Sonic Forces is the second Sonic game to be released in 2017, following the release of the well-received Sonic Mania back in August. Whereas Mania focused on the 2D games of Sonic’s glory days, Sonic Forces keeps the series going forward featuring both Classic and Modern Sonic in a trend started back with Sonic Generations. Can Sonic Forces buck the declining trend and feature Modern Sonic in a good Sonic game?
I must admit that within the first few minutes of Forces introducing many of the supporting cast from over the years, my mind went from cautious optimism to “Oh God, not these guys again.” These are not an exciting bunch of characters outside of the main ones, and even Modern Sonic started to grate on me long before the game was over. Classic Sonic – the strong, silent type – is the best character in the game, aside from Avatar, which is a player-created character, and a first for the series.
But could these characters at least tell a good story?
Forces is very much a Sonic game; Dr. Eggman has come up with a new scheme to take down Sonic and take over the world. Eggman has called in all his favours though and recruited Chaos, Zavok, Shadow, and Metal Sonic from previous games, and a new enemy known only as Infinite. In the first cutscene, Infinite defeats Modern Sonic, and Eggman finally manages to complete his goal and take over most of the world. Eggman wins, shock horror. The game is off to a strong start.
With Modern Sonic gone, it forces the rest of his crew into hiding. They re-group under the original name of The Resistance and recruit a new member known as the Rookie/Avatar. Along with Modern and Classic Sonic – who magically appears through a wormhole believed to be the one from the end of the previous release Sonic Mania – the Rookie is the third player-controlled character in the game.
What makes the Rookie unique – for a Sonic game at least – is that you can customise them how you would like, by choosing from a base model and a small selection of clothing to create your character. As you progress you will unlock more clothing items; there are literally hundreds to choose from by the end.
Having a selection of characters means there are a variety of levels to play through, all of which are tailored to an individual character rather than being able to mix and match however.
Classic Sonic still has the traditional 2D designed levels that do not work as intended when combined with the physics and gameplay of Modern Sonic levels. It feels like he is jumping through treacle at times and this will be the main reason a lot of people fail the levels. Other than that though, there is no difficulty at all.
Modern Sonic and the Rookie have the 3D gameplay levels, but there is one thing that still sticks out like a sore thumb nearly 20 years after its’ introduction: The Homing Attack. It’s an element of Sonic games I still cannot get my head around. It feels awful, is massively unreliable and there is such an over-reliance on using it.
Thankfully the Rookie has a weapon slot for a new feature called Wispons. These are used for defeating enemies typically, but each have a special action associated with them as well; whether it allows for easier traversal or temporary invincibility is dependent on which you equip. One level in particular has a large section that can be completely bypassed by using the explosive jump function of the Burst Wispon. These need to be charged however by collecting Chaos throughout the level.
Again, these levels offer very little difficulty, and coming off the back off the deviously tricky Sonic Mania this is a shame.
Sonic Forces is another great looking Sonic game though. The cartoon style graphics look fantastic and even when Sonic et al. are dashing through the levels at breakneck speed, not once did the framerate stutter.
It’s also a great sounding game. All the synonymous sound effects for Sonic games are present again, but the soundtrack stands out as one of the best features in the game. The level select hub screen music invokes the (ever so slightly) darker tone of the game and the music even reverts back to a chiptune era when playing the Classic Sonic levels.
Due to Forces lack of difficulty, it can be very easy to breeze through the game in a few hours. Most levels take less than three minutes to complete a perfect run through. To extend the game, Sonic Forces introduces SOS Missions where other Avatars will need rescuing in a variety of ways. Some are hidden in the level, waiting to be found, but others will need to be used to complete the level. They pop up randomly throughout the adventure, but in essence all that is required is to complete the same levels over again.
Also included are level rankings and missions to complete, including daily missions. Completing a daily mission – which can be as simple as changing an item of clothing on your Avatar – will grant a score boost for 30 minutes. This boost makes the S ranking almost a guarantee at the end of each stage. And with each consecutive daily mission increasing the score boost, you may as well complete three or four in a row and then cruise to the S rankings with ease.
Another attempt to elongate the game comes in the achievements, the most difficult of which is collecting 100,000 rings in total. After my first run through the game I had collected less than 4,000 and with only a few secret stages to be found and played, this will be a huge grind to achieve. For an achievement that will take this long, there is far too little content.
Sonic Forces is the second Sonic game to be released this year to celebrate 25 years of the blue hedgehog, but it is far inferior to Sonic Mania. Forces continues the trend of Modern Sonic games being very average and not even an injection boost like Classic Sonic or the new customisable Avatar character can save this from being average at best.
The controls are clunky and cumbersome and I still don’t understand why, as this has been an issue ever since Sonic went from 2D to 3D. If you are a fan of Sonic you would do well to avoid this one and stick with Sonic Mania instead.