Ever since the release of Sonic Mania earlier this year, adoration for the long running franchise had been rejuvenated. After countless poor entries into the series, like Sonic ‘06, Unleashed, Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic Boom and more, fans just got tired of seeing their favourite blue blur being dragged through the mud.
Sonic Mania changed all that, giving fans exactly what they’ve been asking for: to return to 1995 when the series was at its peak. But SEGA just couldn’t let us fans be happy for a while, could they? No, they had to give us Sonic Forces to remind us that the Sonic franchise still belongs in the toilet.
On the face of things, Sonic Forces seems fun. It’s the same boosting through enemies as modern Sonic whilst 2D platforming with classic Sonic that people found enjoyable in Sonic Generations. But the more you play, the more you realise that the core formula has been mutated. Despite being essentially the same game, it feels much worse.
The biggest problem here is classic Sonic. His levels require much more precision platforming than the other characters; precision that’s almost impossible from the way the game controls. He’s prone to rapid acceleration at the smallest flick of the control stick, and his in-air control feels awful. Both issues often end with classic Sonic falling into a bottomless chasm.
Classic Sonic’s physics are also prone to some cock-ups. One area in particular during a Chemical Plant level shows that classic Sonic at full running speed isn’t able to get up a hill without slowing to a crawl. The game gives you the same Jump Dash ability from Sonic Mania, which is a nice touch, but Sonic shouldn’t have to use abilities to clear a simple fucking mound.
Modern Sonic isn’t exactly a joy either. Most levels can usually be accomplished by holding down the X button to boost, then watching Robotnik’s mechanoid henchmen get smashed to pieces. It was a nice spectacle in Sonic Unleashed, but it’s becoming boring now. Plus, certain stage transitions cancel your boosting without telling you, often leading to you running full speed into an enemy and taking damage. It’s frustrating to say the least.
The only new idea that separates Sonic Forces from the rest of the series is the character customisation. Here you pick a species with different abilities, dress them up however you like whilst equipping them with weaponry called Wispons, then sending them out on their own levels. While the base customisation, such as head and eye shapes, isn’t that deep, there are a lot of items to unlock during the course of the game. Guess that’s good news for any furries reading this.
The issue with the character customisation is the weaponry. Whilst the base weaponry includes things like a flamethrower or a lightning whip, their burst attacks show a lack of ideas. Activated by pressing Y after finding a power-up, Bursts are supposed to change how you navigate the level, often leading you towards collectables.
Whilst that is the case, some of these burst attacks are just so obvious, like the ability to create a platform underneath your avatar, or the ability to explosion jump like you’ve become Splosion Man. Perhaps the worst case is the Lightning Burst, which gives your avatar the Light Speed Dash. They’ve taken one of Modern Sonic’s core abilities and given it to the created character for no reason.
Though the gameplay has many issues, at least you don’t have to experience them for long. The game can be finished in around 5 hours maximum, whilst earning an S Rank in every normal stage. There’s still some replayability in finding all the collectibles and unlocking hidden stages, but they’re just more of the same bullshit you’ve spent 5 hours completing.
Despite all that, there are a couple of highlights. The Tag stages, where modern Sonic and your avatar team up and combine abilities, are the best stages in the game. Still, that’s hardly a compliment when the game has to give you the powers of two characters in order for you to enjoy the game. The music and visuals are also typically on point. Hardly surprising, as they’re one of the biggest reasons why Sonic is so popular. If you do buy this game, expect to have a few tunes stuck in your head.
In the end, Sonic Forces isn’t the worst that the franchise has ever been. That distinction will likely be held by Sonic ‘06 until the end of time. But being “not the worst game of the series” shouldn’t excuse a lot of the glaring flaws that Sonic Forces displays. Fans will defend Forces vehemently, but they shouldn’t. They deserve better.
Review copy purchased
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Sonic Forces could have easily been an unofficial sequel to Generations, whilst retaining the same enjoyable gameplay from the 2011 hit. Instead, SEGA had to mess with a winning formula, creating this abhorrent mess.
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