Sonic Forces review

sonic forces
So Sonic has had a a good year so far, with the awesome Sonic Mania. At the same time as announcing Mania, Sega announced another Sonic game in the more “modern” style, which is where the blue blur has been struggling for a while.

Not that he hasn’t had good games. Generations was great, Lost World was pretty good… and that’s about it. Almost everything else after the Genesis era has been pretty subpar, with very rare high points.

So is this a second high point for Sonic this year alongside Mania, or does it suck like so many other modern Sonic games?

Read on and see!

Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Date of Release: November 7th 2017
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbone (Switch version reviewed)
Genre: SANIC

Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10

Presentation

The graphics look pretty good. There’s really detailed and dynamic backgrounds, the game is generally very colorful and fun to look at, and the characters are basically as you’d expect from a Sonic game. I do have a few complaints, what with the eyewear on avatars floating in front of their faces and looking fucking ridiculous, but overall I have no issues. I do wish there were more original areas, there’s actually several levels that take place in Green Hill Zone… haven’t see seen enough Green Hill Zone in Sonic yet? Even Mania had it. This also features several levels in Chemical Plant Zone.

As far as version differences, the Switch plays it at the same resolution as the Xbone version, but the graphical quality is lower. It’s not bad though, as long as you’re not going in-between versions you’re still getting a good-looking game. It features much lesser lighting and lower texture quality for the environment, but on the Switch screen itself it doesn’t make much of a different, especially since you’re usually going fast anyways. The framerate is lower on Switch as well, but for a handheld it’s fine. Plus despite the 30 fps it does play at 60 fps input-wise so at least you still have precise control. I did notice one framerate dip in one of the avatar levels, but otherwise it was very stable.

On the music side… lots of butt rock and techno stuff, mostly unmemorable. The songs with lyrics sure aren’t City Escape. The classic Sonic levels feature slightly more retro-y music and I do like it. There’s lots of voice acting and it’s a good quality, but on the weird side of things you choose a voice for you avatar but that particular non-character never ever speaks… weird.

On the story side of things… Eggman is evil and tries taking over the world. This time though he goes straight for Sonic using his new weapon, Infinite. It’s a being that uses the power of a Phantom Ruby, enabling him to alter perception, essentially creating a different reality for his enemies. He is, therefore, much stronger and faster than Sonic, and can create an army of powerful troops. After being easily defeated and captured, Eggman begins his domination of the world. Months later the resistance (basically the Chaotix, Silver, Knuckles and Amy) are trying to fight him. Classic Sonic appears for no reason (seriously), your avatar character joins the cause and after saving Sonic, it’s time to fight back against Eggman. And that’s about it story-wise. There is a pretty big plot hole though: Sonic has been imprisoned and tortured for months, but when you see him after all that time he’s not physically hurt at all and he’s still as snarky as ever. What kind of torture does Eggman engage in anyways? Otherwise there’s not much to talk about here.

Gameplay

You start the game off creating your avatar. You choose what gender and animal it is, change the colors of its mouth fur/beck, body fur and eyes, and clothes. As you advance through the game you unlock a pile more clothes, where you can make yours look ridiculous. Here’s my OC (lulz). Some people might find it a bit disappointing since you basically only have 2 choices for body shape.

After that you play in Green Hill Zone as Sonic, in a level that you can beat with little more than holding one button. Oh boy.

So this game has “4” gameplay styles. There’s modern Sonic levels, which are a combination of boost gameplay which sucks, and side-scrolling sections. There’s classic Sonic levels which are pure side-scrolling and easily the best parts of the game. There’s avatar levels which are basically modern Sonic levels but you have a different moveset which is a bit more combat-focused. Then finally you have levels where modern Sonic and the avatar team up. This basically combines their moveset, so it’s not very different from either avatar or modern Sonic levels.

Boost gameplay sucks. Most of modern Sonic’s levels feel like they play themselves, there’s a few you can totally beat with almost no input. He does have some fun levels, but most of them are forgettable. Boost gameplay is so bad it’s hard to have levels where it actually works out. Wisps make a comeback, and they’re a bit better here than in all the other games they’re in. Modern Sonic only has access to the boost wisps, that’s it. So more on wisps later. That said, there are a handful of good Sonic levels, usually due to the 2D sections being good.

Classic Sonic levels are fun, most of the time. There’s a few exceptions (one of them has an auto-scrolling section I hated). He plays like classic Sonic, so run, jump, spindash, drop dash. No wisp stuff here, just classic Sonic. The level designs are never at the level of even the weakest Sonic Mania levels though. And there’s fewer classic Sonic levels than anything else here too, he really feels like an afterthought both in the game and story-wise.

