The Sonic Riders series has baffled me, the first game was terrible and then they brought out Zero Gravity which was even worse at this point I honestly thought that someone at SEGA had woken up and smacked the person who came up with the idea round the head with a wet fish and then fired him, out of a cannon, into the sun. Alas this did not happen as we now have the third instalment of what I fear is turning into a continuing series, but this time there’s something different.
Free Riders is a exclusive launch title for the Kinect, the new motion sensing peripheral for the Xbox 360.
So does this new control system make the game any better than it’s predecessors or does it fall flat?
I’ll admit that I like the idea of Kinect, controlling a game through the motion of a body or with voice control has fascinated me since I first saw it demonstrated, but a Sonic Riders game on it? That is something I’ve never been too sure of.
To get you started the game puts you through a series of short tutorials to learn the
controls sorry motions, this isn’t a game you can simply jump in and play perfectly right away but that’s the nature of the control system. The motions are fairly simple, lean forward to speed up which never seemed to quiet worked for me. Sweep your foot back to use a speed boost which only seemed to work most of the time and tilting your body from left to right to turn which worked well.
There is more to learn, you can grab beams to get you round a corner quickly, punch rocks, fly (or glide if you want to be technical). Most of these extra motions are tied to power ups you can add to your gear (air board) before you race, each of the main power ups (punch, grind, and fly) opens up different routes you can take on a course, similar to previous Riders games, and ends up adding quiet a bit to the re-playability as you try to find the best combination of power ups, character and board.
More boards and power ups can be unlocked by buying them from the in game shop using rings you collect in race adding some more variety, but once I could play as Shadow using his default board and the grind/speed boast power ups, I didn’t feel the need to experiment any more.
Free Riders doesn’t skimp on game modes with the World Grand Prix (story/mission mode), time attack, free race, tag race and relay race, the last three being multi-player options and then we have the online mode, so I think we can safely say that SEGA hasn’t skimped on game options.
Different characters are unlocked by playing through the story mode, which is worth it if you want to play as Silver, Blaze or Metal Sonic. The story mode itself is essentially a series of challenges leading up to a 3 lap race with a rival, each challenge helps you learn the intricacies of the controls more. Initially you only have the choice of playing through the Sonic or Babylon stories, but later you unlock teams Dark and Rose as you complete the earlier stories and after completing those you get the final story.
The story itself is told through a series of backgrounds with changing character art, similar to the way it was done in Sonic Rivals or Sonic Rush, it’s a departure from the fully animated cut scenes of previous Riders games but to be honest you don’t miss them as the story was never any good. This time round there isn’t a big plot to take over the world through unlocking a secret artefact or some other convoluted plot line. The characters are there to race or the prize money which leads to a more fun and relaxed story.
Graphically speaking it’s not ground breaking for the 360 but it is done to a very good level. Each level has been well designed to provide a different environment and atmosphere which the music seems very suited for.
Now music in the Riders games has been one of the few things I have consistently enjoyed through the different iterations, and I’m glad to say it has continued with Free Riders, the introduction track ‘Free’ is magnificent.
Well I guess it’s time to sum up, so is Free Riders a good game? It’s really hard to say for me, I’ve enjoyed playing it, and I intend to carry on playing it, so in that regard I think you can consider it a success, however I have had issues sometimes. Kinect doesn’t seem to pick up all my motions, or loses me altogether mid race and jumps to a pause screen (a useful function but really frustrating when your in the middle of a race and it happens for the fifth time). I don’t know at this point if my issues are down to the set-up I have here, I’m not sure if I’m using enough light for the kinect to pick me up properly, or maybe it just doesn’t like laminate floors? I guess the answer to that is really going to be me trying kinect in other environments, or different games at least.
So in conclusion Sonic Free Riders surprised me in how much I actually enjoyed playing it heck it got me up off the sofa, a rare feat on an evening after work. The game is well put together with the focus of the development being put on game play, rather than the story which I think is what pulled past games down a bit. In all if your a Sonic fan and are planing on getting a Kinect then I’d say pick up Free Riders you should enjoy it, certainly it beats the previous Riders games. If however your not a Sonic fan and have a Kinect, well it’s harder to say, there is not at this time a game out there similar to Free Riders in game play style which I think will appeal to skateboarders the most (beats the pants off the last Tony Hawk) but it’s really your choice how you spend your free time whaling your limbs about.
Gameplay-> 65 (really depends on your kinect setup)
Story-> 80 (just because of the lack of a ridiculous plot)
Lifespan -> 70
Overall -> 78
I’d like ask only one thing. About the Kinect controls. Several reviews complains its hard to control, its like the control moviments doesn’t answer yours commands. In the end you wrote that depends of Kinect Setup.
Thats good to hear that the game isn’t a total waste of virtual space…maybe I’ll look at a Kinect later next year :O
Besides the story, what was it about the other Riders games was it you didn’t like? I honestly don’t get what people didn’t like about those games (besides the story, which honestly besides the whole “we’re aliens, lolz” twist, was okay to me)
Well the controls were always annoying with me in the originals, I didn’t even bother trying the wii remote with Zero Gravity and still found it very difficult to control. The we’re aliens thing contributed a lot though.
Well it all seems to depend on if you have the space or not, I was fortunate as I could move the sofa to one side and create a lot of space, however I have found I have to stand quiet far away from the screen in order for kinect to pick me up properly as I’m quite tall, then there’s the fairly low celling which can make jumping, or making gestures above my head interesting. The controls itself seem to work most of the time with like I said a few times where the system would lose me for no reason, it may be the game having issues or the system having trouble with the environment I’m in until I’ve played more kinect games I really can’t say for sure.