Denuvo tries again: will it defeat piracy?

Denuvo tries again: will it defeat piracy?

Denuvo tries again

Between 2013 and 2014, PC piracy definitely seemed a distant memory thanks to Denuvo. The DRM of Austrian origin had in fact prevented several games from being pirated and published on pirate sites. Unfortunately, that moment didn't last very long, and today, cybercriminal groups continue to breach security in most cases. However, the system is still used by several games and is in the process of being improved. A good news? Partly yes, but there is a reason why so many other players don't seem to be happy.

Denuvo will be launching SecureDLC over the next few months, an improved version of the anti-tamper, that will be adopted (at least so it seems) by the games that will use a lot of DLC and more. The use of the new version will make it difficult to pirate any add-on, in an era in which video games now seem to base their revenues above all on additional content. However, there is a problem and it concerns in-game performance.| ); }
Clearly to be able to eliminating the root problem should re-educate everyone who plays on PC. Over the years there are fewer and fewer pirates, but a hard core resists. In this respect, the launch of services similar to Xbox Game Pass could help reduce this phenomenon even more, but at the moment the various protections will continue to be preferred. Whether they are really dangerous to performance or not.

Sonic Origins (for PC)

As a 1990s child, one of my earliest gaming memories involves sitting in front of a television and playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I was lost in its colorful backgrounds, catchy music, and Sonic’s trademark super speed, a trait that has proven somewhat detrimental throughout Sonic’s storied 31-year history. Yes, it is a cliché to say Sonic’s transition to 3D has been rough, but no matter how you feel about the Blue Blur’s current affairs, it’s not a stretch to say that Sonic’s finest adventures were during his 2D heyday.

So, like many aging millennials, I found myself excited to nestle into the nostalgia of the A$59.95 Sonic Origins, a high-definition repackaging of Sonic’s first four titles: Sonic the Hedgehog 1, 2, 3 (& Knuckles), and CD. These updated classics hold up pretty well, but they also fall victim to many modern issues, including questionable DLC tactics and unsightly glitches and bugs (plus some potentially controversial changes to Sonic 3). Overall, Sonic Origins is a fun PC game collection that's packed with extras, but I expected more from this trip down memory lane.

Sonic Origins Sonic the HedgehogThe Dream of the 1990s

The new ports were made with the help of indie developer Headcannon, the studio that helped craft the excellent Sonic Mania. Sonic has never looked better, and the games hold up well. Sonic 1 is just as fun as it was back in the day, and the later games shine even brighter in comparison. During the Sega Genesis era, the Sonic franchise had the fortune of sequels that improved on previous entries, pushing the boundaries of what the 16-bit machine could do.

Diving into these classics again, I’m almost ashamed to admit just how much Sonic 1 and 2 are ingrained in my brain. From the first jump in Green Hill Zone to the end credits of Sonic 3, each moment in the collection felt so familiar and personal—like running into an old friend. However, running into an old friend also makes you realize that your buddy hasn't changed much, warts and all. Some levels still feel as though they were designed to prevent you from gaining speed, the faux 3D special stages still frustrate, and the water levels are still highly annoying.

You can play each game in the collection in either the Classic or Anniversary modes. Classic preserves the original game’s presentation, complete with finite lives. Anniversary, on the other hand, features a full-screen display and infinite lives. However, the real draw is the new Story mode, which stitches all of the Sonic games together with beautifully animated cutscenes that bookend the start and end of each game. Not a word of dialogue is spoken, but it’s brimming with so much character and life that I can only hope it becomes the norm for Sonic going forward. It’s a real treat, especially if you enjoyed the art style introduced in Sonic Mania.

Sonic Origins opening cutscene

In addition to the main games, Sonic Origins has a few new modes, including Mission Mode, Boss Rush, and an unlockable Mirror Mode. No matter how you play, you’ll earn coins that you can use to unlock Sonic Origin’s treasure chest of art and music from Sonic’s past. These extras include design documents, instruction manuals, box art, and plenty of rarities that span not only the included games, but other Sonic spin-offs from the era and beyond.

Sonic Origin's Bugs and Issues

This isn’t the first time that Sega repacked Sonic’s 16-bit offerings, but this is the first time that many of these games received native ports. (Sonic 1 and 2 received native mobile ports a few years back.) The HD updates look great, but they also come with numerous bugs. For example, anyone who has played Sonic 2 knows that Tails often has trouble keeping up with Sonic, but in the Sonic Origins version, Tails often gets stuck off-screen. In addition, the jumping sound effect sometimes loops until you either clear the level or die. When I completed Sonic CD, the game faded to black and crashed, forcing a full restart.

