Sonic Forces launched this past Tuesday on 11/7/17, promising to take the 3D Sonic titles in a brand new direction and completely revamp the franchise. After months waiting for this new release, should you throw Sonic and company a fist bump, or run at Super Sonic speeds in the other direction? Let’s find out!
Note: My experience was based on a retail copy of Sonic Forces for the Nintendo Switch after the Day One Update. For very obvious reasons, there WILL be story spoilers in the breakdown section.
What I played: The entire main campaign and several bonus missions alternating between docked and handheld mode.
The Story So Far…
Eggman, or Dr. Robotnik if you were a 90’s kid, is up to no good as usual in what many are considering one of the darkest Sonic stories yet (honestly the tone is about as dark as Adventure 1 and 2 were). Dr. Eggman has succeeded in taking control over the entire world, save a small pocket of resistance fighters trying to turn the tide against insurmountable odds. The driving force behind Eggman’s success is a mysterious newcomer by the name of Infinite, who sports the coolest villain anthem since Biolizard in Sonic Adventure 2.
Everyone’s got to do their part to save the world, and that includes for the first time, you!
Three Modes of Play
Sonic Forces seeks to mix up the established formula by offering three heroes. The first is of course The Blue Blur himself. If you’ve played Colors, Unleashed, Generations or Lost Worlds you know what to expect. Modern Sonic will primarily speed through the same boost heavy 3D environments that you’ve grown used to. Wisps make a return to Forces, but don’t get too excited. Modern Sonic will only ever make use of Boost Wisps.
As someone who survived what I considered to be well thought out but poorly executed 3D segments in Sonic Unleashed, I can say that for the most part many of my control complaints have been alleviated in this installment. Boosting through the stages feels good and pretty responsive. You’ll make use of your homing jump more as a means of traversal than standard combat, and Sonic manages to stay in the lanes that you want him too…until you hit the later stages.
I hate to admit it, but I’m gonna cuz I’m unbiased even when it’s painful! I already had some concerns from the jungle level in Episode Shadow, but those concerns were validated in the worst way during the last few acts of Forces. The half-pipe segments felt very rushed at the end, to the point that even when drifting like mad I went flying over the side often times before I even saw there was a turn. In fact, it was so bad that in the last few levels I just stopped boosting entirely…
That being said, having played all of the 3D Sonic titles (though I admittedly never finished Lost Worlds or Colors), the Modern Sonic stages felt good overall. Not unlike Generations, there are 2D segments for Modern Sonic as well, though these did feel a bit like they missed the mark as a result of Modern Sonic not handling as tight as his Classic counterpart.
Likely to appease fans of Generations (sorry guys, I was not one of them!) and to make sure there was something for everyone, Classic Sonic makes his adorably pudgy return in Forces. Classic Sonic, as you no doubt would expect, has no 3D segments and controls how you would expect him too. There’s more weight to his movements, a bit more floatiness to his jumps, tighter control on his platforming, and a lack of Boost or Homing Attacks.
Classic Sonic runs slower than his Modern twin, but does have a few updates like the ability to charge a spin dash in mid-air.
Classic is not without his flaws (and admittedly Modern Sonic was my favorite to play as). I found a weird glitch where sometimes when I would go to jump from a stand still during a platforming section, Classic Sonic would just go rushing to his death instead. It wasn’t as though the game misunderstood my button inputs, I would push jump and he would literally just rocket through the ground at an angle and die. Thankfully this only happen three or so times over the course of my full 5 hour playthrough, but it was still pretty frustrating, especially when you consider that a single death costs you an S-Rank and by extension new outfits for your player character.
Last but not least, is your player character. In Sonic Forces you get to pick from one of many races, each with their own unique abilities. There’s the wolf, bear, cat, hedgehog, rabbit, bird and dog. My hero was a green wolf I named Riot the Wolf because in Sonic you positively must use your race in your name unless you’re a bad guy. For picking the wolf, I gained the ability to draw rings to my body instantly (the description says items, but, I never saw anything beyond rings hover over to me).
The character creation is serviceable. One thing that would have gone a long way to making the experience more personal would have been a color slider instead of pre-made colors. I wanted Riot to be green, but that shade was way lighter than what I wanted, yet the darkest one available.
Your hero is a silent protagonist, so get used to hearing “Partner”, “Buddy” and “Rookie” a lot. I didn’t mind, except for one line from Sonic late game that was kind of accidentally hilarious.
