Title: Sonic Forces
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sonic Team
Copy Provided By: Bought it with my own money!
Sonic Forces is an interesting game. On its own merits, you can see ideas that would work excellently if given time to develop, and gameplay that in the past has been spot on. It’s a winning idea really. So why does this game strike the average feeling so half heartedly?
So first, some positives. This game looks great. Vibrant, colourful, and runs smoothly. Audio wise, some of the tunes I could do without, namely for the “Classic” levels, but a lot are top-notch unique tracks, some with vocals that really suit a stage. Even the overuse of synth isn’t a detriment, as the music is composed around the instruments.
Now if we are being honest, this is a game of three parts. Each has its merits and drawbacks but before any of that, let’s talk story.
Story wise, this game is a mess. There are ideas started, that are never finished. There are points that are brought up and then dropped. There are huge opportunities that are simply in the game as marketing tools. The returning 4 villains for instance are nothing more than cut-scene fodder, and any plot point with them is dropped as important while the story shifts to another thread. Chaos and Shadow aren’t even fought, instead being dealt with in cinematics, and Chaos…Chaos just is. This creature shows up for 2 scenes and vanishes. There was potential here, and it raises the question: How often did this game end up being rewritten?
The main plot, or rather the one that actually ends up being followed through, is nothing special. The tone of the story is fine, albeit sometimes taking itself a little too seriously. The main villain of the game “Infinite” is enjoyable, though the resolution to the whole plot is rather empty. Infinite just disappears after being bested, you get your final boss and…hooray we won. That’s another point against the story. Like a lot of this game, it feels unfinished.
The game is broken up into 30 main stages, including boss fights, with numerous extra and secret stages unlocked via progression or collecting Red Star Rings. Red Star Rings are 5 per level and are fairly simple to get. Nothing more than an alternate pathway or a little tricky platforming to get. Collecting all 5 unlocks 5 numbered rings that you must collect in sequence. Doing that unlocks 5 silver rings that you must collect in a short time. This is true for every stage. Unfortunately, outside of Red Star Rings, you get nothing for doing this in-game.
Missions are also a thing, both daily and regular, and it amounts to no more than busy work, such as maxing out rank on each avatar species, stomping a certain number of enemies, clear each stage fast enough, use each weapon enough, so on so forth. You get nothing for this either.
So with all this fluff, all you get for beating missions is items for your avatar. There is a huge assortment of items to select from, so you will be spoilt for choice in the end, though seeing the game list your unlocks after every mission gets tiresome fast. The avatar creator itself is simple to use and the creativity possible, while not incredible by any stretch, is a fun novel experiment.
The gameplay for the avatar is also novel. You take your character (With their own native secondary ability such as a double jump or pulling in items when near, species dependant) and run in a shifting 2D/3D space just like Modern Sonic. The grapple hook is used automatically most times, though some are down to the player, and the avatar can use it to homing attack enemies, albeit this is fairly slow.
The character also has Wispons. These are unlimited use weapons you equip before each stage. Drill for instance, lets you dash forward and destroy any enemies. Void swallows enemies and objects in a generous radius. Hover acts like a shotgun that can launch enemies into each other, also with generous range. These are pretty simple though novel ideas, albeit enemies don’t pose much of a threat anyway.
Additionally, Wisps can be used with their corresponding weapon. You can only use say, Red Burst, with the Burst Wispon, and so on. These are used mainly for navigation and are limited in use, such as air jumps, flight, creating platforms, and travelling through lines of rings.
The avatar system is a good idea, but could have been fleshed out more.
Modern Sonic returns to the Boost gameplay of past games (Minus a Drift feature for some reason) and largely it works the same. Destroy enemies or White Wisp capsules to fill a boost gauge and go to town. There is also a double jump feature but it’s very limited in helping you given its minimal height.
These levels typically have the most thought put into them, as high-speed platforming can quickly transition to a race or grinding sequence thrill ride. Additional paths are strewn throughout the levels for those observant, though they are often brief. The only downside is when boosting, the ability to turn is reduced exponentially, something a Drift feature would have alleviated. Expect to find yourself hugging the sides of paths a lot.
