Now, maybe I’ll comes across as a bit of a Sonic noob, but despite loving the idea of Sonic and his games, I’ve never been able to fully get on board with them. Even as a kid when I found the Mega Drive games to be insanely cool, playing them was a different story. I’ll set my stall out and say that my favourite Sonic game is Sonic Adventure, with the sequel being second. That may give you an idea of where I stand with the series. I bought and played Sonic Mania which I found to be a decent game and I was over the moon at what it provided for the real fans. Sonic Forces is a completely different beast however. Sonic’s never really worked that well in 3D, despite me loving Adventure which was acceptable for the time. The problem is, the series struggled to moved on gameplay-wise.
But let’s get out of the past and focus on the present. The most important thing right now is, is Sonic Forces a good game? Well, it’s alright. Here’s why:
The story is straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon show. Eggman is back, of course, this time with a bigger and badder ally, Infinite who thanks to a special thingymabob has helped him take over the world. Even Sonic and co. were defeated with the titular character gone and presumed dead, Tails discouraged and in hiding; it’s Knuckles, Amy, Rouge and all manner of old allies who are taking up the resistance. Obviously Sonic isn’t really dead and thanks to the aid of himself from another dimension, he’s back in the fight to take back the world from the grip of Dr. Eggman.
As has been spurted out in all the PR and hype, there are three types of gameplay in Sonic Forces. The first is 3D Sonic (he’s the one with longer legs and a voice) who you control in a mostly 3D plane in fairly restricted, linear corridors with a lot of on rails sections and “press boost to win” parts.
Then you have Classic Sonic (the short silent one) game style which is completely on a 2D plane as Sonic used to be back in the day, and many would state where he belongs. There’s not a whole lot to say here. He can do a drop dash but can’t lock on to enemy targets.
The mix of those two were fairly successful, at least from what I’ve heard, in Sonic Generations from a few years ago. But this entry introduces a third wheel to proceedings: the avatar. After the first level with Sonic defeated and missing, the ragtag group of freedom fighter headed by Knuckles vets in your created monstrosity. You can choose between different kinds of animals such as a bird, hedgehog, rabbit and so on. Interestingly each animal has some sort of different ability, although not too extreme to make gameplay completely different.
The avatar creator is a disaster waiting to happen though. The potential to create something truly horrific is high with this one. While at the begging there’s not a lot of clothes to choose from, the more levels you play, the more you unlock and the chance to put something truly ridiculous on your character increases. I’m not even sure why they put hats or glasses in the game because literally everything makes it horrifying. Saying that though, there are absolutely tonnes of options and you’ll be able to make something at least half credible, maybe even a little cool looking.
Your newly created character joins forces with Sonic and Sonic and quickly becomes a vital part of the team, even if everyone still calls him Rookie. What makes him different is that he’s a bit slower than modern Sonic and lacks most of his abilities. To combat that though, he does have a weapon and grappling hook. Along with the customisations, you can actually equip a few different weapons or “Wispons” as they’re known here and they all act rather differently. You have a flamethrower, a hammer, some weird void thing, a drill. They each have their own special ability that can be used if you collect enough Wisps of the corresponding colour.
At first this character really feels quite ropey. Your initial instinct is to play him like a beat ‘em up or a brawling game and so you do feel very uncomfortable at first. Once you realise however, that actually he’s not all that different from modern Sonic you begin to settle in more, getting used to his slightly different play style. I don’t think it’s quite the disaster I was ready for.
Spreading between three different gameplay types is a difficult task to pull off. Games often end up spreading themselves too thin, not having the time to focus on one style and polishing it to perfection, instead they often come out slightly undercooked. To give it credit though it does take you on a massive rollercoaster ride of environments and experiences. You bounce so often between play styles that you can’t rest or get comfortable or bored with one. Probably a move for the best. It does sometimes feel like a bit of a mishmash but they decent job balancing it out overall.
This, as a result, makes the story a little all over the place too. One minute you’re over here helping these guys, then your the Avatar doing this and doing that. It bounces around quite a lot which does hurt the narrative somewhat making it feel like a very rushed story. I still quite liked it though even if it was full of cheese. Cutscenes are well directed, voice acting and writing is top notch for what it’s going for and I was completely interested in what was going on. I never drifted off at any point which is quite unusual for me. It wouldn’t surprise me if a successful TV show came out of this.
One of the problems I found with Sonic Forces is that it just doesn’t come across like a triple A game like it should do. This is SEGA’s flagship series and should be their biggest release of the year. It doesn’t look like it though. Whether it’s the Switch version or not I don’t know, but it doesn’t look like it has the production value it should have. Environments and models are basic, lacking in both textures and polygons. A result of trying to let Sonic run at such a fast speed with a stable frame rate, no doubt.
It doesn’t bode well for the Switch version either which runs at a disappointing 30 frames per second compared to other releases. It does look lacking and, even though I’m not one of those who constantly asks for 60, it really would suit this release so much. There are lots of jaggies, even in the menus and it does look a bit unclean on a big TV. The cutscenes also have a somewhat compressed look to them which is more off putting than I’d like.
Maybe the Switch version is borked in many ways, but it does have one trick up its sleeve. Portable mode. You know what, Sonic Forces looks so much better when playing in portable mode than when playing docked. The smaller screen squishes everything together much nicer and it’s here that you can see what the Switch version really has to offer. Although I played it mostly on the TV for recording purposes, having it in tabletop mode was just great, even if it’s in 720p.
The music though is pretty good as you’d expect from a Sonic game. Some nice remixes of old tracks as well as some cheesy vocal songs, it’s got it all. I wouldn’t know where to place it in comparison with other Sonic games due to my lack of experience, but I did enjoy what the sound department had to offer.
Overall, it’s difficult for me to review Sonic Forces. I would never claim to be any sort of authority on it, I’m not one with the series, and I’m not entirely sure what the fans crave (saying that, they probably don’t know either), but what I do know is that Sonic Forces is a decent game that I enjoyed playing without getting overly thrilled about it like the character really deserves in this age. While it’s a fairly decent romp you can’t help but feel it needs to be more for such an important series that sells really well. With its release just a couple of weeks after old rival Mario who’s wonderful Odyssey just blows Sonic out of the water, you can’t help but give a sigh at what this title should have been. It’s a decent, fun game but it could have been more.
Game was purchased by the reviewer.