And finally, here it is. Sonic Forces, previously know as Project Sonic 2017 has come out this month, some fans were really excited about the new 3D Sonic while others were lining up to trash it because, you know, Sonic games can never be good. But just how good or bad is Sonic Forces?
The game takes place in a timeline in which Dr Eggman has managed to beat Sonic and is expanding his power around the world, a small resistance is formed to rescue Sonic and stop Eggman and you are part of it.
Sonic Team has nailed it, even the Switch version of Sonic Forces looks impressive, character models are flawless, environments are beautiful, Green Hill zone has never had more beautiful grass than now. There is always a lot of things happening in the background while you are rushing through the levels, explosions, monsters emerging from the ground and all of it looks very, very impressive. The Switch version looks obviously a bit worse than the Xbox One/PS4 or PC version but still it’s a beautiful game with a lot of eye candy.
Sound and Music:
Sonic games are known for their awesome soundtrack and Forces is not different, some levels have clear throwbacks to classic games others introduce pop-rock songs like the game’s theme song Fist Bump. Crush 40 seems to not be present on this game but to be honest they were also not missed.
The game also features voice acting which is also pretty good and a couple steps better than previous games. The characters talk to each other via radio during the game and it’s pleasant to actually hear their conversations, they never get boring or annoying, and sometimes provide a few laughs.
I have to say I was positively impressed with the plot of the game. Eggman finds a new villain to help him, that villain manages to beat Sonic, Sonic get captured. Sonic’s friends and other inhabitants from the world form a resistance to fight Eggman’s forces and the rest is for you to figure out.
Some of the oldest friends from Sonic, like Espio and Vector, are back as well as Classic Sonic. The excuse to have Classic Sonic present seemed a bit far fetched but to be honest I’m glad he was there.
Now, here is the conundrum with Sonic Forces. Most people expect a Sonic game to be a pure platformer the thing is that the series has evolved into something else. Ever since Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations the series has been moving away from pure platforming and evolving more into a boost driven game with some platforming.
Sonic Forces followed this trend of course and presents you with boost sections, 2D Modern Sonic/Avatar sections and classic 2D sections with Classic Sonic.
The boost sections follow what was made before in Colors and Generations, you see Sonic from behind and rush trough small segments of the level where you have to dodge obstacles, attack enemies and perform some platforming. You can collect wisps that fill your boost gauge allowing you to run even faster making you invulnerable to enemies. If you slow down sometimes though you may find alternative routes.
Inside the same level you usually alternate between boost sections and 2D platforming ones, if you are controlling modern Sonic it will play pretty much like anything Sonic. You jump through platforms to reach the end of the level, you can hit enemies with your homing attack and you can still make use of your boost ability if you collect the wisps. If on the other hand you are playing with the Avatar things change a little.
Yes, for the first time in history you can create your own avatar in a Sonic game. You can chose from 7 different species: wolf, cat, rabbit, hedgehog, dog, bear and bird, and customize them as you see fit. Your avatar gets to control a wispon, this is a gadget that makes use of wisps and that you can use as a weapon to destroy your enemies on the stages, there are several to choose and customize on the game. The avatar cannot boost like Sonic, and instead of a homing attack it makes use of a grappling hook to travel through the stage and to kill enemies.
With classic Sonic you get back to classic platforming, no homing attack and no boost, but you get to use the drop dash from Sonic Mania. One of the shields is also back to help you stay alive while fighting your enemies. There are not many levels with classic Sonic but the few that there are available are very fun to play.
Everytime you complete a level you get awarded a rank, your rank depends highly on your speed, this get’s uploaded to online leader boards so you can compete with other players for the best time on each level. You also get awarded clothes to customize your avatar.
Now… One of the most common critics I’ve been hearing about this game is about it’s level design. Some people complain the levels are too flat. I do not agree with this, it’s true that boost sections are predominantly flat but otherwise they wouldn’t work. You would have to be constantly jumping and therefore interrupting your speed. Platforming in Sonic Forces is reserved to the 2D sections and on this sections there is enough to explore if you care to slow down a bit and explore the level. In fact this exploration is necessary in order to find all the 5 Red Star Rings that there are hidden in each level. I will admit the first few levels are a little flatter and have less to explore than the later ones but this is common to so many other games that I don’t see it as an issue.
As for controls, well this is where I think the game could be improved. Modern Sonic and Avatar levels seem to be slippery sometimes, it’s hard to explain but momentum changes fast in Sonic games and you don’t have much time to adapt so you will find yourself falling of cliffs for a bit until you master the controls. When it comes to Classic Sonic this is a bit better but the physics are not as good as in Sonic Mania, not to mention that the “the longer you press the button the higher you jump” sounds good in theory but leads to some falls when you need to quickly perform a high jump.
Another negative aspect of the game is how short it is. It takes only 5 hours to go through the 30 main levels, and each level can be finished very quickly. Of course there is a lot of replayability in this game, not only for the leaderboards but also for missions that show up on your map and that you can take on to extend the experience.
The Switch version of Sonic Forces runs at a stable 30 FPS while all other versions run at 60 fps, as expected the Switch version is a bit weaker in terms of visuals with some backgrounds having lower resolution textures applied to them and with a lack of antialising overall in the game, this doesn’t represent a compromise of the experience though but if you want the better looking version take the PS4/Xbox One or PC version.
Sonic Forces may not be the great come back of Sonic to 3D games but it sure is a good one. The game runs nicely without any major bugs, offers a fun yet short experience but will have you coming back to it to explore it’s levels, beat the missions and collect more your clothes for your avatar.