Sonic 4 First Hands-On Impressions - Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 - Xbox 360 -
Switch Lights

The lights are on

What's Happening

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1

Sonic 4 First Hands-On Impressions

I’ve been waiting to get my greedy mitts on Sonic 4 ever since it was announced. I was a huge fan of the Genesis-era titles, and the series’ return to glory is what I’ve been waiting for since the mid 1990’s. I finally got a chance to play it at Sega’s E3 booth, and the game is shaping up to be a fun homage to the classic titles.

Splash Hill Zone is the first zone of Sonic 4. We’ve already seen tons of screenshots (check out the media gallery below) from this Green Hill Zone-esque, but seeing it in motion I can say it looks gorgeous. Every tree, power-up box, and badnik looks beautiful in vibrant high definition. Sonic’s character model is slick, bright, and well animated. If you loved Sonic during his glory days, this game will immediately reel you in by presentation alone.

As soon as I picked up the controller my innate Sonic skills kicked in. Sonic 4 plays more like a classic Genesis game than any console Sonic title in the past 10 years. However, it’s not quite there yet. Developer Dimps is attempting to capture the old school feel without falling into the pitfalls that come with the dated physics. The new homing attack move fits into the Sonic formula wonderfully, allowing players to attack in mid-air at will. Hopping from enemy to enemy without leaving the air is a blast. Sonic 4 is also much more forgiving, allowing the hedgehog to trek up steeper terrain without always needing to spin dash.  Building momentum feels a little less rewarding in this early version, however, as you can no longer let go of the control stick and let Sonic rip. Players must hold the analog stick in the direction they wish to move in order to maintain speed. Sonic 4 is fun, familiar, and easy to play, but the controls still require tweaking.

Each zone is split into four acts. Each level feels pretty brief and breezy, a similarity to the intro stage of the classic Sonic titles. Each stage is well crafted, perfectly integrating fun platforming contraptions like swinging vines, springs, rip cords, and loop the loops. Players can still collect 50 rings and activate Chaos Emerald bonus stages, but the mode was deactivated in the version I played. Speaking of rings, when Sonic is hit it appears that every scattered ring is fully represented. Better yet, you can replay stages to get all the Chaos Emeralds to unlock Episode 1’s cliffhanger ending.

No doubt the ending will involve fighting Dr. Robotnik in some form, who returns as Sonic’s nemesis. Robotnik has taken a break from conquering the world in Sonic 4, instead turning his malicious energy on destroying Sonic once and for all. Splash Hill Zone’s encounter with Robotnik pays tribute to his classic wrecking-ball boss form. After dealing some damage he got pissed off and started slamming the ball aggressively, ramping up the challenge of the predictable battle. I can’t wait to see what the other stages and boss battles are like, especially considering a Casino stage has been confirmed.

At this point in development Sonic 4 is a very entertaining game. If the version I played was the final product I’d be happy. The fact that Dimps is taking every precaution to appease fans is testament to how seriously they’re taking this rebirth of the series. I can’t wait to see how the end product turns out when it releases later this year.

Email the author , or follow on , and .

  • Real excited for this, XBLA is perfect for this series' return.

  • Pretty cool.

  • Color me skeptical until I have a chance to actually play it.  Dimps really did not impress me with their Sonic Advance I hope this is better and more like the Genesis classics.

  • Finally. Sonic had died a long time ago.

  • When it was announced that sonic was going back to it's 2d roots, it brought me to tears, what took them so long?

  • i actually never tried a classic sonic game

  • Mod

    the endings already been leaked. all the true ending shows is a quick image of metal sonic. big whoop there. lol thanks sonicstadium ;3

  • What about Eggman? :)

  • Thank goodness the real sonic is back

  • I hope he doesn't act like a d*ck, like in all the other games ever since he could talk

  • this is how sonic is meant to be

  • I hope it has that sonic 2 feel

  • Awesome!

  • payed the classic sonic games when i was a child, but I don't want to play this one.

  • This looks pretty fun!

  • Finally, a real Sonic game, that actually isn't taking any risks; just sticking to a proven formula.

  • I so can't wait to play Sonic 4! This could be the title for Sonic to be great once again!

  • I saw the game play of this...and I was bored. Here is my theory, I have been playing Sonic since the original Sega Genesis came out. Everyone is complaining about his 3D games and I for one am not. I want to see Sonic mature like the Mario games. SONIC in unleashed, and the adventure games = great....its the other crap that sucked!

  • I approve of you calling him Robotnik, not Eggman.

1 2 Next