hands on: sonic frontiers is a positive step forward that needs further work

Sonic Frontiers didn’t leave the strongest impression when SEGA first revealed it. Despite positive first previews, concerns were raised regarding combat and the game’s visual design, amplified by the publisher’s refusal to delay it further. However, thanks to a 30-minute hands-on preview at Gamescom 2022, we’ve finally had the chance to check it out for ourselves. Already, Sonic Frontiers feels like a step up from its predecessor, Sonic Forces — which isn’t the highest bar, sure — but there’s promise here, alongside a few rough edges.

For anyone who’s been following Sonic Frontiers, you’re probably aware it takes a different approach to past games. Mostly ditching linear stages for ‘Open Zone’ gameplay, Frontiers incorporates stage-like elements across the world map, taking us between five biomes on the Starfall Islands. While Gamescom’s public demo takes place on the opening area, Kronos Island, our preview instead saw us exploring the harsh deserts of Ares Island, Frontiers’ second location.

hands on: sonic frontiers is a positive step forward that needs further work

Trapped within a red sphere, our goal involved rescuing a certain knucklehead, and most locations seemingly have at least one of Sonic’s friends trapped within. Freeing them requires memory tokens earned by exploring the island, so between unearthing token piles, completing small platforming challenges, and taking down enemies, you’ve got a few options. Admittedly, we didn’t progress much in the main story; this token process requires repeating at least three times, so any judgments here would be premature.

Instead, we explored Ares Island with complete freedom, and while this biome doesn’t feel lacking, it’s not particularly packed, either. Between larger towers, grinding rails, and walls to run/climb up, some placements feel natural, like using bounce pads to speed through a narrow canyon, but others feel more random. Many events just seem to be, well, there. Even so, Frontiers rewards those who take the effort to explore, and running across these large open spaces is enjoyable.

hands on: sonic frontiers is a positive step forward that needs further work

It took time adjusting to Frontier’s visuals, though. For a series filled with colourful anthropomorphic animals, aiming for realistic environments is a tonal clash that’s hard to shake — Sonic didn’t entirely feel like he belonged. Don’t get us wrong, Ares boasts some pleasant and detailed environments, but we wish Frontiers felt more cohesive — 2D art aside. It’d probably help if there weren’t considerable pop-in issues; platforms which aren’t that far off would suddenly appear on-screen, and while we’re hopeful this’ll be fixed before launch, it’s an issue that many noticed two months ago.

Still, even with this new visual style and open-ended structure, Frontiers crucially feels like you’re playing a Sonic game. Much of that comes down to his moveset. Sonic’s still packing classic abilities like his homing attack, spin jump, and double jump, and running utilises the familiar boost-based system most 3D titles feature. Further abilities like new attacks are unlockable through a skill tree, some being gated behind story progression, and you’ll earn skill points to obtain the others.

hands on: sonic frontiers is a positive step forward that needs further work

What stood out most is Sonic’s new Cyloop ability, as seen in the recent trailer, where he leaves a blue trail behind him. Once you’ve drawn a complete circle, this creates different effects depending on what you’ve drawn it around. If it’s an empty area, you’ll spawn rings, which helped us narrowly avoid death on several occasions. It can also be used to attack multiple enemies, alongside unearthing hidden items for puzzle solving. It’s a clever addition that feels like a natural evolution, activated by holding down the Square button. Forgetting your standard Soldiers, some enemies require you hit them with a Cyloop to make them vulnerable, like the sturdier Shells. You can’t spam homing attacks and hope for the best — some require further consideration, and it complements combat nicely.

