It’s been a good year for Sonic with the release of Sonic Mania, one of the series’ all-time greatest entries, and so Sonic’s latest 3D offering had fairly high expectations to live up to. Whilst it struggles to reach the highs of past Sonic games, this entry isn’t all bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.
Sonic Forces begins on a bleak note with Sonic being defeated at the hands of Dr. Eggman, and Eggman then takes over the world. Given three days to live before Eggman wipes out all life, the survivors consisting of Knuckles, Tails, Shadow and more are struggling to counter-attack. When they hear news that Sonic is actually alive and is being tortured by Dr. Eggman, they quickly rescue him and with Sonic back, they finally begin to save the world. The story is pretty dark although, as a kid’s game, don’t expect anything too heavy — it’s standard fare with the hero saving the world from a comical villain, after all.
My main issue with Sonic Forces is that it feels like it plays itself. The boosting mechanic takes away all control from you and destroys any enemy in your path, making it incredibly easy to just zoom to the end. For the most part, each stage lasts roughly 2-3 minutes and present little challenge. The game even handles most of the turning for you and although it’s always been a criticism, only now have I truly felt that Sonic has been little more than simply moving forward.
In spite of this, I still had a lot of fun with it and it has released at a budget price, but it’s frustrating that Sonic Team have created a game that essentially plays itself. I understand children are the target market, but Sonic is still very popular and is fondly acknowledged as an iconic character spanning decades. The main story only lasts around 4-5 hours too, so it’s not very long and there isn’t much in terms of replayability unless you’ve either really enjoyed the game, or want to aim for higher scores on each level. Sonic Forces lacks the wildly different routes that Sonic Mania offers, and ends up feeling like a much smaller game despite it’s clear intent to be bigger.
You can play as Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and, for the first time, as your own custom character, and the three offer different playstyles. Modern Sonic and your avatar suffer from the same issue in that the focus on speed means that the game more or less plays itself for you, and Classic Sonic has physics which simply do not feel right. He slips around too much, but when he jumps he feels very weighty — I don’t remember him feeling so off in Sonic Generations. Sonic Forces feels as if it didn’t have much time in development, and it’s clearly not the passion project that Sonic Mania is.
Sonic Forces feels very smooth and looks wonderful, and I’ve really enjoyed it aesthetically. The unique take on familiar zones in making them war-torn, or left deserted, is exactly what you’d expect from Sonic. The fixed camera angles help to make the game feel cinematic but, again, it’s no surprise it feels so smooth considering that much of the gameplay feels pre-determined. Gorgeous visuals, although the character models during cutscenes can look a little rough, are hard to enjoy due to the speed of the game and how brief the missions are. It’s a shame, because what really lets Sonic Forces down is its gameplay — it’s narrative isn’t amazing, but it’s serviceable.
One thing Sonic has always had is a jamming soundtrack, and Sonic Forces’ soundtrack is brilliant. The game’s main theme, Fist Bump, and its piano variation, as well as Infinite’s theme make for incredibly catchy tunes. Various remixes of familiar songs are great too, and you won’t hear me knocking the arrangements. The voice-acting is solid with many of the series’ long-running voice-actors and actresses returning for this installment. Roger Craig Smith is a delightful Sonic!
Sonic Forces isn’t an awful game, but it’s not particularly outstanding either. It isn’t the best 3D Sonic game, but it isn’t broken in any way either. Design decisions and a lack of gameplay are what really hurts Sonic Forces and in 2017, I expect more from one of gaming’s most revered series’. Kids will love it and Sega have done right by releasing it at budget price (you can pick it up for £24 on PS4 at some stores) and so the content on offer is decent, but it’s a shame that the content doesn’t give you proper control of it.
I enjoyed various elements of Sonic Forces as a big fan of the blue blur, but Sonic Team can certainly do better. I hope their next effort spends more time in development, because this could’ve been something special.