Avatar levels feel a lot like modern Sonic levels. The avatar does have access to weapons however. You start with a Burst weapon but there’s several other choices that I haven’t tried, and a thunder whip. You equip your weapon before a level. You do collect weapons as you play so some might have special effects. The avatar has basically Boost sections, slow 3D sections where you can fight things (which tends to be easy depending on your weapon), and 2D parts which are basically like modern Sonic 2D parts. The avatar also has access to a grappling hook, which he uses to do a homing attack, and hook to things automatically, removing control from you during the gameplay. As for wisps, the avatar has access to several wisps. However, he can only use the wisps he gets if his currently-equipped weapon happens to be compatible with it, and each wisp is only compatible with one weapon type. So if you want to use the rocket wisp, you need to be using a burst weapon. If you want to use the light dash-like skill you need the thunder whip weapon. Some parts of levels are hidden behind needing certain weapons though. Also, the controls for the avatar are a bit on the confusing side, with attacking being set to R2, the wisp is set to X, Y does nothing, then B for the homing attack. Huh. Honestly I pressed Y a lot thinking it would do attacks, R2 is unnatural.

The combination levels are a bit on the annoying side though. They’re basically modern Sonic levels, but you can also use the avatar’s weapons. That means more sections where you lose control for the avatar to automatically use its grappling hook, but it also means the controls are a mess. See, in avatar levels the Y button does nothing, so whatever. HERE, the Y button uses Sonic’s boost wisp. So say you’re like me and try to attack with Y, that just means death because you’ll be boosting into pits. Then having separate wisps on both X and Y is another source of confusion. Not to say these levels are all bad, in fact there’s several that are good, but man the controls are trash. Also these levels introduce DOUBLE BOOST! … it’s a QTE where you mash Y then the rest of the section plays itself. Good job making a cool concept lame.

One of the common issues is that the levels are pretty short and end really suddenly, most of the time anti-climatically. Another common issue is that there’s QTEs in most of the avatar or modern Sonic levels (thankfully classic Sonic is spared from the shit that is QTEs). QTEs are always bad so yay.

At least there’s a decent number of levels with 30 and at least 8 extra levels (I think I haven’t unlocked them all) plus the free Shadow DLC which adds 3 more. But, with them taking 1-4 minutes to complete, the game is done with really fast. There’s replayability if you really end up liking this, like getting S ranks in all the levels.

SOS Missions should tell you what they are. I mean, there’s basically 2 types, but still 😛

Overall

So Sonic Forces is… okay. The slew of negative reviews might make you believe it’s purely a bad game, but it really isn’t. It’s just… so unremarkable it’s barely worth talking about.

The boost sections are bad because they’ve always been bad in every game they’ve appeared in, the side-scrolling sections tend to be more interesting, and there’s some fun boss battles. It doesn’t end up being a game that’s great, or even particularly good, but it also ends up not being a game that’s particularly bad either. Its flaws are pretty blatant (the QTEs, the boost sections, some of the controls need some fixing), but there’s enough good to elevate it to “okay” status.

As far as modern Sonic games go, it’s above the trash that are Secret Rings, Black Knight and Colors. It’s above Adventure 2 (only good thing about that game are the Sonic and Shadow levels, everything else is trash). It’s around the same level as Lost World and Adventure 1 (2 games that I do like). And it’s faaaaaaaar below Generations.

I can’t recommend this game to anyone but big Sonic fans. It’s not disappointing because at this point no one should expect much from Sonic anymore. It actually surpassed my expectations.

It’s better than the new Bubsy.

Rant time

Sonic is one of the biggest series in gaming. I may be more forgiving of Sonic than some people (I may be the only person who liked Sonic 4 Episode 1), but even then I find that the series has been pretty subpar after the heights of the Genesis era. The high points have been great, that being the first 3 games, Generations and Mania. But after that it’s been a pile of middling titles and outright bad games.

So here’s my thing… that’s unacceptable at this point. Sonic is one of the key series in gaming, and it’s been crap since the oldschool days. Sonic is a name that used to inspire respect and adoration. Now it’s basically the butt of a joke. Partly due to its odd fanbase full of furries with shitty original characters, partly due to the fact that nearly every game that comes out ends up disappointing everyone.

Sonic should garner the same sort of hype Mario still gets to this day, and has largely kept having through its life. And the fact that it doesn’t just shows a lack of care from the company that owns the franchise.

So Sonic needs one of 2 things: to only get Sonic Mania-style games that replicate the classics well, or a paradigm shift, because what’s being done for modern Sonic games just isn’t working. The boost formula is fucking shit and must end. Sonic didn’t used to be about shitty levels that play themselves. I get that Sonic can go fast, but that’s not what Sonic gameplay was about at its core when the series started.

Maybe get Nintendo to make the next Sonic game.

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