Video games are as much a part of the technology landscape as hardware, which is why we’re starting a regular column to dive into the biggest gaming news, starting with a look at the highly divisive Sonic Frontiers.
There’s also God of War Ragnarök news, gaming-themed food promotions, two excellent new Xbox Game Pass additions, and a new SSD to beef up your gaming rig.
Sonic Frontiers is weird and wonderful, in its own special way
Ever since entering the 3D age, Sonic has never quite found his footing. While Sonic Frontiers doesn’t exorcise the spectre of the much-maligned 2006 game Sonic the Hedgehog looming over the Sega mascot’s 3D adventures, it does manage some highlights in between utterly baffling design choices.
Depending on which generation of consoles you grew up with, Sonic the Hedgehog conjures up vastly different memories. For Sega Mega Drive players back in the day, the blue mascot was a satisfyingly speedy 2D platformer filled with loop-de-loops and vibrant visuals. Those with the recent games as a reference point know only pain, suffering and disappointment.
It’s difficult to separate critique of Sonic Frontiers without considering its baggage, in addition to fans’ lofty expectations of the game. A Sonic game with open-world elements? A curious decision for a series at its best when moving quickly from one side of the screen to the other. Nonetheless, it persists in trying to endear the eponymous character to a modern audience.
Sonic Frontiers opens with several confusing cutscenes that end with our hero stuck in some desolate location between dimensions, trying to save his friends from cyberspace. It leans heavily into melancholy, with reverb-laden piano keys accompanying much of the early action – reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The tonal whiplash is immediate; this series is about rocking out to banging tunes, running fast, and Sonic wisecracking about his fondness for chilli dogs.
It’s only one of many head-scratching elements from Sonic Frontiers. To progress through the world and see the story play out, you need to obtain the Chaos Emeralds, a staple of the series. That’s fine, no worries. Weirdly, so much of this simple quest is gated behind an arbitrary collect-a-thon design. To collect the Chaos Emeralds, you need to obtain keys, which you need to find in separate levels locked behind another item, and so on. It’s frustrating and slows things down in a game where the most fun is in moving really fast.
But when Sonic Frontiers lets you go fast, that’s where the beauty is. Sure, some of the worlds may be a bit sparse, and the 3D platforming is annoyingly janky. However, these frustrations fade when sprinting through open fields and grinding on rails at max speed. The discrete levels you obtain keys from are spectacularly designed from both a visual and gameplay standpoint. They harken back to the Sonic of old, where you have one goal in mind and all you have to do is zip to the finish as humanly (hedgehogly?) possible.
Another highlight is Sonic Frontiers’ boss fights. These colossal mechanical titans each require a unique strategy to defeat, but it’s the sheer scale of them that dazzles. Breaking from the rest of the game’s sombre tone, an eclectic mix of metal, dubstep and drum & bass music pounds into your brain. At times, I found the combat to be imprecise, but the sensory thrill of these encounters overcame the gripes I had.
Despite a mishmash of incompatible ideas and much of the game’s design conspiring to induce fury, Sonic Frontiers excels in making you feel cool as hell. Fortunately, it does this often enough to overlook regular bouts of tedium along the way. Sonic hasn’t yet mastered the 3D realm, but he’s getting close. All he needs to do is channel his own advice: gotta go fast.
Sonic Frontiers was played on PS5 using a review code provided by the publisher.
You can actually eat Sonic’s beloved chilli dog meal in real life
To coincide with the launch of Sonic Frontiers, Harry’s Café de Wheels in Sydney has a limited-time Hedgehog deal where you get a chilli dog topped with onion rings – shaped like the rings Sonic collects in-game – and a blue-coloured “Cybershake” milkshake for $16.90.
Available now from 13 Harry’s Café de Wheels locations until 11 December, you can even win a sweet prize pack including an Xbox Series X console and a Hisense 4K TV. There’s more info on the café chain’s website if you’re keen to eat like Sonic.
It’s a cute promotion that pays homage to the Sonic series – let us know if you spot it in the wild. Thankfully, the meal is easier on the eyes than the accompanying custom controller giveaway. Its design is… bold, I’ll give it that.
God of War Ragnarök is here, and people are loving it
One of this year’s most anticipated games is here, to the excitement of the gaming public. God of War Ragnarök is the action-adventure sequel to the 2018 PlayStation 4 game, following Kratos and his son Atreus as they journey through the world of Norse mythology. In a glowing five-star review, GamesHub editor Edmond Tran was mightily impressed.
“By the end, God of War Ragnarök will leave a major, lasting impact on you, with thoughts and quandaries that may well resonate into your own life. It’s exactly what a piece of work of this size, budget, calibre, and intent should strive to do.”
Not content to let Sonic have his chilli dog and eat it, there’s also a food-themed promotion for God of War Ragnarök. PlayStation Australia and Norse-inspired restaurant Mjølner have teamed up for a nine-course dining experience called “Discover the Realms”.
Available in both of Mjølner’s Melbourne and Sydney restaurants, the menu includes drinks and dishes like the Light of Alfheim mocktail, and the Secrets Of The Father – a fancy label for a dry aged scotch fillet with bottarga sauce. It all looks delicious.
Return to Monkey Island, a long-awaited follow-up to the classic point-and-click-adventure series is now included with a subscription. I’ve been meaning to play it, so now’s the perfect chance. Also, Vampire Survivors will launch on Xbox consoles via Game Pass. Although it doesn’t look like much on the surface, it’s incredibly good fun and perfect for losing hours at a time.
Gaming hardware – Samsung brings a new SSD optimised for gaming
Samsung announced a new M2 SSD, the 990 Pro ready for release on 21 November, offering what the company claims is the highest speed available from the PCIe 4.0 interface. In numbers, its sequential read speeds are up to 7,450 megabytes per second (MB/s), while its write speeds go up to 6,900 MB/s, even faster than the 980 Pro. In fact, the speeds are similar to the PNY XLR8 SSD we reviewed earlier in the year.
Available in 1TB and 2TB storage options, with a 4TB model expected next year, you can pre-order the 990 Pro SSD from Samsung now, starting at $265. They’re also running a promotion where the first 100 people to pre-order will also receive a bonus Portable SSD T7 500GB worth $149.