Both the Avatar and Modern Sonic however, share a similar issue regarding 2D and jumping. The distance you can travel in the air feels inconsistent, and during my time with the avatar I noted moments where he would gain maximum speed immediately after landing from a jump, resulting in death. It’s sloppy to be sure, with inconsistency being its biggest flaw. This remains true in the few tag team stages as well, where you control both Sonic and the Avatar, except the stages are designed to use either or.
Finally, is Classic Sonic, a character I didn’t mention in the plot summary, as this chubby little fella has absolutely no reason to be here. To be frank, the game may be better without him.
So, during the obligatory “pinball” themed stage for the little guy, I felt forced momentum. This is where the game completely changes and locks your momentum, so you only ever travel a set distance after interacting with say, a bumper, or flipper. This made those sections, particularly awkward, but more so is how this applies to jumps.
Not only does Classic Sonic have the same momentum issue regarding speed and jumping distance as the other characters, his jump is cancelled out by hitting enemies or boxes. Bounce on an enemy, your momentum ends, and that gap just ahead of you wont be cleared, in fact you’ll fall right in. It feels very stiff and unnatural.
Similar, Classic Sonic feels heavy when running or jumping regardless, with acceleration only occurring when curled into a ball, and even then, it’s sluggish. The Drop Dash returns from Sonic Mania and does, thankfully, work exactly as expected. However, it also seems subject to the unusual weight of Classic Sonic, so don’t expect to fly up gentle slopes with it.
Regarding level design, this game is again leaving an unfinished impression. Stages are exceptionally short for any character ranging from less than a minute to 2.5 at most. Classic Sonic has the worst with very flat, blocky, almost rudimentary stage layouts. Modern Sonic has it better, with brief alternate paths, but a lot of straight lines with enemies in the way simply to continue boosting ahead. That feels mindless. The avatar has many alternate paths for Wisps to take, but again, it’s short.
Where a level has great aesthetics (Egg Gate) or ends just as it seems to start (Aqua Road) it is undoubtedly frustrating. The levels being short means as you get into the rhythm of a stage, it ends. Some levels could have honestly been condensed into bigger stages, but for some reason they weren’t, possible with the aim of spreading the characters out.
Additionally, level aesthetics are once again borrowed. The returning Green Hill and Chemical Plant, while pretty, leave little to be desired, and the returning Death Egg, while nice, is also predictably dull (With the exception again of Egg Gate). The new aesthetics such as the City, Metropolis, Mystic Jungle and the final zone range from very well conceived to pretty generic. This variety is again compounded by how short the stages are, so no one lasts long enough to leave any impression.
Finally, we come to boss battles. This is also a mixed bag, with once again, reuse of ideas from past games (Or even this game towards the end!). Not battling Chaos or Shadow leaves a lot to be desired, as the battle with Zavok, while interesting, occurs early in the game, and the battle with Metal Sonic, and the Egg Dragoon, are both reused later in the game for different bosses.
Additionally, the two initial battles with Infinite are fantastic. Unique with nice mechanics based around his powers keeps you on your toes as you endeavour to counter attack. More of this would have been greatly appreciated.
None is especially difficult, however. A lack of lives in the game removes any real threat, though some can provide challenge by making your avatar wield less advantageous weapons for their battles.
Also of note is the free Episode Shadow DLC. While cool to control our favourite black hedgehog once again, he does play exactly like Modern Sonic after all, his levels (All 3 of them) amount to little more than remixed existing stages. A nice touch is the ability to play as Shadow in Modern Sonic’s stages, so for Shadow fans, this is a win.
Plot wise though, it gives a little back story on Infinite in the run up to the main game. It’s the most consistent part of the story, at least, but again, entirely skippable if you don’t care.
Sonic Forces is by no means a bad game. It’s sadly also not going to blow your socks off. It’s an uninteresting, safe romp, with a mix-match story and ideas, held together by 3 gameplay styles, that with more time and depth added (Or just longer levels, who knows) could have been pretty good. Sadly, that isn’t the case as the game feels unfinished, as though content was cut, with moments where quite clearly something has been removed.
Overall, if you are a Sonic fan, sure, pick it up. If you are looking for a 3D platformer, you could do worse, but you can also do better. Sonic Forces is ultimately a forgettable experience.
As always if you enjoyed this review give it a share, let me know what you think of the game, and I’ll see you all next time! Happy Gaming!