It is unfortunate for so many reasons. It was the game to directly follow the notorious Sonic 06. It’s also… just… a 3D Sonic game, which works against it in general. And even though I love it, and even though I’ll tell you the Werehog isn’t that bad once you level it up a bit, the game has a collect-a-thon element that kind of hangs around in the background where you don’t think you need to worry about it, until you’re nearing the end of the game and suddenly it forces you to grind out collectables to unlock the last few stages. Which sucks. A lot.
But, man. When it’s good, it’s really good. You could probably say that about most 3D Sonic games, but when Sonic Unleashed is good, it makes me want to say it’s the best Sonic has ever been. It is unquestionably better and more exhilarating than Sonic Colors, and it’s got a much higher skill ceiling and is far more rewarding to “do good at” than Sonic Generations.
And I have zero faith that Sega will ever make a 3D Sonic game like that on purpose ever again.
It’s a bit disingenuous to say Sonic Unleashed is “seen as awful by everyone else,” though, because it’s been slowly gaining groundswell as folks give it a second chance. Most of the people these days that write it off are the “Sonic was never good” types. Being down with Sonic Unleashed is like knowing my secret handshake.