I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a massive Sonic fan. I grew up with a certain moustached plumber and Hylian so I have no nostalgia towards Sonic the blue hedgehog. That said, I have played a fair few of the Sonic games from the good (Sonic 2) to the bad (Sonic ’06) and one thing that’s always stuck out to me is that these games are all about speed, as they say – ‘you gotta go fast!’. One thing I did find was, as the games became 3D and more complex, the feeling of speed became lost and the game seemed to want to re-invent itself as a 3D platformer. The Sonic series has gradually gone back to its roots with Sonic Lost World being fast yet also modern, as it was in full 3D with an emphasis on collecting red rings.
However, this year Sega released one of their best Sonic games in years, Sonic Mania. The catch was, the game has returned back to its original 2D pixel art style and it was also developed by fans, rather than Sonic Team directly. Sonic Mania brought speed, enjoyment and very good platforming back into Sonic’s life – however, we all know good things don’t last forever. Sonic Team’s latest game, Sonic Forces, returns to the 2.5D + 3D format which Sonic Generations had utilised previously. It has both good and bad moments which I’ll get into below, however, a return to this particular format may not have been their best decision after the release of Sonic Mania.
In Sonic Forces, we begin with Sonic heading out to save the day – unfortunately, Sonic is defeated by Dr. Eggman (Robotnik) with the aid of Shadow the Hedgehog, Metal Sonic, Chaos, Zavok and a new mysterious villain called Infinite. Sonic is taken as a prisoner and Eggman takes over the entire planet with the help of his minions and his robotic army. Knuckles, Sonic’s friend, forms a resistance against Eggman’s army, along with all of Sonic’s other familiar friends, and hatches a plan to rescue Sonic.
The resistance recruits a new member, who they call the ‘Rookie’ and they break into Eggman’s Death Egg to rescue Sonic. Whilst this is happening, Tails is being attacked by Chaos when a portal opens up and ‘Classic Sonic’ appears and saves him. They overhear Eggman saying Infinite’s power stems from the Phantom Ruby and he has a plan to destroy the resistance within three days. It is now up to Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Rookie to venture through 30 main story missions and stop Eggman before he puts his plan into motion.
I’ll start off with the positives, as it does some things really well. The game looks gorgeous at times. The graphics are really nice, with plenty of effects on the screen, no obvious slowdown and running at a smooth 60fps. Digital Foundry said putting the Ps4 in sleep mode will cause the game to stutter but I never experienced this at all – however, I did obtain a day-one patch which they may not have had. The game itself is running on their ‘Hedgehog Engine 2.0’ – this is a newly improved version of the engine that Sonic Generations was running on, which makes sense as the gameplay styles are almost identical between the two games.
The music in the game was pretty good. It’s not as catchy as the original Sonic theme or the Greenhill theme tune, but I thought it did its job of getting you pumped for the level and creating a sense of speed – Seriously, if you turn off the music and play the game then it feels slow, but with the audio, it felt faster, even though it was technically the same game. The voice acting wasn’t the best I’ve heard in a game – I’m not sure if it’s the same voice actors as the new cartoon show, but some voices didn’t match the character. For example, Sonic didn’t sound how I thought he would, although that may be because I used to watch the cartoon show many years ago, so I have that voice imprinted in my head now.
Each level has five red rings hidden within them. You will find yourself having to slow down and go exploring to find all of them though, which ends up making the gameplay slower. You also have unlimited lives and can constantly respawn at the last checkpoint you found – rings are purely for points in this game, not for collecting 1-ups.
I like games with varying gameplay modes and different ways to play through the levels with different perspectives but I’m not a big fan of how they were implemented here. Again, I’m going to refer back to Sonic Generations – in that game you would play as Sonic (modern, behind-the-head 3D levels) and Classic Sonic (side on 2.5D levels) and I felt they worked really well, they were fast, responsive and fun. This game brings two similar variations to the gameplay style which I’ll explain below.
The first style we have is classed as ‘Modern Sonic’ – these are the behind-the-head 3D levels. I personally had the most trouble with these ones as I found myself constantly stopping to kill the enemies, miss-timing jumps, not seeing what’s ahead of me fast enough to react and I’m not a massive fan of the lock on the homing-jump attack. These levels will sometimes progressively change, between behind your head and side-on, throughout the level which looks really good as it happens as it’s all seamless and works really well. These levels are played as either Sonic, the Rookie or both of them together towards the end of the game.
The next style is the ‘Classic Sonic’ levels – these are all side-on and presented in a 2.5D style. I really enjoyed playing these levels, although I found it much easier to use the D-pad rather than the analogue stick to control my character. These will be played as either Sonic or the Rookie and were the levels I replayed the most – these levels had the sense of speed, the classic spin-dash attack and the ability to run through the level and easily attack and dodge enemies until you reach the Dr. Eggman sign at the end and spin it.
You will have noticed how I have mentioned the ‘rookie’ a few times throughout this review. The Rookie isn’t given a name because they are your Avatar which you create. That’s right, Sonic Team has decided that the thing Sonic fans really want is to create their own character. You start off with the choice of an animal (which changes the ears and facial features) and a few customisation options such as colour and clothing. After every level, you unlock new pieces of clothing and more slots to create more Avatars. Personally, I kept Avatar the same all the way through the game, only changing the weapon he had in order to make a boss fight a little easier (yes, you have guns that you can swap out, but only for the Avatar).
There is quite a lot to do in the game if you don’t just make a b-line towards the end of the main story. You have 30 story missions, three free Shadow the Hedgehog missions (DLC), SOS missions which pop up every now and again with a different objective and a few bonus missions. You also have access to a challenge menu that has a list of challenges which, if you meet the criteria, unlock more clothing for your Avatar once you complete the level you achieve the challenge in.
They also have daily challenges which offer a boost in XP for 30mins if you complete a task – this can be achieved up to 2 days in advance, but the reward won’t be given to you until the date stated on the challenge. This is most likely to get you to come back and play another day – in my case I have achieved a few A-rank missions yet if I play them tomorrow and do the same thing I’ll most likely get an S-rank as I’ve already unlocked a 1.7x XP boost.
Sonic Forces has come out at a bad time. Had it come out at a time where Sonic Mania wasn’t a thing then I’m sure it would be seen as a decent iteration of the Sonic franchise. With that said, it isn’t technically a bad game, it looks and runs great, it just tries too hard to be a bit of everything which in turn results in it being forgetful and lacking in a lot of areas. If you are a Sonic fan and really enjoyed games like Lost World and Generations then you will probably find enjoyment in this one as well, just don’t expect to be blown away.
- The graphics are really nice
- The framerate seems to hold up and not dip below a 58-60fps
- Fast paced and mood-setting music
- The Classic mode levels are good and play like they did in Generations
- Free DLC
- The story wasn’t very interesting
- Some of the best levels are over before you know it
- The 3D ‘Modern’ levels were a bit difficult to be accurate with jumping and manoeuvring in
- Price is a little too steep as the main story arc was over in 5-6 hours