Team Sonic Racing is Sega’s latest attempt to further bring the Sonic brand into the spotlight. They might have failed with the mainline Sonic games, the last of which was unfortunately not received that well, but they are doing great with spin-offs with both Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing offering the fans exactly what they wanted from the series.
Team Sonic Racing sees the return of Sumo Digital in the developer role. They last worked on Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing Transformed which was a great Arcade racer released at the tail end of last generation consoles. Team Sonic Racing is a successor to it but it goes a step back and takes inspiration from its roots instead of the Transforming mechanics which were a part of the last game. There are no transformations this time and it is the same old peddle to the metal Kart racing game with a team-based structure.
Team Sonic Racing doesn’t really offer new innovations in the field of gameplay. The team mechanics are the highlight of this new game but it remains a simple kart racer that doesn’t do enough to establish itself from others in the genre. What sets itself apart though is the connection to Sonic series. Drifting in Team Sonic Racing feels incredibly satisfying especially when you can do it around tight corners. The track design is exceptional and designed around this mechanic, leading to many satisfying races if you can learn to master its timing. Out of the 21 tracks that you can race on with others, it is possible to break from the normal routes and discover any shortcuts which can let you speed ahead of your opponent.
The story mode lacks a functional narrative with detailed cutscenes. Most of the plot advances through static images with text boxes. Character portraits appear with a nice artwork for conversations and while the writing is fanboy nonsense, but there is some hilarious dialogue if you care enough for fanservice moments. This presentation here feels disappointing but the missions are fun. Players can make progress in the story mode by completing different tracks associated with a mission each of which has a three-star rating. To get the best rating, you will need to become the top scorer and complete any objectives that are a part of that mission. Multiple difficulty levels encourage replay value here. There are minigames that sometimes offer a different gameplay experience than racing and they feel like a fun break in between the different races.
The focus on a team means that you won’t win a race based on speed alone but have to work together as a team. Points are given at the end of the race based on the team’s performance as a whole which leads to some exciting races in coop gameplay. On this front, the game offers full support for both split-screen coop and online multiplayer making it fulfill all essential requirements. It is sadly not as great if we are talking about the single-player modes because the computer A.I tends to lack behind in skills, and will often drag down your overall performance.
There are a total of 15 characters with different attributes and skills which are initially locked in the story mode. These 15 characters get divided into five teams with three of them making up a single team for a race. Some characters will be good at speed but have some difficulty with rough terrain or turning around corners, while others are more technical or powerful enough to make their way around restrictions to navigate tracks. As a team, you usually have one type of racer each in your party and cooperation with each other helps to make it through the finish line as an overall winner.
You will have to keep an eye out on how your team is performing in each racing, giving them powerups or boosts when needed to get them out of a tight spot. Despite the somewhat slow computer A.I for single-player, it was still enjoyable to win races even with the challenging hard difficulty. It is satisfying to master the twists, turns, and secrets of the 21 different tracks and once you conquer them, it is easy to obliterate your opponents. You can also pick from 14 different powerups but honestly in this game, they felt optional and it was entirely possible to win races without relying on them at all.
Once you feel done with playing through the single-player mode, it is time to duke it out in the coop multiplayer mode with other players, in which case you can enjoy up to four players split-screen coop. You can also jump into the online multiplayer which is nothing fancy. You have your standard online matches with lobbies and the ability to search for them. Inviting friends is easy enough but there are not many options to diversify the racing experience. It is the ideal mode to play though once you master different tracks since human players will usually offer more competition and exciting encounters.
Team Sonic Racing might not have the same impact as Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing Transformed but it is not a bad kart racing game at all. It nails down the sense of speed, offers a gorgeous representation with colorful visuals and lush tracks, and has a solid performance with a frame rate that mostly stays locked to 60 FPS on the PS4 Pro. It is technically polished, fun to play, and has great coop support to enjoy it together with friends thus making it an ideal Kart racing game.