Sonic Forces explodes with potential for greatness. With its polished graphics, catchy soundtrack, and lengthy cast of characters tied with amazing voice acting, it screams for attention. It begs to be realized as what could’ve been the best Sonic game of all time, but… the Sonic Team didn’t cater to its need to be an actual game. Instead, Sonic Forces takes its place among its previous 3D predecessors: shiny, short, and bland.
The story begins with kooky ol’ Eggman whipping up a new villain for Sonic to take on, called Infinite. After defeating Sonic and taking over the world, a resistance forms to fight Eggman’s army. Among that roster of playable characters is your own custom character, Sonic, Classic Sonic, and Shadow.
The gameplay combines modern 3D Sonic and classic 2.5D Sonic levels with a mixture of new abilities and powerups for your custom characters. Each playable character has a set of different abilities, with the exception of Shadow being equivalent to Sonic.
The Shiny: Eggman’s Ten Terabytes of Selfies
Along with that amazing detail that Sonic Forces points out, it also happens to deliver the Death Egg, and it’s exactly what you think it is. The only issue I have with that is its shape isn’t actually an egg. Seems like a missed opportunity.
In all seriousness, Sonic Forces does shine brightly in quite a few areas aside from its ridiculous jokes. As you can see above, the character creation in this game is one of its highlights. Through S ranking, and various challenges, an insane amount of customization will unlock. You can range from super edgy, wearing leather jacket and spiked boots, to full on anime nerd, with glasses and Japanese shirt. Or, the most popular choice, look like a taller but uglier version of Sonic. Most important of all in character creation is choosing your race, this will effect gameplay. Each race grants a different buff that could result in different experiences and play styles.
The same goes for your weapon of choice. While there are only seven types of weapons, S ranking stages will reward you with the powered up versions. Unlike race, you have no limit and will receive each weapon type throughout the game.
Another cool feature that the game has is Renting an Avatar. It gives you the ability to play other people’s custom character. If you’re unsure about your character, or want to experiment, you can simply pick up a random avatar and run!
While you’re running, picture this. The game’s beating soundtrack flows through your chest, raising those hairs on the back of your neck as you’re boosting through a gorgeous environment crashing all around you in order to confront Infinite’s epic sinister voice into a boss battle. Sonic Forces is pure polish, it’s a visual and aural playground accompanied by an amazing cast.
Infinite, played by the talented Liam O’Brien, aka Gaara in Naruto, delivers one of the best villainous voices in Sonic history. It’s vengeful, clever, and incredibly entertaining to listen to. While Infinite was surely the highlight, the entire Sonic Forces cast did an impeccable job of acting out their characters. And even though Sonic was so damn cheesy, you can’t help but enjoy his forth wall breaking humor.
One thing that Sonic Forces captivates you with is its huge cast, and along with that comes a long line of familiar bosses. While each boss has its method and are inevitably easy upon discovery, they’re still most enjoyable part about this game. Unlike most stages, the bosses require some focus to be able to overcome. The most difficult being the last boss, which gave me a challenge that I’ve been asking for the entire adventure. Its endless health bar and unending attacks made for an epic final fight.
In terms of regular stages, it would never get that difficult. Yet, surprisingly enough, the Extra and Secret stages happened to be fifty second levels of pure pain and concentration. They were quite intense and enjoyable, just sadly short.
While the regular stages aren’t difficult, there are a few that made you tag team. Sonic and your custom character run side by side, creating a force to reckon with. In those stages you’re able to use Sonic’s boost, to dash unhindered by enemies, and the player’s weapon of choice. It is the most mindless cluster of fun that you could imagine. I almost wish the game continued to fill itself with levels like that.
Alas, while Sonic Forces is brimming with potential, it’s severely weighed down by everything else.
The Short: Ground Zeroes of Sonic
Sonic Forces begins with Eggman giving an unexpectedly short villain monologue and then, without further explanation, you’re thrown in an exploding city as Sonic, running to stop his nemesis. Then, Eggman’s new creation, Infinite, kills Sonic, and THEN cut to three months later, boom, Sonic is alive again.
The whole story escalates and resolves itself that quickly. What you just read is the first five minutes of the game, minus the character creation menu.
The story just happens, there’s literally no explanation or coherence to the sequence of events that bring about the plot. There are no details as to why or how. And the game doesn’t give you time to catch your breath with each new development.
