2017 has already seen the beginning of Sonic’s resurgence with Sonic Mania. This fan-inspired game was able to create a fun throwback to Sonic’s origins, providing many fans with the game they wanted. Sega has now brought out Sonic Forces, a game that aspired toward a slightly darker and more desperate side of the franchise. The question is: did this game succeed? Well, no, but it does have some okay moments.
The biggest gripe that may be levied against Sonic Forces is its narrative. While not everyone cares about the Sonic storylines, this one did have some promise. With the help of his latest creation, Infinite, Eggman has been able to take over the entire world, and a small band of resistance fighters work tirelessly to stop him. This resistance group includes many iconic faces from across the series (with the regrettable absences of Cream and Big), featuring two forms of Sonic – Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic – and a custom character of your creation.
While the story at its core does not sound bad, it ultimately feels pointless until the last couple of stages. There was potential with a war-driven Sonic adventure where you aim to take down a victorious Eggman, but the entire plot is pushed into the territory of simply being background noise and an excuse to send Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and your custom character into various levels. While running through most levels, you could even forget that there is a war going on unless other characters are speaking about it. You are just running through standard levels that feel detached from the story. You want to be playing the story you hear in the background as opposed to the generic Sonic fare of Forces’ main gameplay.
The big element of Sonic Forces is the three different playable characters. Forces operates in the vein of Generations by bringing together Modern and Classic Sonic, but it also focuses heavily on a brand new character that the player creates. Your custom avatar takes center stage in the game and holds greater importance than the title character. This is one of Forces’ most annoying features; while there isn’t anything wrong with having a custom character, it does get annoying that the character you want to play as takes a backseat for a good percentage of the game.
It feels like Sonic Team had an idea for an original game focusing on a player-created character in a war situation then realized they needed something to make it sell. As a way to sell the game they decided to throw in Sonic characters and traditional Sonic gameplay, so this feels like a game that just happens to have Sonic in it.
Furthermore, Classic Sonic is just forced into the game. While his stages are some of the best, there never seems to be a point for him being there, and they could have used any of the Sonic cast to play his levels. If they made more effective use of the character it would have been fine, but his presence does little to benefit the plot and is simply an excuse for different level types to be available.
As previously stated, the meat of the game is played through your custom character, and it is clear the developers worked hard to give players plenty of options. The base creation is limited to generic body traits and the like, but you may choose from many different types in the long run.
The start of the creation process has you determine what kind of character you use — a hedgehog, bird, rabbit, dog, or cat — and each of these comes with specific traits that will help you in the main gameplay. Rabbit offers longer invincibility after being hit, and the bird can double jump. There is enough variety here that you will find a way to play with the different character types and choose one that works best for you.
Outside of this there is also the huge range of costumes for you to customize your character with. By completing often simple missions you unlock a plethora of costumes. This does little for the actual gameplay outside of simple aesthetics.
You play across thirty levels, which can be beaten in about six hours, with a variety of smaller challenge levels made available after certain intervals. During this time you play under three different styles that attempt to add variety to the proceedings, although certain design choices hold back some of the thrill.
Modern Sonic levels play as you expect. These switch between 2D and 3D at random intervals, featuring varying layers of platforming challenge. In the 3D sections you are often going as fast as possible with limited platforming breaks in the flow of momentum, and even when platforming moments appear they are just as quick, keeping you engaged. The 2D segments often require a little more precision in your approach, forcing a slower, more careful pace.
As your custom character you play in a similar vein to Modern Sonic. You race through levels switching between 2D and 3D, except there is a slightly greater focus on combat and powers. Your custom character comes armed with a Wispon weapon (essentially a gun with the power of Sonic Color’s Wisps), which you can use to slice through enemies with a chosen weapon type. It also offers a bonus when you encounter the correct Wisp; for example, a yellow Wisp allows you to temporarily ring dash for different paths. Outside of this, these levels play no different than Modern Sonic’s, with a similar sense of momentum and platforming.
The greatest problem is that no level really stands out. Much like the core story, the varying levels are simply white noise in the background. While they do have some cool set-piece moments, unlike many of Sonic’s past games, there is nothing that makes you remember the levels. For as cool as some moments are, they quickly blend in with the rest of the level, becoming repetitive as the game progresses.
Similarly, most levels are tedious. In Sonic Forces you play through the same levels on multiple occasions, and while they are technically different, they don’t aesthetically feel different considering how often you run through Green Hill or the Chemical Plant. They change to a minor degree, but not enough to make them feel any different. It’s good they are short, otherwise Forces‘ levels could have been an even greater disaster.
Classic Sonic offers an exception to the tedious level design. Because his levels are so few and far between, you rarely feel like you are going through the same stages. Every Classic Sonic stage is different to some degree, offering a nice change to the otherwise tedious levels of the other characters. The fact each level is on a different location keeps Classic Sonic levels fun and refreshing, especially since they capture the fun of the classic design.
One final problem with Sonic Forces is that it is too easy. Even on a harder difficulty setting most players will breeze through the game in a few short hours, only being held up by occasional bosses that requires a clever solution to beat. The bosses themselves aren’t bad; many of them are rinse-and-repeat, but once you find the solution you will just push through the game in no time.
Sonic Forces fails to be a good Sonic game in every way. It is too easy and its tedious design holds the game back from reaching the heights it could have achieved. Its biggest crime, however, is that it isn’t a Sonic game. While it maintains the signature speeds, Sega forced the characters in to sell the game as opposed to building a great Sonic adventure. In the end, this game could have been worse and there are some okay moments, but this is something you want to avoid unless you find it really cheap.
Screenshots courtesy Gemsuta, The Sonic Stadium, and Game Reactor.