The major design successes in Sonic Heroes almost manage to cover up the fundamental design flaws. Almost, but not quite. The glorious 3D speed rush is still broken by moments where you will csream with rage inspired by whatever sadism or idiocy has kept Sonic Team from fixing its camera and control schemes after five years of 3D Sonic games.
Almost six years, even. Why, after that long, is Sonic Team still unable to reconcile subjective 3D controls with an automatic camera? Why must we guess at how to negotiate a looping track and then charge over the high side as punishment for guessing wrong? Why should finished levels still contain bizarre collision bugs? And why should the PS2 version be so technically backward? The GC and Xbox versions are essentially perfect, but the game struggles to make 30 frames per second on PS2.
Sonic Heroes, in other words, will probably piss you off in the same way that every other 3D Sonic has. It’s a matter of degree, though—Heroes backs off from the hate-inspiring precipice of Sonic Adventure 2 and back into the tolerable Sonic Adventure range of the hate spectrum. And when it isn’t hateful, it is absolutely beautiful. It starts slowly, teaching you how the team gameplay works, but once it takes off, it soars to amazing heights. The Casino Park and Bingo Highway levels realize all the promise of a 3D Sonic—fast, flashy, and fun—and the three-character gimmick presents constantly shifting challenges.
It comes down to a question of tolerance. If you can take a little hate mixed in with your love, you’ll love Sonic Heroes. Which is to say, when you’re not hating it, anyway.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in GMR Magazine.