Sonic Forces is an action-adventure platformer developed by Sonic Team and is the newest part of the Sonic franchise. There was a large amount of hype with this title as many fans thought it would finally break the curse of poorly made Sonic games. Fans were also ecstatic to learn you could also create your own character to play through the game as well. Unfortunately it doesn't quite hit the mark.
Players are able to create their own characters and help Sonic and his friends help take back the world that's been dominated by Eggman and newly introduced villain, Infinite. You race through 30 different levels fighting enemies and bosses while switching between characters in between. Although it looks and sounds pretty good overall the game is yet another failure and disappointment from Sonic Team. Repetitive gameplay, lackluster and nonsensical story, poorly-designed levels and many performance issues rear their ugly heads yet again.
Story writing has never been a true strength of the Sonic franchise overall. When it all began back in the early 90's it was about fast paced and inventive platforming gameplay. It was intended to be a rival to Mario.Since then the story has not progressed much past beating Eggman and saving the day. This title tries to make a worthwhile story but flops at literally every single attempt.
The main grab for the story has to do with new bad guy Infinite and his special ruby that gives him power over virtual reality constructs. In just one scene we see him sort of smack sonic around once then we are treated to a black screen with text saying that Sonic was defeated and Eggman has won. This confused me as we never got to see the world actually fall we're just told it's happening and expected to move on with the game. This is ridiculous as any good story shows as much of itself as possible to build the world and setting it takes place in.
Alas, Sonic's dear friends form some sort of resistance consisting of the normal gang of characters plus your own created character. Your character is tasked with taking back control from Eggman with help from Classic Sonic and eventually Modern Sonic . This is also strange and not well written as your character is given little to no motivation other than "Sonic is awesome and like our friend, please help!". It doesn't help that the new villain is nothing but yet another angst-filled bad boy who uses tricks to get his way. He also is not threatening nor interesting in any way to set him above past villains.
Sonic Team could've made something great here as an end of world plot line may have worked. The execution is just terrible though. The player is constantly berated with radio transmissions from the other characters talking about how dire things are or how someone just sacrificed themselves for the cause but we never see this. It's like a poorly-written radio drama. This makes being a part of the story a complete and utter drag. The player will find no motivation in the story line to play this title. It's just another run-of-the-mill Sonic story that is meaningless as compared to the gameplay. But, that isn't much better.
Although the story line will turn away most players the gameplay may make that decision even easier. The game is divided into a few different sections. One type of level has the player using Modern Sonic and going through large, harrowing levels to meet an end goal. Others put the player in the small, speedy shoes of Classic Sonic; trying to replicate the old-school days of classic Sonic games. This ranges from some old-school platforming to new ideas such as an anti-gravity section that is quite fun to play through You also play as your own created character using a grappling hook device to defeat enemies and meet and end goal. the player is also paired with a form of Sonic at times (mostly the annoying Modern one) to complete a level or fight a boss.
In theory this could have been a great formula. The problem is that the only fun you'll have here most likely is playing as Classic Sonic. Modern Sonic controls like garbage and your created character does not fare much better. Classic Sonic however controls pretty well and his levels are inspired and fun to play through. It's too bad that there are not nearly as many Classic Sonic levels as the others. I think Sonic Team did this purposefully as the previous game Sonic Mania was incredible and well designed overall. It's like they're not really all that confident someone will give their style of game any credit or attention when up next to the Classic sections.
The controls are also god-awful in this game unfortunately. The created character and Modern Sonic control terribly and never feel nearly as well designed as Classic Sonic and his controls. I constantly found myself fighting with the controls and falling into pits or being killed by enemies that should not have ever had the chance. Not to mention that I also had many experiences of falling off platforms and rails that were supposed to be part of a hands-off section to show off level destruction or some other aspect.
The bosses in the game are also boring and horribly designed. The game never truly tells the player what their objective is other than hit the boss until their heath runs out. This is difficult in certain places as you fight some bosses in high-speed sections and constantly are defeated by an some sort of arbitrary obstacle such as a wave of evil energy or not keeping up with the boss. This makes the game even less fun as the bosses are neither memorable or fun to beat.
One other strange thing about this game is that it feels supremely disjointed. Not just in the quality of levels between different characters but in how you're constantly stopped. The point of Sonic is to be fast and run through crazy obstacles. Instead you have to repeatedly stop to make jumps that never land quite right and frustrate you as a player . This bothered me as I would have fun running fast for a while then would come to a crashing halt because of some enemy or platforming section that required stopping. This betrays the design of a Sonic game as speed is now secondary to mediocre level design/gameplay.
Performance wise the game suffers also. My play time was plagued by multiple instances of slowdown and the occasional full glitch stop. I also glitched right through platforms or failed to connect to surfaces I should have. This made the experience overall not fun and something I dreaded coming back to time and time again.
Graphics and Audio
Although the gameplay and story are both atrocious in Sonic Forces the game does look great. Sonic Team is utilizing the Hedgehog Engine 2 which does a great job of showing both great graphical detail and also high-speed gameplay. The game is impressive to look at with multiple types of colors used and particle effects to help fill out the world. Classic Sonic sections of course take the cake here presentation wise. Each level looks amazing as a send up to the original games. They even have small design nods in the way Classic Sonic is animated and the levels themselves. The other levels are uninspired messes that all start to blend together after being forced to play through each multiple times
Audio wise the game sounds alright. The music is well implemented as are the classic Sonic sound effects of jumping alongside others. The voice-acting for the characters is not good either but shouldn't surprise many as it's not well known as a strength of the franchise.
This game could have truly been something special for Sonic fans. It could have been the game to break the curse of 3D Sonic games. It does not meet those lofty goals and instead falls flat as yet another underwhelming mess of a 3D Sonic experience.
This truly fascinates me as Sonic Mania had just come out prior to this game and was made for Sonic fans by Sonic fans. That game excelled where this game did not- It had heart and polish. I would not recommend new or veteran Sonic fans to pick up this title. Maybe the series needs a break before coming back again.
|+Looks great graphically||– Boring and nonsensical storyline|
|+ Music and sound effects sound great||– Uninspired boss fights and primary villain|
|+ Classic Sonic portions are fun||– Many poorly designed levels|
|– Overall design betrays Sonic design|