As a long time Sonic fan, I was bummed that I didn't get to review Sonic Mania a couple of months ago. I just didn't have the time to dedicate to it, but made sure to carve out some time for the blue blur’s return to the realms of 3D, in Sonic Forces.
Doctor “Eggman” Robotnik has created a new weapon, the being called Infinite, and after swiftly defeating Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik takes over the world. Well, 99.9% of it, according to a handy graphic which pops up. There’s a short text sequence explaining how the world fell quickly beneath Robotnik’s rule, and we join the action six months later, when someone from “the city” is due to join the resistance…
And that’s where your brand new completely original character (DO NOT STEAL) comes in. Despite what we will learn is a resistance movement numbering in the thousands, there’s special attention brought to your avatar joining the core team. That’s Knuckles, Amy, Silver, Espio, Charmy and Vector - and now you, rookie! So come on, buddy, get your flamethrower and grappling hook, and destroy some badniks! Oh, and that other Sonic from Sonic Generations is here, hanging out with Tails because he believes the real Sonic is dead.
I have a couple of complaints about Sonic Forces, but the main one is how big a deal the established characters make of your avatar. They very easily trust you, send you on important missions alone, and by the end of the game you’re revered as greater than Sonic himself. It felt like fanfiction, and I’m uncomfortable playing a character in someone else’s fanfic.
You unlock costume items as you complete levels, which allows you to dress up your avatar (which can be a bear, rabbit, hedgehog, wolf, bird, dog or cat depending on what power you want it to have, such as double jumping). It’s a bit of fun, and changes how he or she looks in cutscenes, but that’s it.
There are four types of level; Sonic 3D, Sonic 2D, Avatar and Sonic & Avatar. In a somewhat Sonic Heroes move, that final type has your character running alongside Sonic, and the two of you switch places seamlessly as required. There’s only a few of them, but they are a pretty fun change to what you’d expect from a 3D Sonic game. Between levels, you might receive an SOS from an already completed one: red, green or blue. Depending on the colour, you either need to rescue the avatar, or just use it to complete the level.
As mentioned, the Classic Sonic “from another dimension” is back, for reasons never fully explained, and has his own levels to play through at Tails’ behest. Where the other levels have a mix of 2D and 3D sections, all of his are 2D sidescrollers. After blasting through levels with double jumps, homing attacks and a hammer, it’s really off-putting to suddenly have to struggle with a single jump and an unreliable spin attack. No lie, apart from the final boss, I spent most of my time dying in Classic Sonic’s levels.
That said, the main story will last about four hours, and that’s with plenty of time spent dressing up your avatar. Completing levels unlocks up to six new pieces of kit, more if you achieve an S-ranking, and even more if you fulfil an optional mission such as a time limit or using a particular weapon.
Yes, I keep mentioning weapons, and I can imagine some of you are having flashbacks to Shadow the Hedgehog, but rest assured it’s not a handgun that your avatar uses. Though from the looks of cutscenes, those are readily available in the world… No, your character is equipped with a Wispon, which basically weaponises the Wisps from Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World. There’s a bunch of different types, but the most common ones you’ll unlock are the Burst and Lightning ones. Each has an attack ability (the Burst’s aforementioned flamethrower) and a Wisp ability (such as Lightning’s ability to fly along a path of rings), though for the Wisp ability you need to charge them up by collecting the specific Wisp for that weapon.
The Wispon’s make Sonic Forces levels more replayable, as you can only find certain Wisps along some paths, so if you have the wrong one, you will miss one or more of the five red coins scattered throughout each level. You may also want to replay the levels to get an S ranking, and thus more outfit options for your avatar.
Not that getting an S-rank is difficult. I can honestly say that Sonic Forces is the only game I have completed on Hard. Your only other option is Normal, but for once I decided to try Hard, to see just how hellish it was, and the answer is not very. As I mentioned, I finished the game in about four hours, and the most difficult part of that was the final boss stage, which took me over 15 minutes. That’s at least five times longer than any other level.
Speaking of the final boss, when evil is defeated and good regains control of the planet, I have no idea what happened to the bad guys. Robotnik and Infinite aren’t seen in the final cutscene, nor a post-credits scene. Classic Sonic just fades away for some reason, presumably heading home, but it’s still very unclear what he was even doing there in the first place. Also, early on you see that Infinite has seemingly teamed up with Zavok, Metal Sonic, Shadow and Chaos - yet those last two are meaningless. You never fight them, which bugged the heck out of me. There are 30 levels (and six bonus/secret ones) and only a few boss fights…
I know I’ve been pretty negative so far, so let me tell you what I’ve loved about Sonic Forces. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. Sure, there’s a little bit of dubstep, but I don’t hate it. There are a number of songs, as well orchestral music, but when Fist Bump kicks in it feels absolutely epic.
Despite my complaints about the avatar being cheered, some of those levels do give you heck of a rush. It’s a Sonic game, you want to be moving quickly, and most of the 3D levels manage that very well. I had a few occasions of flying off of the level, but honestly they were just me jumping at the wrong moment. The boss fights are also pretty good, though there’s a couple too many “run along the very long road to catch him, then hit him” boss fights. There’s three - so, literally two too many.
Finally, Infinite was a great villain. Very menacing, and when he was around the comedy was dialed way back. Unfortunately, when you see his origin in the Shadow prologue levels, it ruins how badass and evil he is…
Overall, the game is pretty solid and well put together. I didn’t get any glitches, and I enjoyed it (except those 2D levels…), while listening to the fantastic soundtrack. The story falls apart, characters are introduced for literally no reason (then disappear just as inexplicably), and those 2D levels are just awful… But It’s not an awful game, and at least there’s no Werehog in this one.
If you’ve gotta go fast, and Sonic Mania is a bit too difficult for you, then Sonic Forces is a competent 3D adventure. Just turn your brain off, plug in a controller, and run. There are daily missions too (such as changing your avatar’s gloves), so you can get an XP boost to unlock more costumes.
Sonic Forces (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
There is too much wrong with Sonic Forces to recommend it to everyone, but if you’re hankering for 3D Sonic, and you’ve finished every other Sonic game, then check it out on sale.