Sonic Forces is SEGA’s latest attempt at redeeming their speedy blue mascot and breaking the dreaded “Sonic Cycle”. But how does it live up to the hype? Read on to find out more.
Sonic Forces starts pretty much when the proverbial has hit the fan. Eggman has seemingly enlisted some of Sonic’s fiercest foes in a bid to take over the world. Chaos, Shadow, Metal Sonic – they’re all there along with a mysterious new villain named Infinite. Team Eggman essentially wipe the floor with our favourite back chatting mammal. Taking him hostage much to the dismay of his pals. Flash forward six months where Tails and Co have formed a resistance of sorts; recruiting as many volunteers as they can to push back against Eggman’s forces and to rescue the titular hero. This is where the player designed Avatar comes in.
If there’s one thing that the Sonic series has suffered from in the past, then it’s the continual addition of new friends and characters. Granted, a game needs new characters to keep fresh but when they’re all just as fast as the Fastest Hedgehog Alive it all becomes a little bit too much. With this in mind, you can imagine my concern when SEGA unveiled the Avatar character for Sonic Forces. A completely fresh face in the Sonic universe but designed by the player. To make the player feel more involved in the story. And honestly, it works pretty well, my initial fears have been replaced with a fondness for my creation.
Players are offered a choice of base animal for their Avatar; fox, wolf, hedgehog and cat to name a few as well as the base colour. Players are able to choose their characters eyes, head style, as well as clothing from a limited range – more items are unlocked as you progress through the game. Most of these unlocks are cosmetic apart from the Avatar’s main weapon called a Wispon. A type of hand device which allows the Avatar to perform various additional attacks. Each Wispon also has their own set of passive abilities. For example, collect 100 coins for temporary invincibility, a burst of speed when landing, or an award of rings for hitting a checkpoint.
It’s clear that the Sonic Team has tried to build a game where blistering speed is at the core but unfortunately these moments are over far too quickly. While Classic Sonic’s stages are mainly 2.5D representations of more classic Sonic level designs that work well and feel like Sonic at his best, Modern Sonic’s levels feel disjointed and somewhat of a chore to play. The level designs are similar to previous iterations in the series and offer little in the way of variety when it comes to gameplay. The Avatar offers a more action-oriented style of play, using the Wispon to take out enemies and to progress further through each level. It’s a nice change of pace but is it really what the fans want?
With level design aside, the boss battles of Sonic Forces were pretty well made. Each has their own flair and the addition of Eggman’s classic Ball and Chain at the end of the Green Hill Zone is a nice touch. In all honesty, I found the boss modes to be a highlight of the game; offering more of a challenge than the remainder of the game which otherwise felt fairly repetitive. In particular your first encounter with Infinite as Modern Sonic does a good job of capturing the essence of speed that is so sorely missed in the rest of the game.
Performance wise, Sonic Forces looks great on the Switch but there is a visible graphical downgrade on the hybrid console. Unlike the PS4, Xbox One and PC counterparts which run at a smooth 60 fps, the Switch entry runs at 30 fps when both docked and in handheld mode. Though honestly, I didn’t find this too much of a bother; the trade-off is pretty acceptable considering I’m able to take the game on the go and play in smaller burst rather than longer gaming sessions.
Completing the game allows you to replay levels to improve your scores as well as participate in SOS missions; where you rescue other player’s Avatars in a hope to earn more unlockable gear and a few hidden challenge stages. Apart from this, Sonic forces offers little in the way of replayability unless of course, you count the free Shadow DLC which allows you to play certain levels as everyone’s anti-hero.
All in all Sonic Forces is a decent entry into the Sonic series but it doesn’t do too much to tear away from the tried and tested formula. It’s a bright and colourful game with some great boss fights but the Modern Sonic levels could really do with some work. The custom Avatar is a nice touch but instead of focusing on yet another character it would be nice if the Sonic Team focused on the core gameplay, and brought back the uninterrupted blistering speed that we all know and love.