Sonic Forces Review – A Personal Journey
Game: Sonic Forces
Developer: Sonic Team, Hardlight (PC Version)
Published By: Sega
Available Platforms: Steam, PS4, Switch, XBox One
Reviewed On: PS4
This franchise, along with certain others, has been a major part of my childhood and helped shape the person I am today (I’ll touch on the others as the year progresses).
Sonic Forces released late 2017 and was seen as either “just okay” or ‘mediocre’, to put it nicely. The game was released alongside Sonic Mania to celebrate Sonic’s 25th anniversary.
Is the game truly bad? Is the game worth your time? Are people really blowing things out of proportion about this game with negative comments? Well now that the dust has settled and the game has had time to mature and air, lets examine this game for what it is.
Who knows, maybe we will have a diamond in the rough and while the general premise is not that much different from the usual thing you see in a modern game, I’ll respectfully avoid spoilers or at least major spoilers so you can experience the story beats for yourself.
As we load up the game, it starts us up immediately at green hill and three things become immediately apparent. The first thing is that tutorials are forced regardless of difficulty including if you revisit the stage later, a bizarre and lazy choice, we’ll painfully re-visit that later.
The second thing is, while it has some familiar aesthetics, it feels more like green hill in name only, this is a recurring theme for some stages throughout the game. It has some set pieces and visuals from the levels of the original Sonic games, but then incorporates the current developers’ own ideas and has been build on.
The last thing is how Tails and Sonic actively talk throughout the stage, also as the game progresses the characters will become increasingly chatty, talking about the situation in the level, which is rather rare in Sonic games, let alone to this extent.
Cut scenes later… we are instructed to create our alter ego or avatar.
If you have been a sonic fan for long enough or been a part of the community, you have most likely dabbled with fan or original characters, which is one of the biggest selling points of the game. Now keep in mind, you can borrow other people’s OC’s via the rental system, but your avatar and it’s appearance will be used on the games cut scenes where each character is involved.
Another thing to note (with the exception of a few choice levels in game missions), all levels ‘special missions’ the game assigns you, will reward you in a randomised fashion. These rewards are mostly clothing options for your avatar and I seriously recommend not looking ahead of time at these perks or it will drive you stark raving mad trying to get it done.
Just to give a more personal example, my childhood OC which I made, (because who wouldn’t want to recreate their OC if presented the opportunity,) is a distant relative of Sonic. His defining look is that he wears Knight’s armour. I know it’s in the game, and like a stubborn soul, refused to beat the game without it, because it was personal, so I exhausted nearly every level and mission I could possibly do before the last boss fight.
The 2 sets of gauntlets and graves showed up, but no armour in sight. It took a second play-through and beating the second to last level to pull it off, but I finally got a full set of golden armour, which was fitting, considering it was the end of the game.
Moral of the story – don’t look into what you can get and enjoy clothing options as you get them. There are a lot of neat options for your character and seeing what you get after a level or nailing a mission, makes for a rather pleasant surprise which leads to a lot of customisation.
Each race you pick from, has different perks, that can range from keeping some rings after being hit, double jumping, and drawing in all items and rings as if it’s Sonic’s boost in Sonic Unleashed, Generations, or colours.
Along with your clothing and race options you are given options for your primary weapon called a Wispon which gives you a colour power depending on which one you have equipped. They all behave differently and they do a good job taking out enemies, barring an exception.
A word of caution however, while you will amass different Wispons as you clear missions and some optional levels, some of them come with extra perks which can be good, but some of them are not so good in 2D sections because it will give your character an uncontrollable boost of speed and lead to a fair amount of deaths because of it.
It’s kind of hard to explain properly, but it’s similar to landing on a boost panel every time you touch the floor from a jump or fall. Just keep that in mind if you find yourself having trouble in a 2D section. Personally, I recommend the lightening Wispon, especially when handling 2D focused areas, but it’s best you play around and discover this in game yourself.
Overall, the avatar game-play is pretty good. It’s place on the story, I feel, is meant to be more self-indulgent to the player and a way to get the most from the sonic cast… almost a virtual handshake for playing the game.
The Blue “Blur”
Moving on, we cue in to classic Sonic who is the Sonic from Sonic Mania, not a whole lot can be said except, he is no longer pantomiming, he’s usually in the background in the scenes not really impacting anything besides doing his part, and if it wasn’t for the fact he is mentioned and he has his own levels, it’s pretty easy to forget he is even there.
The controlling aspect, much like modern sonic, is pretty stiff. He doesn’t get much momentum when he jumps, let alone bouncing off an enemy, and if you decide to spin-dash near a cliff, he will drop like a rock immediately. Fortunately, you have the drop dash which does help and rolling does build speed down anything you could possibly think is a downward slope. For the most part, his levels are fine, but feel a little under-cooked. Not much else can really to be said, which is kind of tragic.
After this point, you will notice a pattern this game will go, Modern Sonic levels, Avatar levels, Mania Sonic Levels,and the last type which has Sonic and the Avatar Working together.
Not much to note about the Tag Team stage besides you get the mechanics for both sonic and the avatar combined, moments where you get the double boost which will play the game’s main theme Fist Bump, and the only way you can light speed dash is if you have the lighting Wispon equipped.
As for Sonic’s stages, he’s the boost formula like we know and love, but unfortunately with a downgrade. For starters, Sonic no longer drifts on tight turns, like a car. Unfortunately, the game’s levels aren’t designed to take this into consideration, especially if you choose to boost in those situations. Ironically, the avatar is technically able to drift, but it’s with the aid of a grappling hook to make the tight turns. This is particularly baffling because, if you take away the Wispon and the grappling hook, the avatar is no different than Modern Sonic in terms of play style.
