cartoony mayhem. Of course, cartoony mayhem is still in full effect with the various powerups and other racers on-hand. As I only got to do a couple of races, I was often unsure of what powerup I had collected. There was a yellow missile that behaved like a green shell in Mario Kart. I also got a powerup that dropped a big blue wall behind my kart which slowed any enemies that ran into it.
Team Sonic Racing is not a game that is going to change the mind of anyone who doesn’t like kart racers. However, if you’re feeling sad that you can’t play Mario Kart on Xbox One, then this will definitely help to soothe you. The team aspect is nicely implemented with it not just being about combining your score. This feels like an appropriate next chapter of the Sonic kart racing series, changing enough to make it feel new but not too different.