Sonic The Hedgehog has seen somewhat of a revival in 2017 with the brilliant Sonic Mania being released earlier in the year. Sonic Forces has arrived and is the latest title to be released on Xbox One and the second Sonic game to be released in 2017.
Taking a slightly different approach to its traditional roots, Sonic Forces adopts a mixture of 2D side scrolling and third person 3D platforming with an up to date art style being used instead of the familiar retro look that was used in Sonic Mania. In this game though, there is more of a story to follow and the game begins with Dr. Eggman finally being triumphant in capturing Sonic. It’s now up to Sonics friends to join forces with the assistance of Classic Sonic from a different timeline and a player created character, a first for the Sonic Series, in order to rescue him and take down the evil Dr. Eggman.
The creation of an original character is a nice little touch to Sonic Forces and to the franchise in general, as it allows players to create their very own hero for the Sonic Universe and while cosmetic choices are limited early on, more new items will become available the more you progress through, allowing you to kit out your newly designed character. The story itself is okay and while it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, it’s nice to have it in there especially for the younger audiences that this game is mainly aimed at. There is also a selection of enemies throughout the story including a new villain introduced to the series for the first time called Infinite, who offers something a little different compared to the familiar villains seen in past games.
There are two types of level design within Sonic Forces but it is unfortunately a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to how each one plays and feels. The most fun I had with Sonic Forces though was the side scrolling 2D style levels, but they were somewhat spoilt by the collection of 3D third person sections. While these offered fast paced action, I never felt like I had very much control over the character and it seemed to be more of a press a button and hope scenario throughout each one. The side scrolling parts of the levels though were a lot more fun and engaging with their design being a nod to the classic Sonic games of old capturing that fluent, but still fast paced gameplay style that has made the series so famous.
The third person sections didn’t seem to have the same appeal and certain aspects felt very much on rails rather than having complete control of directional play throughout. It’s disappointing that the overall level design in Sonic Forces is sadly let down by these third person sections and with each one only lasting a few minutes at a time they never get a chance to gain full momentum and feel like they are over before they’ve had chance to really get going. The side scrolling sections are a lot more appealing and are far more enjoyable and I would of liked to have seen more of an emphasis on this style throughout the whole game.
The gameplay in general is finely tuned and although the third person sections feel limited in control, the jumping plus the various special moves on offer including speed bursts are all responsive and on point. The 2D sections though are without doubt the main highlights of the game, offering the most fun in the whole campaign and feel really good to play overall, although I don’t think they play quite as well as what I experienced in Sonic Mania and fall short slightly in comparison. Sonic Forces can be a fun game at times and there are snippets of a great Sonic game in there somewhere but it’s let down by the disappointing level design in the 3D sections as mentioned earlier and it lacks any kind of consistency throughout.
It does have an all star cast though as each of the main characters from past Sonic games make an appearance at some point throughout the story in some way shape or form. The real highlight here though is playing as Classic Sonic and it was in these moments when I could see the true game that is trying so hard to burst out, but unfortunately it never quite manages to. It almost seems as if Sonic Forces is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis and it doesn’t really know what game it wants to be. It is clear that if the game had of been designed solely in the 2D side scrolling style with the modern look and 3D backdrops, it would of been a much more enjoyable experience.
Visually Sonic Forces is a decent looking game with sharp and vibrant areas that have good attention to detail, but unfortunately, much like the gameplay, this isn’t consistent across the board. Levels are bright and colourful and are a faithful modern representation of the Sonic Universe; however there are some areas that don’t look as good as others. Certain sections feel somewhat empty, particularly in the 3D parts and there are inconsistencies throughout. Where the visual style is concerned, it’s a very similar scenario to the gripes I have with the gameplay, that the visuals seem to suffer in the 3D sections more than they do in the side scrolling areas. There seems to be a pattern regarding the quality throughout the entire game where the two different viewpoints are concerned.
It’s ironic really that the side scrolling sections look more 3D than the first person viewpoint and seem to have a better depth of field and a lot more detail within those sections. Animations are great though and the cutscenes holding the story together are done really well with good voice acting across all characters, mainly appealing to the younger audiences with it being similar in style to the Sonic Boom animated series. The whole game is accompanied with a great soundtrack and suits the fast paced gameplay perfectly. There are bonus levels that can be unlocked along the way too and there are daily challenges to go through, but despite these little extras I didn’t feel inclined to re-visit Sonic Forces after I had finished the main campaign. The whole game is a bit of a mixed bag and is fairly thin on content and the campaign can be finished in around 4 hours. The price is quite high for what is on offer here and unfortunately is doesn’t deliver the excellent Sonic The Hedgehog experience found in the brilliant Sonic Mania from earlier on this year. If you want a really good Sonic game to play I would recommend getting Sonic Mania instead of this as it’s a far better game and at half the price too.