Another thing to note, this game has what may be the worst 2D modern sonic sections I have ever played and by the time you will be reading this, I have played every 3D sonic game up to this point.
Your jumps can easily be messed up, it’s legitimately harder to gauge your jumps, it is much heavier than past games, and while I can usually get used to the way most games mechanics differ from tweaking, the physics are seriously wonky. If you really want to see the worst example of this, check out one of the secret optional levels involving pots, and I’ll be here to comfort you when you rage and most likely keep raging after several re-tries from deaths where you will feel rather blameless.
Additionally, when moving faster, whilst it feels realistic, Sonic has a real tough time moving left or right or to be more precise, the acceleration for moving left or right isn’t very good in 3D sections unless it’s the avatar or a Tag Team stage which makes the lack of drift even more painful. Another thing that unfortunately doesn’t reaches it’s potential are the levels themselves, which are way too short for their own good (the only major exception to this rule are the later Mania sonic levels).
The fact that most levels can be completed in under 2 minutes even up to the last level isn’t a good sign. In fact, the games missions are a huge pointer, the Modern-come-classic Sonic levels can be zipped through even faster than that. If you are wondering what could be wrong with shorter levels, just keep this in mind – You are controlling a character that’s moving very fast and a ‘tradition’ at times for the levels is to have a display of their abilities and speed. In Sonic Adventure, it was the ‘Speed Highway’s running down the building segment’. The sequel had ‘grinding and being chased by an oversized military truck’ that wanted you dead, and the early boost era did this with the ‘quick step’ sections.
In the case of this game, boost sections where you ‘boost through hoards of enemies that are in your way’ are the problem and because you are moving so fast, you need larger levels to accommodate the rate you will be going through the levels. If this can’t be achieved, the level won’t really have a chance to really sink in and it will be in one ear and out the other. Some things just take that bit more game time.
Lets get into the positives first.
On the PS4, the game runs fairly well and pretty smooth with animations. The games cut scenes are also like the movie in terms of music cues and general feel. However, I can do without the ‘guest villain’ making poses that you would find in a ‘certain anime’ in almost every shot he’s in.
The games stage music depends on who you are playing as. Mania Sonic gives you genesis styled music, The avatar gets vocal tracks, and modern sonic gets Rock and Synth music. The music is pretty good, especially the latter levels, but unfortunately that’s the most I can say.
Remember how I said in one ear and out the other? While the songs are good, they are unfortunately rather forgettable to a point… for example I had to load up the game again whilst writing this review. It doesn’t help I have beaten the game once nor played through ninety eight percent prior to review, exhausted nearly every mission except the most insanely difficult speed-running missions, plus I listened to the songs before ever getting the game.
The only song I won’t be forgetting anytime soon is the games main theme ‘fist bump’ and for all the wrong reasons. It plays an instrumental version as the stage victory theme, it’s chorus in genesis form is the invincibility theme for classic sonic, said chorus, plays on the double boost segments, leitmotifs can be found on occasion, an entire level is the stage theme albeit it’s second half, and it plays on the end credits. If you are not a fan of the song, this isn’t going to be doing you any favours.
Signs of a Rushed Game
If you feel like this has gone on for too long, don’t worry, we are nearing conclusion.
As I’ve said a couple of times, this game has plenty of bizarre choices, forced tutorial-ism, incredible omissions and a couple of other things. To many people, the absence of lives are a welcomed change, however, there is no real punishment for losing lives at all in this iteration of the game, unless it’s a boss, so lets look at that.
The only thing that happens when you die in the game is you continue from your last checkpoint and you lose very little points during the score tally at the end of the level, so it doesn’t punish the player like past sonic games, plus, you don’t lose your entire score so it’s super easy to A & S rank levels, and there are super easy and convenient ways to mitigate this.
You can do daily missions which give you a score multiplier, keep doing them and the multiplier grows, with missions ranging from clearing any level or doing stuff with your avatar. You can also just flat-out select retry at any point (and I mean any point) which will reset your score. It also resets your timer and your retry count which takes away all penalty from deaths.
The levels are short enough anyway to the point where this valid option doesn’t sting nor feel punishing time-wise, you simply aren’t invested enough to care. The other bizarre thing is, on a first play-through, you noticeably have no ring cap, but if you do a new file afterwards, for whatever reason, the rings stop at 100. Getting rings while capped out are still adding to your score, only they won’t be able to contribute to the ring bonus. Why this has importance is, its one of the staple missions you get in the game, which rewards you with new clothes for your avatar along with new Wispons with perks and getting S ranks on levels and bosses.
With that said, did I find at least Sonic Force to be a bad game? The answer is amazingly No. As much as I have complained and possibly nit-picked, I see glimmers of a great game with a lot of potential.
The ‘lazy’ comment I said earlier wasn’t to say that they didn’t try, but rather the game feels like the development didn’t have enough time to become polished to reach a timeless standard because everything it sets out to do – let alone fully implement – just wasn’t quite reached.
However, the game is still rather fun for the most part, you can find a lot of mileage and personal enjoyment with the Avatar related content, and whilst some may roll their eyes with certain areas returning, they are mostly in name only and bring different ideas to the table.
I went into this game not sure what to expect. With that said, while I can cautiously recommend this game, I can’t recommend this game at full price, wait for a sale if you really want try it out, and if you can, get the physical bonus edition.