Before I move forward with this review, I have to say that Sonic is my second favorite IP. I’ve grown up with Sonic and fell in love with the gameplay, despite the history of bad, laughable games that have been given to us by SEGA. With that being said, Sonic Forces was one of my most anticipated games of the year, and I finally got the opportunity to play it.
Sonic Forces reuses the Boost mechanic from Generations and Unleashed in which you have a gauge in which you can greatly increase your speed to get through obstacles, destroy enemies, and speed through the level quicker. There are three characters: Modern Sonic has a Generations-esque gameplay, your avatar character with a build your own experience gameplay style, and classic style which revitalizes the 2D platforming we’ve seen in many entries before.
There are 30 levels in this game. The most that we’ve seen in a Sonic game since Sonic Adventure 2. Which leads us to my first and major criticism. This game can easily be beaten in 2-3 hours. Excluding the final boss, the longest level I have played is about 2 1/2 minutes, with some levels (excluding bonus stages) being around 45 seconds to a minute. Two hours for a main series game should not be sold at a price point for $40, for any reason other than collector value.
Alongside game length is the gameplay itself. Previous iterations such as Generations and Colors had sprawling maps where you can take different directions towards accomplishing the never changing goal of a platformer, reach the end. But in gameplay, I find myself boosting and jumping on occasion, and then a minute and a half later I’m done. Where is my gameplay? It feels entirely lacking. I think this spawns from one lead level designer and two freshly level designers hired to plan an entire game is the problem. The aesthetics of the level are mediocre at best, but the routes and creativity in the gameplay has me consistently referring to this game as “Sonic Hallway.”
When you traverse through a level, a platformer should have a sense of wonder and adventure, as the level should tell some sort of story, as simple or as complex as possible. Above all, there should be some sort of challenge associated with the levels, which I did not get any feel for whatsoever until the very end of the game, specifically levels 25-30. Most levels might have one or two twists or turns, but as soon as I collect a red emblem, I convene right back on the main path.
The avatar customization, I must say, was a good idea on SEGA’s part. As comical as the fanbase is, being able to create your own custom character and unlock different outfits and upgrades to your whisps (powers) deserves recognition, as you get that sense of progression and entices you to WANT to continue the gameplay. Each animal has different abilities such as dropping less rings, dropping their own rings, or getting a slight speed boost. Alongside this you also have over 500 (I think, I’ve almost platinumed the game so I don’t have a specific number) accessories that you can choose from INDLUCING SEGA/PERSONA gear and Sanic meme tshirts.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as the customization takes you. Once you take control of your avatar, your wisp is entirely overpowered. You face a group of ten enemies, use your whisp and desolate all of them effortlessly. A few whisps that allow you to light dash and hover in the air are fun to use, but ultimately most of the whisps are useless in situations where they can be used.
Combine all of this with the homing attacks, and I have to elaborate on how badly these “quick time events” are executed. There are a small portion of in-level cutscenes that require quick-time events. But what happens if you fail these quick-time events? 90% of the time the answer is nothing. You end up not getting points and falling to wherever the next checkpoint is. It feels like the game is playing itself. I should also note that as long as you press the action button you can execute every quick-time event with precision and progress though the level.
Classic Sonic is also brought back in this game, and his revival is more of a nuisance than a fun experience. His odd jumping gravity makes him almost impossible to use without spending a good bit of time getting used to his jumping mechanic. Thankfully, the Classic Sonic levels are actually more diverse than the Modern Sonic/Avatar levels in different paths you can take. Granted, it’s much easier to make a top and bottom path, but at least I felt some sort of purpose in going back and discovering different options in pursuit of the end goal.
This might come off as a little bias, but the most irritating thing in this game for me is the “end-game” if you could call it such. Exactly like in Generations you can collect the red emblems again to gain unlockables for your avatar. BUT, after you retrieve the emblems, you are given the task of finding five numbers in order through the level as another task. This sounds really good on paper, but in practice most of these numbers are in a straight line from each other. After you collect the numbers you get to collect “silver moons” that are essentially the same thing except they disappear after a small while. I feel like this was done entirely effortlessly as a last minute decisions to lengthen the game and make players think we have much more to do, when in reality we are just replaying the level twice more. I would’ve much rather appreciated Generations approach of recreating the level and having a specific goal of “collect 100 rings”, “Do not take any damage”, etc.
Despite all of these flaws, I can not say I didn’t have fun playing it. If the game was longer than it was, I probably couldn’t say the same thing. Unfortunately, this game feels more like a $20 game than a $40 release, which has already dropped in price. It’s especially odd to see some of these things executed extremely well and poorly at the same time. The music is fantastic and fitting at times, and at others it is an autotuned nightmare from hell. Some of the voice acting and dialogue is precise and captivating, yet sometimes you want to scream at the TV by the simplistic nonsensical dialogue that characters are saying.
My final thoughts on this game is not trying to be biased towards Sonic Generations. But this game feels more like a group of fans made their version of Sonic Generations, and it does not feel like a team of professionals worked on this game. Fortunately the speed mechanic is there, but if I had to end this on a positive note, if they hired an experienced, driven team of level designers, they could take a game like this and put Sonic exactly where it needs to be on the map.