Sonic Origins Sonic CD cutscene

Many of these issues could probably be fixed with patches, but it's disappointing that these official, HD ports ship with issues when there are perfectly playable ROMs online. Retro emulation games have become an issue as of late, with many game developers struggling to replicate their games on a modern platform (see Nintendo's input lag struggles with N64 games running on Switch).

Sonic Origins' games are genuine ports, not games running within a Genesis emulator. Still, it's frustrating when the most convenient way to play an older game is not the definitive way to play. Simon Thomley, Headcannon's founder, even took to Twitter to bemoan the large number of errors found in Sonic Origins.

Sonic Origins Sonic CD

The inclusion of Denuvo DRM is also questionable. Why is there anti-piracy software attached to a game collection where the youngest game is 28 years old? The software has proven itself intrusive, and the Anti-Tamper tool is known to impact game performance.

In fact, some gamers have reported that Sonic Origins uses 90% of the CPU to boot up, then switches to GPU and uses up to 50% of that. While it’s not confirmed, fans were quick to point to Denuvo. Checking for myself, I didn't see the CPU usage spike like other Twitter users. However, I experienced GPU usage of up to 60% while idle on the main menu.

Sega also paywalls unremarkable features that should’ve been included in the main package. Letterbox backgrounds, bonus character animations, and hard missions shouldn’t cost an additional $4. Sega released the Sonic Mega Collection in 2002 for $40, and that included 12 games. The company should at least include the character animations and remixed music here without additional cost.

Sonic Origins Sonic CDWhat's Up With Sonic 3's Music?

I’d be remiss to not talk about the one-gloved elephant in the room. Yuji Naka, the lead programmer of the original Sonic games, seemingly confirmed the long-running rumor that Michael Jackson composed music for Sonic 3. For this reason, many people believe that a handful of compositions are missing from Sonic Origin's version of Sonic 3. The tracks in question are from Carnival Night Zone, Ice Cap Zone, and Launch Base Zone.

Creative Officer Takashi Iizuka confirmed as much with EurogamerEurogamer. Iizuka claimed that new tracks were arranged by composer Jun Senoue because much of Sonic 3’s original score had been left in an unusable state. As the story goes, Sega allegedly dropped Jackson from Sonic 3 following allegations of child abuse, though it's believed that the music he composed remained in the game. What we have now are the remastered versions of the tracks used in the Sonic 3 prototypes. That's an oddity in itself, but worth a mention as it is sure to draw the ire of purists.

That said, Yuji Naka cast doubt on the admission by subsequently tweeting, 'I feel like I'm being misunderstood a lot,” while admitting that he is using a translation tool to post in English. This was followed by a video from Sega’s official TikTok which featured Sonic and a Michael Jackson song. Naka may not have intended to confirm the rumor, but he didn’t deny it, either.

Sonic CD Sonic 2Can Your PC Run Sonic Origins?

Given that Sonic Origins is a compilation of games with a combined age of more than 100 years, you don't need a high-end PC to run Sonic Origins. Your PC needs at least an AMD FX-8350 or Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, an AMD Radeon HD 7790 or an Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 GPU, 6GB of RAM, and the Windows 10 operating system.

However, Sonic Origins has CPU and GPU usage issues that may impact your system performance. My rig powered through, pushing the game at a smooth 60 frames per second, but older PCs might feel the heat when Sonic Origins unintentionally taxes their systems.

We reviewed the game on Steam, but it's also available on the Epic Games Store, as well as the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Sonic Origins features Steam achievements and gamepad support, though it isn't currently Steam Deck Verified.

The Sonic Cycle Continues

In many ways, Sonic the Hedgehog is just like me—an aging millennial just trying to do his best. Sonic Origins taps into a deep sense of nostalgia, taking fans back to simpler times when all they knew were two gaming dimensions. The collection is also a reminder that Sega continues to be its own enemy in many regards.

If you grew up with Sonic and want to revisit a moment in gaming history when attitude was all you needed to be a corporate mascot, Sonic Origins is worth a visit. However, its bugs and disappointing DLC practices may prompt you to wait for a price drop.For more Steam game reviews and previews, check out PCMag's Steam Curator page. And for in-depth video game talk, visit PCMag's Pop-Off YouTube channel.