Sonic Forces came out recently as the sequel to Sonic Generations, which is an absolute classic. Does the new one stand up as a worthy successor?
Let me preface this review by saying that I love Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog one the Master System was the first game I ever played and I’ve been a huge fan ever since then so I’m a little bit biased. I’ve almost 100%’ed Sonic Mania and I can’t count the hours I’ve lost to Sonic Generations so I was mad excited for Sonic Forces. That excitement did not last long.
Sonic Forces actually gets off to a pretty good start. You play a level as modern Sonic and then he gets his ass kicked by the new villain, Infinite. With Sonic gone Dr. Eggman is free to take over the world. Then you create your custom character and he stumbles his way into the resistance that the rest of Sonic’s forest animal friends have set up to get the world back in order. The story has a bit of a grim tone sometimes with Sonic being “tortured for months” in a cell on the death egg but the dialogue is cheesy and genuinely funny a lot of the time. I particularly liked Eggman’s line after Tails is dumbfounded by his power that shouldn’t exist because they destroyed the power source. “You’re always destroying my contraptions’ power sources… So I made a backup power source! Bwahahaha” It’s just so ridiculous but it’s funny.
It makes me wish they had just made a TV series or something because the plot has absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay. In between levels the characters all talk to each other and you’re told you need to go to the Chemical Plant because that’s where Eggman’s secret database is. So you go and run through the level then Tails is all “Good job Sonic, the database is destroyed.” How? I just ran and jumped over some things. Apart from their location nothing in the level has any relevance to the plot or the characters’ objectives. Now I know I shouldn’t be taking a Sonic game’s story too seriously but they put so much into it and it’s all over the place. It’s before and after levels and there’s even dialogue happening non stop during levels. The dialogue does at least distract you from the levels themselves, which is nice.
Sonic Forces’ gameplay is not good. You’d think it would be since they got it so right with Sonic Generations. This time instead of just classic and modern Sonic you’ve also got your created character who has a grappling hook and can be customised with different abilities. These abilities include using lightning to zip along chains of rings or using a rocket to launch yourself upward. Said abilities are activated after picking up a wisp during a level but good luck using them. You have about 3 seconds after picking up a wisp to use its power and most of the time you won’t even noticed you’ve collected it. That’s just a minor complaint compared to the game’s real problem. The controls are fucking awful.
Classic Sonic controls like a slippery rock. He drops like he’s got an anchor tied to him after a jump, loses almost all momentum if he hits an enemy while he’s in the air and he just feels clunky all round. One improvement though is the addition of the drop spin move from Sonic Mania. Modern Sonic controls just as badly. During his stages you better not run too fast or you’ll fly off the stage and die. There was on level in particular where I died about 6 times just trying to go round a bend. If you’re boosting Sonic will go too fast and fly off the first bend. I stopped boosting and somehow flew off the second bend. The 2D sections of modern Sonic levels are particularly egregious. Sonic builds momentum like nothing else. If he’s not moving and jumps, he’ll go maybe 2 feet. If he takes one step and jumps he could get to the other side of the screen. This does not mesh well with he precision platforming sections. It’s a really bad sign that one of the levels I died on the most was a slow auto scrolling section with no obstacles between the platforms. That took far more tries than it should have.
Your avatar doesn’t fare much better in the gameplay department. Apart from the wisps you barely get to use, the hookshot feels really unpleasant to use. I love games where you can swing like Spiderman. It’s one of my favourite mechanics in games. In Sonic Forces there’s a slight but very noticeable delay each time you use the hookshot. Your character will just sort of freeze in the air and it makes zipping through the air so unsatisfying that I ended up avoiding the hook points when I could.
I feel like I should talk about the custom character more because Sega clearly thought it was the best part of the game. You see you actually have a good amount of customisation options for them. Chance what animal type they are, which gives them different abilities, change their faces hats, gloves, body suits and shoes. You also get Wispons which are what give them powers in levels. There are 4 kinds; drill, lightning, burst and one that turns enemies into blocks. The Wispon you have equipped changes what Wisps you’ll be able to collect and use during a stage. This does add a bit of replayability to the levels as you can take a new Wispon in and unlock a different route or something but it’s not like you’ll want to go back anyway.
The clothes however are purely cosmetic but it’s fun creating the stuff that Sonic fanboys on deviantart have been dreaming about for years. As I said Sega seemed very proud of this because after every stage you unlocked at least 4 pieces of clothing and a bunch more if you happened to complete an optional “mission” during the level. Missions include “dash as modern Sonic” and “complete level 3.” I haven’t counted but there most be hundreds of them. That’s great if you like customising a character that has no name, dialogue or personality other than he goes fast like Sonic but has more abilities.
There isn’t much point in dressing them up because outside of cutscenes you’ll be lucky if you can even see them. Sonic Forces’ graphics manage to be boring and unvaried yet there’s so much going on everything blends together. Most of the levels are dark and painted in shades of grey and brown. I thought we got over that phase back in the mid 2000s when devs remembered there were more than two colours. I’m being facetious of course. Sonic Forces also has levels set in a big white city where everything is the same colour. You might think that’s the most bland thing they could come up with but then you haven’t heard the soundtrack yet.
It took me 4 hours to beat all 30 of the game’s levels and I can remember exactly one song. It’s the one that activates in stages where Sonic and the created character are running together and do a “double boost.” You have to mash the Y button and then they go super fast because of the power of friendship. This amazing butt-rock tune plays with lyrics like “you are next to me and I’m next to you/pushing on through til the battle’s won/ no one’s gonna get through us/into each other we put our trust.” It’s actually the best part of the game. Sonic is at its best when it isn’t taking itself too seriously and that part is just so cheesy I can’t help but smile. It’s a shame the song only appears twice in the game.
The rest of the soundtrack is not good. It just isn’t. It’s completely forgettable and a lot of if it just bad. The Chemical Plant Zone theme has been butchered. It’s one of the best themes in Sonic 2 and in Sonic Generations and Mania it was remixed really well. In Sonic Forces it sounds like the composer was told to make it sound as if it was made on old hardware but he thought that hardware was a broken soundboard he tore out of an old Mega Drive.
You know, I think that’s about all there is to say about Sonic Forces. The plot and gameplay don’t match at all except in how bad they are, the music might as well not be there and the one thing they tried to innovate on was a waste of time. This does not live up to Sonic Generations, which was not perfect but at least had a variety of well designed stages with good music and gameplay to boot.
If you’d rather read about a more pleasant Sonic experience, see our review of Sonic Mania.