Unleash your copy of Sonic Generations

In a long list of things I wish Sega had done, more Sonic Generations DLC is pretty high up on that list. That was a game absolutely full to the brim with DLC possibilities, and outside of a decidedly throwaway pinball table, we got nothing. In a way, it doesn’t make any sense – after producing both DLC for Sonic 06 and Sonic Unleashed, bonus downloadable stages for Sonic Generations seemed like the next logical step. Alas.

Fortunately, fans have begun to pick up the slack – thanks in part to the efforts of Dario_FF and the software SonicGMI, custom Sonic Generations levels have been possible for a while now. Today, we see the release of the grand daddy of them all: The Unleashed Project. If you aren’t in the know, basically, Sonic Generations runs off the same engine from Sonic Unleashed, so a dude by the name of Dario_FF (and eventually with the a handful of others) figured out a way to port levels between the two games. That’s culminated in a project that has ported almost all of Sonic’s daytime levels from Unleashed over to Generations.

Even the new hub is super cool.

I unabashedly love Sonic Unleashed. If you ask me, a lot of people were unnecessarily harsh on Sonic Unleashed simply because it had the misfortune of following the omega-level-turd, Sonic 06. Unleashed isn’t a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination (pun not intended), and most notably more than half of the game’s content exists simply to pad out how long it takes to finish. But when it’s good, it is really, really good - better than Sonic Colors, and better than Sonic Generations. For a solid year after release, I’d put Sonic Unleashed back in at least once a month to replay levels, chasing faster times and higher scores. A good comparison I always like to go back to is that Sonic Unleashed is almost akin to something like Rock Band or maybe even Bit Trip Runner - incredibly simple, heavily scripted games that use their mechanics in increasingly complex ways that focus on tight timing and high accuracy. Sonic Unleashed comes very close to being a rhythm game without actually being about music, and that’s largely what is missing from both Colors and Generations.

The Unleashed Mod for Sonic Generations doesn’t always fair entirely well, though. It’s an impressive thing to behold, for sure, but Sonic Generations has slight tweaks to physics and controls that sometimes work against these levels. Some of that is down to it just throwing off my muscle memory, but stuff like Sonic’s stomp attack work pretty differently depending on which game you’re playing. It doesn’t help that not all of Sonic Unleashed’s level mechanics are present in Sonic Generations, and nowhere else does the mod suffer for this more than in Cool Edge, the ice level. The mod team have done their best to convert Sonic’s street board from City Escape in to Unleashed’s sled, but the control just isn’t there in the way I want it to be. It’ll take some getting used to.

Scoring is also a concern - I feel like I did about as close to “perfect” as possible in the above video, a performance that would’ve garnered me an S-Rank on the console version of Sonic Unleashed. Here, it nets me a B-rank, which gets bumped up to an A because I finished the stage without dying. While the scoring in Sonic Generations was often comically generous (you could sleepwalk through most stages and still be awarded an S-Rank at the end), the ranking in the Unleashed mod is the polar opposite - the notion that I could be faster in this stage is sort of ridiculous to me.

With or without fxPipeline, this game is quite the looker.

The mod authors also suggest you use something they call the “fxPipeline renderer”, which is basically an incomplete version of the Sonic Unleashed rendering technology. It works, to an extent, but I feel like there’s too many problems with it to be usable in the long run - unstable framerates crap it all up, it completely breaks some rendering modes, and so on. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be too big of a penalty for using the default Sonic Generations renderer - you lose out on a few extra lighting tricks, but by and large it still looks phenomenal - even if stages like Jungle Joyride absolutely slaughter my aging PC’s framerate.

If it sounds like I’m doing nothing but crapping on the mod, realize that I'm coming from the perspective of somebody who's probably put 50-100+ hours in to Sonic Unleashed since 2008 (yes, I really liked the daytime stages that much). Despite my complaints, there’s a lot of genuinely good fun here - I actually think Skyscraper Scamper is better in this Unleashed mod than it is in the real game, simply because it finally fulfills my wish to actually race down the same streets that the cars are on. But at the end of the day, this is still a mod trying to twist Sonic Generations to play levels it wasn’t entirely designed to - meaning Sonic Unleashed is still overall a slightly more cohesive experience, as long as you can slog through all the bland, tasteless bits to get to the flavor-packed core. For everyone else, this is no slouch, and if I could, everyone on the mod team would get a handshake and a pat on the back for the work they’ve done here. And that’s more than I can say for Sega’s official DLC support for Sonic Generations.

(For those wondering about the video, I also used some mods featured here to make the game look and sound a little more like Sonic Unleashed)

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