It’s the equivalent of a full length Shōnen anime condensed in three hours. The cuts and transitions feel like I skipped a “five minute” battle on an alien planet somewhere. It’s almost as if there wasn’t a budget to animate or extend cutscenes.
The game being as short as it is with an overwhelming plot, fails to fully invest its audience in the story. However, because of that, I didn’t have anything to disappoint me. It wasn’t until a small plot development towards the end of the game that caught my attention and intrigued me. I was investing myself, but of course, that sparkle in my eye diminished when it resolved within mere seconds. Thus ending the game with actual disappointment.
Even at the very end of the game, after receiving the final cutscene, I don’t understand how we won. The developers did not show what happened. As far as I’m concerned, we won because we won. Yes, I beat the last boss. But every plot development leading up to that point, via the stages, never explains itself. You, as one of playable characters, are just running and there’s nothing beyond that shown until you fight a boss.
Sonic Forces is simply inconsistent in the sequence of events that make up its hour long story.
The Bland: “Green Hill’s looking a lot more like Sand Hill right now”
While Sonic Forces has commendable voice acting, that doesn’t save it from its poorly written dialogue. It’s childlike and clearly not for fans. The tone ranges from silly positive to ridiculously edgy.
Infinite is the classic “I’m not going to kill the heroes here” villain except much worse. The excuse is brought up so often throughout the game that it’s downright annoying.
It’s hard to see the overarching plot and script as anything but a first draft. It’s a project you give to your friend to critique, not something to release to the public. The worst part is that it’s not completely bad. Sonic Forces is a diamond in the rough, all it needs is work to be put into it.
Aside from the script, the list of problems range from its feasible difficulty to sloppy controls. The game simply plays itself, and if I don’t let it play itself, I die.
For example, when fighting Zavok, he’s open to attack after he slams into the ground, launching Sonic in the air. If you attempt to jump instinctively when he slams into the ground, like a reliable gamer would, it will stunt your height and you will not be able to attack. You must allow the game to play itself out in order to succeed. Sonic Forces is afraid to rely on you. It becomes even more evident towards the end of that same boss fight. Sonic literally takes down Zavok’s last health bar by himself without me having to click anything.
Placing the game on hard didn’t seem to help make anything difficult. I came to accept that when I achieved an S rank on a stage with a less than poor performance. Even my poor performance wasn’t due to difficulty, it was due to sluggish controls. And yes, the words sluggish and Sonic do not mesh well together. Whether Sonic isn’t going fast enough, or not locking onto a simple balloon, the result shouldn’t be death. These are issues that developers can fix through testing. It’s not something you can overlook in a three hour game.
Finally, a nice little tidbit for you: while the graphics are gorgeous, the animations themselves are similar to PS2’s. Get ready for the most awkward fight scenes!
The DLC: Episode Shadow the Edgehog
Episode Shadow is 15 minutes long. There are three stages, all of them which you’ve already played through in the main game, just a little different. So what exactly is the point of this DLC?
It’s a prequel to the events of Sonic Forces and it delivers some incoherent, rushed, but important, backstory on Infinite. There’s simply no excuse why this shouldn’t have been in the main game. It delivers an important plot point, which is something that Sonic Forces has a hard time dealing with.
What irks me about this DLC is that it ends with the same intro cutscene of Sonic’s defeat. It doesn’t provide any further explanation, or a look into Shadow’s perspective. My last experience of this game was a repeat.
An idea like this, for an epic cast of characters to join forces and unite against an ultimate villain, grows and flourishes over time, but Sonic Forces’ growth was stunted by neglect. This is a draft to a soon to be spectacular game, but in no way is the final product. The price tag alone would give any real gamer warning signs that something is off.
Sonic Forces is a disappointment, not because it’s bad, but because it had so much potential that it could have broke the Sonic curse. When you get down in the muck and play this game, you can see it. You can see the vision for a perfect Sonic game, but unfortunately, especially for Sonic fans, the curse won’t be broken anytime soon. But hey, there’s still Sonic Mania.
- THE GOOD
- Voice Acting
- Polished Visuals
- THE BAD
- Sluggish Controls
- Weak Story
- Inconsistent Dialogue
- Three Hours Long
- Too Easy
- Plays Itself or Death Penalty
- PS2 Animations
Even while full of potential, Sonic Forces cannot escape its core problems of gameplay and story.