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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed 'will offer 3 distinct racing experiences'

In contrast to Mario Kart 7, the game's developer says karting, boating and flying will feel unique

After the first images were revealed earlier today, Sega has officially announced a sequel to 2010's Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

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Unlike the original, which appeared on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS, the follow-up, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, is making its way to PS3, 360, 3DS, Vita, and PC as a digital download in late 2012.

In development at Sheffield, UK-based Sumo Digital, the clue to the party racer's new feature is in its title, specifically Transformed.

The game is billed by Sega as "a thrilling new racing experience featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and a fantastic cast of Sega All-Stars competing across land, air and water in vehicles that fully transform from cars, to planes to boats".

Ahead of its official announcement we got the chance to chat to the game's producer, Joe Neate, who told us:

"The key thing is that vehicles can transform, so you can not only race on land but on water and in the air too. There can be up to three surfaces per track, meaning you can have cars racing alongside boats during certain sections, for example.

"The second part of the transformation element is that the tracks can transform in different ways."

Sega has shown press two tracks so far, the Panzer Dragoon inspired Dragon Canyon, which sees players taking to the sky and barrel rolling to out-manoeuvre rivals before transforming back to a car and speeding to the finish line, and Super Monkey Ball inspired Temple Trouble, which sees the player's car transform into a boat speeding down a river and rapids after the road falls away beneath their original vehicle.

"In Panzer Dragoon," Neate explained, "some time on the second lap an airship crashes, opening up the water route. During the water route these dynamic events happen, so this big water worm from the Panzer Dragoon world crashes through the bridge causing a massive wave to come hurtling at you meaning you have to take evasive action or jump over the wave. Later on in the level, the alien spaceship Shellcoof fires a big laser into the water causing another big tidal wave. Near the start of the third lap, one of those water worms jumps up to attack the iconic blue dragon from Panzer Dragoon and as it does it crashes through the road, meaning you then have to fly.

"In Monkey Ball, it's much more about loads of different routes, but there are dynamic events too, like Monkey Ball tumbling down his temple and falling into the water and causing these event waves.

"So the transformation element is about the vehicles transforming, but in different tracks we also have different ways to change the look and feel of the environment or the routes through it. It's not Split/Second, but we want ways to change the routes and open up warp routes or air routes or driving routes using transformation events."

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At first the game appears to share a number of similarities with Mario Kart 7, but Neate said the regular driving, water and flying sections will feel more distinct than they do in Nintendo's 3DS racer.

"It's funny because we've been working on this game, I think, since November 2010, and we'd already had these transformation pillars in place, and they were always what the game was about. We were sitting down, about five or six of us in a meeting room, watching the Nintendo E3 live stream when MK7 was shown [in June 2011]. They showed this brief teaser trailer and we saw Mario Kart and then all of a sudden the kart had this glider on it and we were like 'hold on.' Then they showed a car and some water and we were like 'oh for f*** sake.' We'd been working on this game for over a year at this point and we'd always had our [transformation] ideas in place, and we thought they were going to be amazing and blow everyone away.

"But when Nintendo showed MK7 in more detail we realised it was more focused on kart customisation. So you have this option to not fly as such, but what we call 'falling with style,' and this gliding is something we had considered during pre-production on our game. But we decided to go with full 3D flying for our game, so you're not forced to land after a certain amount of time. Obviously you have to take the flying route, but it's full 3D movement and it's a proper flying model.

"Obviously MK7 has driving underwater, so they have water, but they don't have boating, whereas our game offers a full-on transformation into boats riding big waves and it's reminiscent of titles like Wave Racer.

"Our game is a very different game, so the tactic we took with our launch event was to show people and then let them get hands-on, because I think the cynicism remains until you play it and then you're like 'wow, they've almost got three standalone game experiences in one,' which is the tactic we've taken. With Mario Kart, as great as it is, it's a very different proposition because it's a kart racer with gliding and driving underwater sections, but at its heart it's still very much a Mario Kart game, whereas what we've got is karting, boating and flying, and from the very start it was our aim to ensure that the quality of each of these sections meant they could stand alone as a game in their own right."

Neate said he couldn't comment on the reason why the execs at Sega had opted to skip a Wii release for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but he didn't rule out the possibility of a Wii U version. Asked if one had been discussed, he said: "I'm sure there are still discussions ongoing about that at the moment. I think the platforms announced today are the only confirmed ones, but yeah, keep your eyes peeled for potential other platforms I'd imagine."

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