Team Sonic Racing was first announced at E3 2018 with a stunning trailer that made it look quite promising. That combined with the fact that it's been a whopping seven years since the last Sonic racing title, and it's no wonder some kart racing fans were excited for the game. Unfortunately for kart racing fans looking for a solid alternative to Mario Kart, though, they won't find it with Team Sonic Racing.
Team Sonic Racing attempts to differentiate itself from the pack through its focus on team racing with squads of three, where players are encouraged to assist teammates in order to raise their end of race score. By far the most important metric is still finishing in first, and as long as players race well, they will likely be helping their teammates anyway, on purpose or not. This makes Team Sonic Racing's big focus on co-op racing sort of incidental, as players don't even have to concern themselves with it and they should be successful - assuming their teammates are also able to finish first, second, or third.
Playing Team Sonic Racing with other people is where the game is most fun, and it deserves a nod for its comprehensive multiplayer support. Players can play most of the game modes in split-screen co-op, with much of the game supporting up to four players. Better yet, Team Sonic Racing supports split-screen online, so players have plenty of options when it comes to playing with friends.
Team Sonic Racing can be fun when playing with friends, but when players have to rely on the AI, it can be frustrating. Generally, the AI seems to perform about as well as the player, meaning if we got first, the AI would be in second and third. However, the AI can also wind up in dead last when we've managed to hold first place the entire time, which can actually cost players certain events. Trying to support AI partners with items (or "Wisps," as they're called in Team Sonic Racing) didn't seem to help all that much, and really the only way to help them get back into a higher spot is to give up one's spot in first to provide a slingshot boost.
One could argue this is where Team Sonic Racing's co-op focus is supposed to come into play, but when it's only necessary with AI partners and usually made us lose races, the feature is not really working all that well. Being saddled with AI partners throughout Team Sonic Racing's various game modes will make players sometimes feel like they have to babysit them in races, which is not fun or exciting.
Team Sonic Racing also suffers from a content deficiency problem when it comes to game modes and playable characters, at least compared to other kart racers (including past Sonic racing games). There just isn't a lot to do outside of the Adventure Mode, which we found to be too easy when playing with human partners and too annoying when playing with AI-controlled partners to really enjoy all that much.
As far as playable characters go, Team Sonic Racing only has 15 racers to choose from. This is less than 2012's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, which benefited from having non-Sonic racing characters as well. And the team-based racing means players usually can't even choose from the whole collection of racers, but are limited to the characters in the team that their partner selected. For example, players won't see Sonic and Dr. Robotnik on the same team in Adventure Mode.
The reason for this is apparently because of the different classes that each character is assigned to, but honestly, we didn't find these classes to change up the races in any significant way. Knuckles is supposed to be a "Power" character, yet it wasn't any harder to get first place with him than it was with Sonic. Technique characters have the ability to drive through grass and other hazards, which can be useful, but also does not provide enough of an advantage for it to really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Team Sonic Racing's classes and the team-based gimmicks fall flat, but strip those away and at its core, it's a passable kart racer. It's nothing extraordinary, but it works and the tracks are visually impressive. There's nothing broken about the game, and it offers more local multiplayer options than many other modern racing games do, so it still gets points for that, too.
Despite this, Team Sonic Racing is still one of the weaker kart racers we've played. Older Sonic racing games are far superior, offering more content and are not held back by the team-based racing gimmick. There are better kart racers on the market, and with games like like the Crash Team Racing remake right around the corner, it's hard to recommend Team Sonic Racing, even at its budget price. Hardcore Sonic the Hedgehog fans may still want to give it a look after a price drop, though.
Team Sonic Racing is out now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Game Rant reviewed the game on PS4.