Sonic Forces is the culmination of hopes and dreams from long time Sonic fans being left in the oven for a little too long and being pretty burnt and hard. It’s edible in some parts, but is mostly a waste of good potential. We got first word of Sonic Forces last Summer at the 25th Anniversary stream alongside Sonic Mania, and while the latter has been critically acclaimed upon release and gives fans of Sonic’s 2D adventures something they’ve wanted for a long time, Forces may not be able to do the same for the series’ 3D fans.However, that does not mean Sonic Forces is not a good time, there’s definitely some enjoyment with the game. But it’s muddled by a few control issues, lack of variety in level design, and a story that is pretty cheesy, but decent writing and voice acting.
The story is bout as bland as other Sonic games, probably worse in this game, which is a disappointment considering the hype and build up SEGA promoted for the game. Dr. Eggman is tired of his constant losses against Sonic and his friends and has a new creation, called Infinite, that taps into the power of the Phantom Ruby, a gem he found at the beginning of Sonic Mania; the true ending of Sonic Mania depicts Classic Sonic being warped into this setting a few chapters later . Sonic and his friends catch wind of his new plan to take over the world and go to stop him, but Sonic ultimately fails and is captured by Eggman. Knuckles creates a resistance group formed with members of his Chaotix crew from Sonic Heroes, Amy Rose, Silver for Sonic 2006, and later on Rouge the Bat, Shadow the Hedgehog, and E123-Omega, known as Team Dark from Sonic Heroes. They debate on how to defeat Eggman and find a new recruit, the avatar players can create.From this point on, it becomes a task to rescue Sonic, followed by finding the source of Infinite’s power, and ultimately stop Eggman with the power of friendship,some thing the game constantly reminds us, as seen in the Avatar character’s backstory, all the way to the climax of the game. Many things aren’t really explained in the story, especially continuity wise, such as Silver the Hedgehog’s existence at all in the game. Infinite’s backstory isn’t explained in the base game either: players have to download the Episode Shadow DLC to find that Infinite was nothing more than a random mercenary working for Eggman during Shadow’s infiltration of his base. After Shadow defeats him, the mercenary, who’s face is never revealed to create cheesy false dramatic tension, goes on an emotional breakdown and becomes more involved in Eggman’s schemes and experiments to become Infinite. There’s some enjoyment and tongue in cheek references to other games in the dialogue, such as Modern Sonic exclaiming that “It’s been Generations” since he’s seen Classic Sonic, upon his eventual rescue. However, while the one-liners and dialogue between characters feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, the story definitely does not live up to past writings, no matter how controversial they were.
While the story may not live up to expectations for Sonic fans, the presentation definitely does. The artstyle is beautiful,going a washed and gritty color of an action movie in some parts, while going for a neo-futuristic look in others. The level select screen is also very stylized like a war Also while not as varied as one would hope, the levels themselves are amazing to look at; there’s about 7 zones in the game, and four are redesigns and re imaginings of past Sonic zones making them look pretty new The animations of characters are very good as well, and even the avatar character, with their customizable eyes, are even expressive in the cutscenes, which will always match what you put on it. The voice acting for all the characters is pretty great as well, the cast from the past few Sonic games return and reprise their roles very well and definitely show their chemistry, as shown by how the characters are interacting with each other in the cut-scenes.However, with the 7 major zones there are, two are definitely forgettable, and could even be considered as one level with how similar in appearance they look and feel, which may intentionally be the case as they both are created by Eggman.One thing I can say however, is that with the reappearance of these returning zones, it does show, albeit inconsistently, that Sonic and friends do exist in a world and that the lands can change over time. However, this is also probably the main reason SEGA did not showcase any more levels outside the ones they showed. The Hedgehog Engine 2 however does make the game’s visuals pop, running at a smooth 60 frames per second, and a lot of the effects are very well done.
The music is probably the best thing I can praise about this game on all fronts. Almost every track in the game is good, from the 16 bit medleys of Classic Sonic, to the energizing rock and techno songs of Modern Sonic and the avatar. Even Shadow has song great music in his DLC stages, and each song feels like it was crafted for each level and scene it appears in. My favorite themes that stand out in particular are the Fist Bump themes, Egg Gate, Park Avenue, and Metropolis. Though each of the modern Sonic and avatar songs are probably some of the best in the series in my opinion, the tracks feel very with the times.
