Sonic Heroes is a 3D action-platformer in which the player takes control of a team of 3 characters, each with a special ability - speed, fly and power. The objective of the game is to race through levels as quickly as possible whilst defeating enemies and collecting rings. Your time, rings and enemies defeated make up a point system, and more points mean a higher rank on the level. There are 4 teams of characters each with their own changes to the gameplay:
Team Sonic is the intermediate difficulty featuring Sonic (speed), Tails (fly) and Knuckles (power).
Team Shadow is the hard difficulty featuring Shadow (speed), Rogue (fly) and E-123 Omega (power).
Team Rose is the easy difficulty featuring Amy (speed), Cream (fly) and Big (power).
Team Chaotix features new mission-based objectives with Espio (speed), Charmy (fly) and Vector (power).
The game features 4 modes:
Story Mode, giving players the opportunity to play through levels as the story progresses.
Challenge Mode, giving players the opportunity to replay levels that they have previously cleared in Story Mode
Battle Mode, a multiplayer mode where players can race or battle each other
Tutorial Mode, teaching players the basics of playing the game.
The PlayStation 2 version is infamous for being poorly optimised and performing badly due to the weaker nature of the PS2's hardware when compared to the Xbox or GameCube. The PS2 version runs in 30fps with additional frame drops as opposed to the GameCube and Xbox's 60fps. The PS2 version also suffers from a lower draw distance and longer loading times. Another oddity exclusive to the American PS2 version is that, on menu screens, O acts as the primary "enter" button and X acts as the back button, similarly to how Japanese PlayStation games are controlled; the European version uses the correct button layout.