Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed

Sumo delivers a tribute to Sega that's as assured as the games it's in thrall to.


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Why are Sonic's eyes green in Sonic Adventure, the franchise's first serious crack at a fully 3D polygonal platformer? It turns out there's a lovely little story behind that. Ristar creator Yuji Uekawa was the man tasked with revamping Sega's mascot for his debut on Dreamcast. Some of his decisions were practical: shrinking Sonic's enormous, swept-back skull and elongating his limbs, for instance, so that he doesn't look like a fuzzy joystick when viewed from the rear. Others were a touch more poetic. "He is always seeing these green pastures around him, like in Green Hill Zone," Uekawa explains in an interview conducted for Sega's 25th anniversary artbook. "I thought it would be nice to reflect that in his eyes."

The safest pair of hands in video games

A snapshot of Sumo Digital as it prepares to step out of the shadows.

There are always little symbols to look out for that can help you figure out if a game's going to be worthwhile. Once upon a time it might have been Nintendo's seal of quality, or maybe the logo of your favourite developer - back in the day it was Treasure's magic box, perhaps, or more recently the glimmering P of Platinum Games. In recent years, there's another logo I've always kept an eye out for, a symbol that's a guarantee of quality, and a certain little spark. Quite often, though, you have to look really hard for it.

Japan's Prime Minister just rocked up to the Olympics dressed as Mario

Shadow the Hedgehog, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen.

Back when Beijing was handing the Olympics over to London in 2008, we were treated to the spectacle of one-man omnishambles Boris Johnson sheepishly taking on the flag to mark the handover before London 2012. Japan, which is cueing up 2020's games in Tokyo, has done things a little differently - and with a little more style.

Face-Off: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Digital FoundryFace-Off: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Four-way fury: Wii U takes on PS3, 360 and PC.

Having caught us off-guard with Eurogamer's 9/10 score last year, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is Sumo Digital's shining moment - a clear step forward from the studio's first stab at a Sega-themed racer in 2010. With new features such as terra-forming tracks, and cars that smoothly morph between planes and boats in response, the good news is that the execution very much lives up to the concept. These are far more than gimmicky bullet-points to occupy the game's blurb-space; instead, the flying and boating mechanics have been an area of major focus, resulting in a starkly different breed of racer to its precursor.

Tweaks to the in-house Sumo engine are at the heart of the shake-up. Most significantly, a new "Starlight" editor has allowed the team to add fully dynamic lights to tracks, while a more complex physics engine is used to bring the airborne and sea-based racing to life. Where the previous game's driving mechanics may have felt a tad simplistic, these new physics allow for simulation of bobbly terrain and lashing waves, affecting a vehicle's inertia, grip, torque and downforce as they go. Gone are the floaty controls and flat pathways of previous game Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing; in their place stand courses littered with opportunities to splash high into the air and earn speed boosts from carefully timed tricks. It's dynamic, less predictable, but ultimately the more rewarding experience for the adaptive player.

With tracks built in memory of cult favourites, even including Skies of Arcadia and Panzer Dragoon, the game feels conscientious in its handling of Sega's legacy - clearly a "for fans by fans" kind of deal. It's also a respectable release for being so very multi-platform in nature, developed on just about every platform outside of iOS. Having made the cut for the Wii U console launch, alongside versions for the PS3 and 360, we've since seen Vita and PC ports following in hot pursuit - the latter finally hitting stores last weekend. To compare the console versions, and the PC running at maximum settings, we have a huge quadruple-format gallery for you to flick through, plus a range of head-to-head videos.

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Back on track: the UK racing scene revival

How UK's racing talent rose from the ashes.

Motor racing, despite its roots in France, its scarlet red Italian heart and its current domination at the top tier by a German and a Spaniard, is a very British affair. In the heart of England, amidst the pockets of nondescript countryside of Banbury, Oxford and Woking there's the self-titled Motorsport Valley, where a large part of the global circus that's F1 calls home.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed review

One of hip-hop's most famous shout-outs to video games got a cruel update earlier this month. "It used to be Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis," raps Scroobius Pip as he riffs off Biggie Small's Juicy, "but Sega went and choked man, I couldn't picture this."