Your hero is understandably not as fast as Sonic (duh), but what he (or she) lacks in speed he makes up for with ingenuity! I came across 7 different weapon types in my playthrough, though admittedly I used the lightning whip almost exclusively. You begin with a flamethrower which is way more fun than it ought to be (BURN HENCHMEN, BUUUURN!!!), but will soon unlock the whip, the cube, the giant drill and more. For beating the game, I unlocked the Void cannon, which my new heroine Faith the Cat will get to try out after this review.
The player character sections vary between 3D and 2D styles. Both play pretty well, and honestly seem to have had the most amount of love poured into them. Racing through the stages feels good, the combat fulfills its purpose and is fun enough, my only real complaint was that every time you have to use your grappling hook (which is pretty frequent), you come to a near complete stop which really breaks up the momentum.
But wait, on Twitter you said you love this game!
Shoot yeah I do, are you kidding me? Sonic Forces was an absolute blast! I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, save the half pipe deaths that weren’t my fault and a few narrative choices that I found to be lacking.
I don’t regret my purchase even a little bit; I plan on beating the game from scratch with every race and unlocking all of the outfits and everything. But, I’m not here to be biased. I’m here to be honest. And, being honest, Forces is middleware. It is far, far, far from the worst Sonic game you’ve ever played (I personally didn’t like Sonic 4 or Heroes even a little bit), but if you were hoping for this to be the game to save Sonic from the shadow of mediocrity he’s fallen into in the public eye, well…you’ll be disappointed.
Because, you see, Forces is a game filled with the brilliance of what could have been. One of the bigger problems is the length of the stages. Now, the game has a very respectable 30 levels not even counting the bonus missions, but, each of these levels is about 3 to 4 minutes long. Some can even be cleared in as few as 2 minutes.
As I played through Forces, I saw the brilliance that a few more months of polish could have brought to light. In particular watching the drama play out between Infinite, Sonic, Shadow and the player character felt cheapened for how swiftly the game rushed to its conclusion. In the modern era of gaming, this is something DLC may address (especially after an utterly bizarre ending that I’ll go over in a bit), but it shouldn’t have to.
I found boosting to be quite enjoyable, but after all the “Wisps are back” talk I really expected more. And, with as much as your hero was played up as making up for their lack of natural ability with ingenuity, I thought there would be a far larger variety of weapons.
But again, I personally loved Forces, and will beat it again at least once before Doom comes out on Friday. However, you’re not here for me to tell you to drop $40 just because I adored the game; you’re here for me to be honest with you (and to update you on Dragon House Studios projects, which will come this weekend).
So, what are some other good points about the game?
Tag Team Levels Made me Nerd Out so Hard!
I didn’t like the theme song “Fist Bump” (or the closing theme either for that matter), but hearing Sonic address my character first as a mentor, then as equals had me bouncing around with excitement! Watching my hero fight alongside the Blue Blur was epic.
Villains That Came to be Villains
There’s no “I didn’t mean to” about it; Eggman is here to bring chaos and death, and Infinite is well and above on board with that. This was the first time since the SatAm universe that Eggman was genuinely kind of scary, and Infinite though suffering from plot shackles was the first truly frightening Sonic villain since…well…ever.
Dat’ Soundtrack Tho!
As I said, and I’ll say it as kindly as I can…I was…not a fan of Fist Bump or the closing theme. That being said, oh my goodness the vocal tracks for the player character melted my brain with their awesome. I’ve had the player character level songs on repeat for about three weeks now. Hearing the Modern Stages redone in 8 bit for Classic Sonic was neat, and Modern Sonic had some pretty great songs too.
And, of course, as a huge Shadow fan I nerded out hardcore at his remixes as well.
So where does that leave us?
I’ll give my verdict here before going to the spoiler heavy breakdown section. Personally I can’t recommend Forces enough. I critiqued it hard, because I endeavor not to be biased. For me personally though, for there to be a game in 2017 that wasn’t hyper sexualized, didn’t have you drawing on demonic power, and didn’t go out of its way to slam Christianity, that already got me hype.
Add in that I’m a huge Sonic fan, I fell in love with the soundtrack, the narrative was interesting for the most part and the gameplay while varying between “okay” and “pretty brilliant” was still solid, and you’ve got something worth a purchase in my book.