The gameplay is the most polarizing thing and easily the biggest complaint I will have about the game. There’s three different characters, yet two different gameplay styles. Classic Sonic sticks to his 2D style while the Avatar and Modern Sonic share both 2D and 3D segments. In some levels, both characters even tag team to get through the levels together. Starting with Classic Sonic, while his level design is pretty simple, and not deviating from what they established in Generations for him, he adds the drop dash from Sonic Mania, which doesn’t feel as fun as it did before; it only keeps momentum before I feel like I’m butting into a wall, or moving through more vertical segments, rather than horizontal or diagonal ones. The biggest complaint I have with Classic Sonic lies within his weight and momentum, which feels less “floaty” and much slower in this game compared to Generations and Mania. The camera, however, is more zoomed out and captures more of the level design which is a big improvement. Classic Sonic also has the least amount of stages, which is actually a good thing because of Mania’s existence.If players want to have a game strictly in 2D and has a much better level design, that is easily the better option than this game. However the meat of the game lies in Modern Sonic and the Avatar who uses Wispons, or Wisps returning from Sonic Colors, Generations and Lost World, but weaponized so that everyone not Sonic can use them; the primary reason Sonic doesn’t return to that gameplay style anymore in my opinion. The Wispons seem useful at first, but the most useful one is the Electric Wispon; in stages where the avatar appears, there’s rings everywhere that allow you to perform a light-speed dash across them for quicker travel and secret routes, in addition to boss battles where it can reach where other Wispons wouldn’t just by pressing the button. One thing I truly enjoy about the avatar and Modern Sonic’s stages, or at least in the 3D segments, is the sheer amount of multiple pathways there are, no matter how convoluted they may seem.There are also stages where both the avatar and Modern Sonic run along side each other, which opens up the multiple pathways even more, and instead of switching a character out, each of their moves is assigned to a specific button, making them act as one character, which take some getting used to due to the visual appearance of both characters appearing on screen, but is definitely optimal.There’s also some level designs with certain gimmicks: at one point you’re playing pinball in the middle of a bright forest with classic Sonic, and in that same forest, you’ll be playing pinball with some enemies down a water slide with the avatar, were the control starts to get kind of out of hand, while Modern Sonic will face a boss that combines the level design from Lost World with this game’s boost mechanics, which was probably the intention for the departure in the 2013 game. The control in certain segments are pretty awkward, where it wants to snap Sonic on rails, until it stops and will still have the hedgehog going off the main path, leading to some deaths. At one point in Sonic’s level, I could just jump boost across a good part of a level and look down to see all the different areas the game intends for me to look for the collectables, followed by a subsequent loss. But, deaths just permit you to try again as there are no lives in this game, just a tally at the end of each stage showing how many times you retried, as well as ring count and the timer to calculate a total score and rankings from C-A and the highest being S, along with a sort of level up meter where you earn military medals of honor for your avatar.
There’s a fair amount of content to be had with this game depending on how you look at the game. There’s 7 main zones and 30 main stages , and a fair amount of unlock-able stages if you collect Red Rings ,Green Rings, and the Moon collectables in each stage.These stages are just the other stages in the game wit ha few extra obstacles like a “Lakitu-like” enemy that follows you across the stage throwing spike balls. There’s also a mission list where you can go back to complete a stage doing a certain task like` beating it with a certain wispon or while stomping. SOS missions for stages where you have to do these tasks. Beating these will net you more clothes for your avatar to wear.You can also call in other player’s avatars in a rental hero feature, if only to see the different and cool avatars there are out there. However, if you’re playing from start to finish, without going for collectables and the unlock-able stages , the game can take about 3 hours to beat, maybe less, as it’s pretty easy, even on hard mode.
Sonic Forces is a decent time. The writing is on par with a Saturday morning cartoon ,with tongue in cheek references every now and again to long term Sonic fans . However it doesn’t live up to what Mania did for the 2D games in the 3D games. While this game may not appease long time Sonic fans, I definitely think the game is a good time, just not worth the price of admission at the moment. A lot of the zones are redesigns of past Sonic areas, which gives the game a decent sense of world building, which Sonic has done over the past 25 years with the series’ numerous cast of characters, and some of the favorites reappearing in the game. There’s a decent amount of content but the story, even with the Shadow DLC, is pretty short, which is fine considering how fast players will go in this game. It does invite replay ability to go back through and listen to some of the rocking music as well, and pump you up to blast through the stage. Some of the mechanics in the game seem to hint a a possibility of a Sonic Heroes 2, and if so, that next Sonic game would be the one to definitely buy. But as it stands, Sonic Forces is a 7/10; A fairly good glimpse into Sonic’s 3D future and it seems to be back on the right path.
- Music is phenominal
- Presentation is very well done
- Gameplay feels pretty good
- Customization is pretty good
- levels are gorgeous
- Story is nonsensical
- not a huge variety of content
- Gameplay is wonky is some areas
- Levels are short
- No variety of zones