What is it? A fast-paced, multi-character 3D platformer.
Expect to pay £35/$40
Developer Sonic Team
Reviewed on GTX 1080, Intel i5-6600K, 16GB RAM
Link Official site (opens in new tab)
A few months ago I ended my Sonic Mania (opens in new tab) review by saying that, yes, the rumours were true: Sonic is good again. But Sonic Forces, a new game developed by Sega’s in-house Sonic Team, sends the blue hedgehog spinning back to those darkest of days when Sonic was, in fact, not good. If you loved the purity and precision of Mania and were glad to see the back of the likes of Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee, and were content never to hear Sonic speak again, brace yourself for some high-velocity disappointment.
Forces kicks things off with Sonic’s surprise defeat at the hands of his nemesis Eggman and a motley crew of returning series villains including Chaos, Metal Sonic, Shadow the Hedgehog, and a mysterious new heel called Infinite. With Sonic captured and held prisoner aboard the Death Egg (I can’t believe I’m writing this), Eggman and his robot army are free to conquer the world. And that’s where you come in, creating your own original Sonic character straight outta DeviantArt to join the resistance and stop him or whatever.
As you play you unlock a seemingly endless stream of clothes and accessories for your character, letting you cobble together some very silly outfits. You also have to choose which type of animal they are, which unlocks certain traits. For example, cats keep one ring after being hit; wolves automatically draw rings in when they’re near; and rings hang around longer after being dropped if you’re a hedgehog. But no matter which costume or species you pick, you can always be sure of one thing: your character will look ridiculous.
Your time in the game is largely split between your OC and two flavours of Sonic: modern and classic. The latter is Sonic as it should be, with no homing attack, no perspective shifts, and no bullshit. And while these stages have a nice sense of speed and their backgrounds explode with colour and variety, the weightless platforming and uninspiring level design spoil the fun. But, really, the best thing about classic Sonic, who’s explained away as being ‘from another dimension’, is that he’s totally mute in cutscenes. Not a word.
And there are a lot of cutscenes. One of the most refreshing things about Mania is how it sidelined the story stuff to focus squarely on the action. But Forces takes every opportunity to make you sit through scenes of anthropomorphised animals standing around in oversized sneakers talking earnestly about war. Sega, we don’t need melodrama in our Sonic games: we just need well-designed levels to run through really fast. I eventually ended up skipping the cutscenes, but hey, a younger player might get something out of them.
The other levels are reminiscent of more recent Sonic games, wildly shifting perspective from third-person to side-scroller as you bomb along a series of linear, twisting, ring-strewn rollercoasters. Sonic handles pretty much as you’d expect, but your OC is a little different. They can swing around the level with a grappling hook and use weapons including a flamethrower, a drill, and a thing that fires black holes. And eventually your character teams up with Sonic, which is like watching a piece of bad Sonic fan art come to life.(opens in new tab)
You can play as Shadow too, albeit in a free DLC that serves as a prologue of sorts, filling in the backstory of new villain Infinite. Or, if you’re connected to the internet, you can ‘rent’ other players’ characters to use as your own, tagging in during play and making use of their weapon set. There are definitely some cool ideas floating around in Forces, but there aren’t many surprises. It’s business as usual: that business being running fast, bouncing on springs, picking up rings, and swirling around vertical loops.
Sonic Forces is not, like several entries in the series, offensively bad. There are some stages where you can’t help but be swept up by its breakneck pace, pounding soundtrack, and chaotic pinball table levels. It’s just unfortunate that it was released so soon after Mania, which took the best of old Sonic and made it sparklingly relevant again. Forces, however, is plagued by inconsistent level design, floaty controls, and a risible Saturday morning cartoon storyline that only kids and rabid Sonic fans will find entertaining.