Sonic Forces is unfortunately an average game with above average moments and stellar ideas that never quite come together. Being my most fair, it’s a
7 out of 10
+Graphics are still pretty great on the Switch (which is locked to 720p and 30 FPS)
+Moments of inspiration
+Making my own character was fun
+Knuckles finally got to be cool again
+30 levels far exceeded the number I thought it’d have (not even counting the bonus missions, bonus stages and daily challenges)
+Hero stages were well designed
+I wanna poke Classic Sonic in his cute little tum tum
-There are times that the game will fling you into oblivion, generally in the later stages
-Narrative starts strong, then rushes way too fast to an ending it didn’t earn
-Sonic Team once again had no idea what to do with most of the side characters (which, not really their fault since fans go crazy any time it isn’t just Sonic)
-Moments of brilliance dotting an experience that is otherwise either average or above average
-Levels are entirely too short
-A few anti-climactic boss fights
-Speaking of boss fights, you don’t even actually get to fight all of the villains the game teases…
Now for the Breakdown! There will be spoilers! You have been warned!
Okay, so I’ve got to come right out and say it; Infinite was both the best and the absolute worst part of this game. Infinite shows up and right off the bat establishes how scary he is by beating Sonic unconscious with zero effort:
Infinite then just proceeds to be stupid for the rest of the plot, because he presents a problem. He’s stronger and faster than Sonic, so the only way for Sonic to not die is for Infinite to come down with a case of the Vegeta’s and monologue a bunch then decide people aren’t worth killing.
What’s more, I still have no idea who he is or why I care. Sure, I didn’t read the prequel comic books on the Internet, but I shouldn’t have to after plunking down $40 for the game.
Infinite becoming Infinite is shown in Episode Shadow, and it amounts to “Shadow slapped me around and said mean words to me”. Nothing involving Infinite’s soul shattering hate for Shadow ever comes up again after those three prequel stages, and they give us a glimpse at a far scarier villain than the main story shows us.
Then there’s the relationship between Infinite and the hero:
A dark relationship is teased between Infinite and your hero, that never goes anywhere at all. We see in a flashback that your hero was hunkered down with a few other citizens trying to survive Infinite’s onslaught. In a surprisingly dark scene, Infinite slaughters everyone around you, leaving just you alive. Your hero staggers back fearfully and falls to the ground as Infinite taunts your weakness and despair.
He offers you for his own amusement the chance to run, giving you his word that if you run away he’ll let you live. We see Infinite’s eye pulse and glow at that point, and as your hero is stuck between fear and hate, one of their eyes changes colors also (my character, Riot, has purple eyes, but the cutscene made a point of showing one of his eyes turning crimson as he stared up at Infinite).
Some kind of connection between you and Infinite is teased, or the possibility of you using some hidden power later, but, literally nothing happens beyond Infinite mocking you for running when you go to face him later in the story.
During the big war scene at the end, or right before it, we see…something happen to Infinite. I still have no idea what. He loses to the combined forces of the two Sonics and the player character, he cries out that he’s not done yet, then he gets whisked away to Eggman’s lair and…
You never see him again.
Maybe he died?
Maybe he got absorbed to make the last boss robot more powerful?
I have no idea.
He’s just gone. This guy billed as Sonic’s greatest threat yet just…unceremoniously disappears and or dies off camera. There’s no tease that he might still be out there, no post credits eyes shining in the darkness, just…he went from the guy who near beat Sonic to death, to…the guy who got beat up then disappeared I guess.
Speaking of the anti-climax of the narrative, we race to the end and have a fairly underwhelming last boss fight after not even getting to fight Shadow or Chaos (though let’s be fair, the fight was no less underwhelming that Biolizard or Perfect Chaos, yet it felt so much worse for what I’m about to mention).
What makes the final fight with Eggman so much more dull is the fact that this is the first Sonic game I can recall since the original with no super transformation for the final battle. Eggman tells us his robot can’t be harmed, Tails confirms this, then we jump into it a lot and break it. Then we win.
No Super Sonic, and another missed opportunity, no cool looking transformation for your hero either, despite your hero being the only one able to counter Infinite’s powers. Now, maybe something cool will happen if I finish every bonus mission, but, from what was presented to me this is just where the game leaves off.
Again, I don’t regret my purchase and this game is still a solid 7 in my book, but there are definitely areas of opportunity. What do you think? Comment below! I’m out!