Initial Release: 9 November 2017

For a game that’s all about speed the game certainly feels rushed. Sonic Forces feels like a desperate rehash of ideas to make you feel like Sonic’s history still has relevance. Sadly everything feels… forced.

Sonic Forces is a 3D and 2D platform hybrid that mixes classic 2D side scrolling platforming gameplay and levels with 3D fast paced action. With Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic making a return and with the new character creation allowing you to make a brand new avatar for a triple threat of spiky speedy mammals. After ready releasing one excellent Sonic title with Sonic Mania,  Sega could be on a return to form. Is this the year of the hedgehog?

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Robotnik isnt happy, business as usual really, as Robotnik implements yet another half baked scheme to beat his pesky blue rival once and for all. This time? To assemble every major villain from Sonics past and make a super team fronted by the mysterious new enemy… “Infinite”. Sonic is captured and needs a bit more help than just his trusty sidekick Tails this time. As Classic Sonic mysteriously (and without any explanation) turns up, Tails and a small rebellion recruit one plucky young do-gooder to change the course of battle. (I appreciate their faith. But its one heck of a gamble!). Luckily for them, our “Rookie” can keep the pace and also comes with a few gadgets to help even the odds. The story itself is a little derivative and aimed towards a younger audience. Over the course of the four-five hours of story, missions are broken up into three types. Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and Avatar levels, with optional special levels unlocked along the way.

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In case you missed the first Sonic game of the year, Sonic Mania gained its success from playing to its strengths. Mania was an excellent return to roots with clever level design that rewarded fast reflexes and punished hesitation. For those who did not play Forces’ spiritual older brother Sonic Generations in which you play two acts of levels from Sonic’s past as both classic and modern sonic. The feedback was very positive so a sequel was almost guaranteed. But whilst Forces doesn’t claim to be a direct sequel to generations it borrows a lot of concepts. It still keeps the concept of jumping between 2D and 3D levels with Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic however Sonic Generations did it with clever level design and clever throwbacks to old games to create nostalgia and make the experience relevant. In Forces there is no real reason for Classic Sonic’s inclusion other than to keep what made Generations so successful, yet without the intuitive level design it fails to hit the mark.

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A new and important addition to Forces is your new unique character creation, unfortunately character design is limited and has little depth, however as you progress you collect hundreds of new attire and items to make your character unique. The customisation also includes your wispon, a weapon with interchangeable abilities to help alter how you tackle levels. It’s a bold move to almost replace the titular character with a random character (you may even question why this new rookie is necessary when you have a hedgehog that can break mach 3). The character is fun in aesthetic (our character was a cat and we loved him) but to play with, his levels lacked Modern Sonic’s speed and Classic Sonic’s ingenuity which made him a chore to play as at times. Sometimes it begs the question what is this character adding that Sonic couldn’t already do? Another odd change is there is no game over, no consequence of dying other than starting from the checkpoint again with infinite lives presumably as Sega positions Sonic towards the younger audiences.

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So how are the 3D missions? They are fast, but lack any real threat. Without having to worry about losing lives you can just run flatly through missions, there are set pieces which serve to halt momentum rather than give you a quick breather from the action. Holding forward and smashing through generic robots feels bland and isn’t fun, levels aren’t fun to look at and you don’t really have to pay that much attention. Another strange discovery is that there is only a handful of different robots. Enemies are usually a well designed part of the Sonic universe,  but now they are all based on the same spherical robot just waiting for you to jump on them and with no alternate paths or ways to explore (or special stages!) there’s not really any reason to come back. And it’s not your super-speed that’s helping you complete your average level in less than two minutes… levels are super short! Classic Sonic levels are actually fun in comparison. But how many times can you rehash emerald hill? After one point it stops becoming nostalgia and becomes mundane. However 2D levels do have originality and variety and throw backs to original concepts. But it covers a lot of what Generations already did. Some bosses are recognisable and mix it up with multiple forms to throw it off the original formulae, however these levels are still too few and far between.

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In terms of presentation: Whilst the graphics are bright and sufficient, voice acting is cringey and written for children (maybe even BY children). The music is all over the place too. There is some rather average techno pop with forgettable vocals and for people who are looking for an experience outside of the main game. You will be disappointed…

Sadly we have been spoiled with Mania. A better game that understands sometimes stripping a game back to its core experience and removing it of all its gimmicks is necessary to create a more enjoyable experience. Forces is the opposite: In a desperate attempt it throws everything it can into the mix and as a result feels like lesser parts of better games. The story is uninspired. With a plot that lacks conviction or pay off, characters come and go without question in a story that lacks drama. The villain ‘Infinite’ is a one dimensional figure with no back story and with no presence. How many times until Robotnik learns the ultimate lifeform isn’t just an even weirder version of a hedgehog in even more absurd footwear?

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Forces is a desperate stitch up of random ideas, random characters and random story, all of which lacks focus.Which would be forgivable if it was at least fun, but uninspired level design makes it a tame outing for Sonic and company. Whilst the modern stages lack innovation, the new character creation and easy level design will appeal to a younger audience. Classic Sonic saves the game from falling into mediocrity and if you consider this as a purchase for younger audiences then this may be viable. It’s an easy game and there’s not a lot to think about but long term fans of Sonic may struggle. The classic levels are there but they are too few and far between to really make this as special as it could have been.

For a game that’s all about speed the game certainly feels rushed. Sonic Forces feels like a desperate rehash of ideas to make you feel like Sonic’s history still has relevance. Sadly everything feels… forced.

Verdict – 5 Out of 10

We were provided a copy of the game by SEGA for review purposes

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