We also encountered one mini boss and defeating them required grinding across three circular rails to turn them blue, making them vulnerable. We had minor frustrations, though, as while the D-pad moves Sonic between rails, the instinctive reaction is to jump — and that doesn’t lock onto the next rail, causing Sonic to fall off. It disrupted combat’s flow, but since there are many other mini bosses, we’re not placing too much weight on this. Defeating them earns Portal Gears to unlock new portals into the linear Cyber Space stages. Unfortunately, we couldn’t try these levels during the demo, but completing them rewards players with Vault Keys, used to obtain chaos emeralds. And sadly, we didn’t fight Ares Island’s main boss, unless you count an entertaining chase scene after helping Knuckles.

hands on: sonic frontiers is a positive step forward that needs further work

There’s only so much you can gauge from a 30-minute demo, but while we have some criticisms with the art style and world design, what we’ve seen so far was certainly entertaining. For better or worse, Frontiers didn’t feel like 3D Sonic with a Breath of the Wild skin as many comparisons suggested, Sonic’s latest game is its own beast that’s taking a big risk. Until we get more time with it, we can’t make any definitive judgments, but we’re coming away from Gamescom cautiously optimistic.

Sonic Frontiers is speeding to PS5 and PS4 on 8th November 2022. How are you feeling about Sonic Frontiers? Try not to go too fast in the comments section below.


When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Image via Sloclap Earlier this year, Slowcap’s Sifu took the world by storm, selling over one million copies in its first three weeks on the market. Close to launch, the team revealed that the game would get several free content updates over the course of the year. In the ...

View more: When is the release date of Sifu’s Summer Update?

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a slow burning title that’s slowly heating up and bringing the hype to fans of third person action titles. One of next year’s most dynamic and aggressive titles has just gotten a new gameplay trailer, giving us a brief glimpse of what we have to ...

View more: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty gameplay trailer shows fast-paced, high-flying action

New Minecraft Legends Trailer Gives A First Look At Fiery Foes

Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

A series making its return after many years, Gungrave GORE promises bloody mayhem, a killer team, and a fall release date in this new Gamescom trailer. A mix of CG and gameplay gives it a good taste of the carnage to come. This new Gungrave game will launch on ...

View more: Gungrave GORE - Release Date Trailer - IGN

Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

This is not your grandfather's Heavy Metal

View more: Heavy Metal's first YA story Starward concludes with an all-out celestial brawl

Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Photo via PGL OG beat FaZe Clan 2-1 today in the knockout stage of the BLAST Premier Fall Groups, which is their best result since adding Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar, Maciej “F1KU” Miklas, and Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov halfway through 2022. The victory allows OG to move further in the CS:GO ...

View more: Nexa and flameZ help OG upset FaZe in BLAST Premier Fall Groups

Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

In the first Destroy All Humans!, Crypto evidently didn’t manage to successfully carry out his objective to destroy all of the humans – as per the title’s remit – necessitating the existence of a 2006 sequel, which forms the basis for this remake, playfully titled Destroy All Humans! 2 – ...

View more: Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed Review

Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds everywhere Miscellaneous Mercs, Brawliseum, and more Image via Blizzard Entertainment The latest update to Blizzard’s popular card game is bringing along the new separate seasonal pass for Battlegrounds and Runestones, Hearthstone’s new virtual currency. Heroic Brawliseum is also making a return, plus in-game reporting is finally being ...

View more: Hearthstone Patch 24.2: Full notes and updates

Metal Gear and Silent Hill fans hope Konami's announcement could revive classic games

Age of Darkness: Final Stand - Edwin Hero Spotlight - IGN

Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed Video Review - IGN

The First 13 Minutes of Destroy All Humans! 2 - Reprobed PS5 Gameplay - IGN

Destroy All Humans 2 - Reprobed

Team Liquid officially exits PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds eSports

‘The Ghost Lights’ VOD Review

Official PC system requirements for Hogwarts Legacy

Review Destroy all Humans! 2 – Reprobed

Aliens: Dark Descent is more than an XCOM clone - and feels surprisingly true to the movies

Destiny 2's New Craftable Taipan-4FR Linear Fusion Rifle Is A Must-Have, Here's How To Get It

Volunteer As A Subject In THE OUTLAST TRIALS Closed Beta