It’s no secret that Sonic has been having somewhat of a midlife crisis as of late. Since an attempt to reboot the series back in 2006, an attempt which has gone down as historically one of the worst games ever made – Sonic has never truly found his feet since. Although in 2011, to celebrate his 20th anniversary we were treated to Sonic Generations which looked like a true return to form.
So, why would I be talking about a 2011 game to start talking about Sonic’s most recent adventure? Well, Sonic Forces feels like a direct sequel of sorts to Generations, a lot of the gameplay styles that made that game special make a return here alongside a new twist that changes things up significantly, but the question falls down to, is Sonic Forces a worthwhile entry to the series?
The story begins with Sonic relaxing in the all too familiar area of Green Hill. Things seem to be going well before Sonic receives a distress call from Tails. Racing through Green Hill he starts to notice changes in the environment. The once green area has now been flooded with sand and a bunch of enemies and, upon reaching Tails, he’s greeted by a new foe, one that defeats Sonic.
The game then skips ahead 6 months and, with Sonic presumed dead, Eggman has taken over the world. Upon learning that Sonic is actually alive and imprisoned on Eggman’s mechanical spaceship the Death Egg, the surviving cast of Sonic’s friends form a resistance and task their newest member, you, to help them board the Death Egg, rescue Sonic and bring Eggman’s reign to an end.
I personally found the plot to be overly far-fetched and complicated for a Sonic the Hedgehog game, but the gameplay remains faithfully constant. Sonic Forces controls exactly how you’d expect a Sonic game to control – you run at incredibly fast speeds, pressing B to jump over obstacles. The same button will allow you to use Sonic’s iconic homing attack on enemies to kill them, but these controls only apply to modern Sonic. Classic Sonic and your very own created character have their own set of controls that are also very easy to get used to and the game will always give you control prompts at the top of the screen to give you suggestions on how to proceed.
Speaking of custom characters, these are fully customisable from the clothing they wear to the kind of Wispons they use. Wispons come in different elements, for example, fire Wispons will come in the form of flamethrowers that you can fire for extended periods of time to burn through waves of enemies, while electronic Wispons will come of the form of a whip which will take out any enemies within a close vicinity.
You unlock new customisable items for your avatar by completing stages and a list of goals, which can be found on the games map screen. These vary from gaining an S rank in stages to completing a stage within a certain amount of time. Unlocks are also hidden behind an XP system – which you earn by completing stages. You will level up as you progress, but this doesn’t provide any stat increases to your character and just appears to be in the game as an attempt to include a progression system.
The story progresses via conversations between each level that are presented in text boxes akin to those found in Starfox with spoken dialogue as well as fully voiced cutscenes which, unfortunately, aren’t very well voice acted. The cutscenes do look fantastic however and the animation is very well done.
While I did enjoy the majority of the levels in Sonic Forces, the latter third of the game seems to be rushed – with levels feeling rather uninspired. This left me a little concerned that Sonic Forces may have been rushed to market. Some of the earlier levels are also incredibly easy and seem to play like an auto-runner, where the only interactions you need to do are jumping and boosting through enemies along the way.
Some of the better aspects of Sonic Forces, in my opinion, were the graphics and performance of the game. Whether in docked or handheld mode Sonic Forces both looks and feels great to play. My only complaint in this area would be Modern Sonic’s jumping – which can often feel far too floaty and, in some of the poorer examples of level design, can also end up causing a few unnecessary deaths.
Some of the levels in Sonic Forces are great fun, with a few of the set pieces being the best of any Sonic games from recent memory. One particular stage has an interesting part where it looks strikingly similar to the Death Star trench run from Star Wars and it was an absolute joy to play through. On the other hand, however, Sonic Forces has six different boss fights which were all far too easy in my opinion and these were definitely my least favourite part of the game.
To summarise, Sonic Forces isn’t a disaster like Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 however, at the same time, you won’t find the same nostalgic joy that Sonic Mania provided just a few months ago. What we’re left with is a Sonic game that is very by-the-numbers and, besides, the story plays things rather safe. It’s not perfect by any means but there was still enough for me to have at least some fun with. I’d say if you’re an existing fan of the series then it’s definitely worth a try but newcomers may find it difficult to enjoy.