The blue-sky dreams of the '90s may have faded to grey, but no one's taking those sweet memories away. Sega's holding tight to them, too, restoring the likes of Daytona, Jet Set Radio and most recently NiGHTS. Ryo Hazuki's probably never going to make his way out of that Guilin cave, but in so many other ways Sega's fans have been exceptionally well served.

Sumo Digital's karting game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a little helping of silver service for those fans. This isn't just about Sonic, Tails and Robotnik; it's about Vyse, it's about Ulala and it's about Panzer Dragoon. Hell, it's even about Burning Rangers, an extended and note-perfect tribute to Sonic Team's masterful Saturn action game forming the basis of one of the more memorable tracks.

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed trailer debuts actual NASCAR driver in the game

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed trailer debuts actual NASCAR driver in the game

Danica Patrick and Sonic don't quite share that Tyson/Mario chemistry.

It was announced awhile back that Sega would be bringing actual NASCAR star Danica Patrick on board as a playable character in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but now we can actually see what it looks like when the "fastest female driver" occupies the same space as a blue hedgehog and flying fox.

Her distinctly human appearance stands out even worse than that time BioWare put Jessica Chobot into Mass Effect 3, and I'm not sure Patrick's presence can be as easily dismissed as I'm assuming she'll be cruising around as an NPC even if you don't play as her.

Equally distracting is her Hot Wheels branded vehicle that offers the most forced product placement since Snake donned an Axe deodorant shirt in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

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Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is now a Wii U launch title

Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is now a Wii U launch title

Still two weeks behind the other versions, though.

The Wii U version of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is slated for release 30th November to coincide with the system's launch, Sega has announced.

Sega stated that the Wii U version of the racer is at least as good looking as the other consoles, "maybe even better." The Gamepad's screen can be used to play the game remotely or portray a rear-view.

The PS3, Xbox 360, 3DS and Vita versions of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed are due out on 16th November, while the PC version is still to be determined.

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UPDATE: We've updated the headline of this article to better reflect the content of the story. Sega was referring to the visuals of Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed on Wii U compared to the visuals of the other versions, not the graphics capabilities of the Wii U itself. Sorry for the confusion this has caused.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed release date

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed release date

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Vita and 3DS versions nailed down.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed will launch on 16th November for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Vita and 3DS, Sega has announced.

The game's PC and Wii U release dates are still under wraps.

Transformed is a sequel to the first Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, launched in 2010.

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed to launch on Wii U, dev suggests

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed developer Sumo Digital has strongly suggested that the game will release on Wii U.

Nintendo is blocking third-parties from announcing games in development for Wii U, producer Joe Neate producer hinted at.

Sega's arcade racing sequel, announced yesterday, would appear to be a perfect fit for the Wii U: something Neate agreed with, but refused to comment futher on.

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Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed Preview: The Saviour of Arcade Racers

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed Preview: The Saviour of Arcade Racers

Can PGR talent and Sega's mascot breathe life into a fading genre?

When I last met Gareth Wilson three years ago, we were sat in the offices of his previous employer, Bizarre Creations. The designer, a veteran of the Project Gotham Racing series, was talking up his next game Blur, telling me how Bizarre wanted to escape the simulation niche and make racing games mass-market again. "I think we should be going back to the reason people play racing games," he said.

It didn't work out that way. Blur was a good game but it didn't find its audience, and a year and a half after we met, Activision shut down one of Britain's best studios for good. But the story - for Wilson, at least - might still have a happy ending. He might yet hit that populist racing jackpot. And he might do it with Sonic the Hedgehog.

This time around, Wilson and I meet in the plush screening room of a London hotel. Wilson now works for Sheffield's Sumo Digital, an unpretentious jack-of-all-trades studio with good racing game pedigree and a good relationship with publisher Sega (both exemplified in its wonderful console versions of Sega-AM2's modern classic, OutRun 2). He's the design director on the freshly announced Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, a sequel to 2010's mascot racer, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

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