The Sonic Cycle. We all know it. New game announced, lots of hype. New footage emerges which dashes hopes with an abundance of characters announced. Game releases and is panned by critics as fans once again feel let down. But does Sonic Forces fit the bill? Or is it following in the footsteps of Sonic Mania as a cycle breaker?
Before we get stuck into this review, let’s get one thing straight. This can absolutely not be compared to Sonic Mania and for every ‘professional review’ out there that has, shame on you. Like it or not, there are now two paths for the Sonic series after Mania’s release. With classic 2D Sonic demonstrating that greatness still can be achieved. Then there’s the 3D series. And both absolutely can co-exist.
Sonic Forces itself is the first mainstream 3D Sonic release in this fashion (not counting Nintendo Wii U iterations Lost World and Rise of Lyric) since Sonic Generations. As soon as you hit the title screen you sense a deeper, somewhat more sinister tone to the story. And rightly so. Eggman (Dr Robotnik to the fans) has created a new enemy, aptly named Infinite, who oozes with ultimate power and force that the blue speedster has never seen before. Laying in defeat and imprisoned, Eggman has finally realised his dream and taken over the planet. Six months have passed with no sight of Sonic as only a small amount of freedom fighters remain in their battle for their planet. These include series classics Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose and Chaotix to name a few. Yes. Forces is littered with characters.
A disturbance in the space time continuum however causes classic Sonic to be thrust into the fray. At which point you have a growing sense that this is Sonic Generations 2 in disguise. We’re not going to delve deeper into the story so not to spoil anything. But this presents itself as an all-out war against good and evil with a more sinister feel, yet retaining the slapstick and fun elements from previous entries. The pacing of the story is fast, but also adequate.
The gameplay has not altered much at all from Generations. Thankfully leaving out Sonic Boom as if it never existed and not one person will be sad at that. You start in the iconic Green Hill. Of which features numerous times along with a few other classic zones but are represented in multiple forms. It’s fast and frantic. And on many occasions, feels like you have less control with numerous mini cut scenes guiding your character to the next section of a level. Arguably, the level design is Forces downfall. It feels uninsprired, bland and just a bit flat when compared to Generations and even Sonic Unleashes daytime levels. 2D levels also suffer this fate and fail to compare to Generations. But what makes up for this is that ultimately, it is still really good fun to blast through. There’s online time leaderboards and the infamous S rank to achieve on every stage which will keep you coming back to ace.
The biggest concern pre-release was the announced create a character aspect. It turns out that any concerns we may have had were unnecessary as it could be argued that this is actually a standout feature. Aiding the character creation is the solid inclusion within the games storyline. As bonds of friendship are formed and you customise your avatar with different clothing and weapons, it’s satisfying to see how your own character has a direct influence within the games story. The amount of unlockables for customisation feel endless with a good handful becoming available after every stage.
Graphically Sonic has never looked so good. Framerates are smooth with no evident slowdown. Environments are crisp and clear and a joy to behold. Forces is also enhanced for Xbox One X. There are times things can seem a bit average, but overall, this is the best Sonic has ever looked.
There’s a lot to come back for in Forces. 30 stages will keep you busy for around eight hours or so. But as you progress bonus stages and challenges become available. Alongside this there is a free day one DLC featuring Shadow the Hedgehog.
Sonic Forces is a strange one to place. The greatest gripe is the lacklustre level design, and if a sequel is to be produced this absolutely has to be addressed. But at the same time, it has so much going for it. Even though a tonne of characters are present, it fits the story well. The creation of your own hero offers a solid foundation for the game. The real question is if you want to come back at all once the story is done. This will all boil down to how much enjoyment you receive from the stages personally. The best method of approaching Forces is to know that maybe it has been done better in the past, and to expect a character heavy filled story. But to also know that if you just sit back and enjoy the experience, you may fall in love with ‘modern Sonic’ all over again.
Sonic Forces is available now on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.