Up Against The Odds
To really understand why Sonic Unleashed deserves so much more respect than it gets, players have to go back to 2008 and put things into context. As the first major game to be released since Sonic 06 came out, it's hard to overstate just how on its knees the franchise was when it came time for Unleashed to begin its development. Sonic 06 was so broken, so panned and so much of a critical and commercial failure that if Sonic the Hedgehog wasn't the huge mascot he is, it would have almost certainly killed off the series for good.
But, for as bad as Sonic 06 was, it's not as if the Sonic series was even doing that well beforehand. Sonic Heroes had received mixed reviews for its dodgy camera and various technical bugs and even the two Sonic Adventure games were beginning to show their age and draw in the critics following the failed DX port.
So, before anyone had even begun playing, Sonic Unleashed already had the task of not only being a game that was actually playable (something 3D Sonic games were notorious at being sloppy on), but one that could also produce the jaw-dropping moments that games like Super Mario Galaxy were creating at the time.
No small ask.
The game revolves around Dr. Eggman using the power of the Chaos Emeralds to blast apart the Earth's continents, which unleashes the evil Dark Gaia and its minions and curses Sonic with a sort of lycanthropy where every night he turns into the powerful Werehog. Sonic Unleashed is split into daytime levels, where Sonic is his normal self, and the nighttime levels as the Werehog, with players travelling across seven hub continents and completing stages at both times of the day to unlock the power of the emeralds and restore the world to its original state.