Sonic Forces is the official Sonic Team effort to commemorate the 25th anniversary of SEGA‘s beleaguered mascot. And it’s as consistently bad as almost every other modern Sonic game from the last two decades.
Oh SEGA, seemingly intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. 2017 was shaping up to be a fairly good one for Sonic The Hedgehog, with Sonic Mania opening to almost unanimously positive reviews – the first time a new Sonic game had done so for 15 years.
Enter Sonic Forces, which manages to give 2017 the bittersweet tinge fans of Sonic have come to expect by providing disappointment at every turn with sloppy controls, dull visuals and remedial graphics. After the success of Sonic Generations, the decision to reunite modern and classic Sonic‘s isn’t a bad idea. But doing so in the wake of Sonic Mania underlines how little Sonic Team understand the roots of their titular character – something that Generations didn’t have to grapple so directly with. The 2D sections of Forces are hopelessly imprecise with constantly fluctuating gravity that one second means you can’t get any height at all and the next sees you pole-vault over an enemy.
The 3D sections are rarely any better – all of the good work achieved in Sonic Generations is undone, with controls that feel nowhere near as tight as they should and leaps that launch you into the air without any confidence about where you’ll land.
The inclusion of the Avatar character is a nod to the rabid fan community – even if it clearly is a placeholder for the scrapped Sonic Boom-era character who quickly disappeared from the anniversary artwork but retains the same controls from the Sonic Boom series. The gameplay during these segments is patchy and easily the worst of the three modes – if only because running through stages wielding a flamethrower is barely a step back from Shadow The Hedgehog.
Surprisingly for SEGA, graphically Sonic Forces is a disappointment. Playing the Switch version, you could forgive underperformance compared to the PS4 and Xbox One – but even the Wii‘s Sonic Colours looked better than this. The decision to set the game in a post-apocalyptic setting doesn’t help that at all, with a lot of the stages taking place within dull metal-clad or smog-filled environments. Even the iconic Green Hill stage has been stripped of its colour – an unintentionally ironic metaphor for the game in general. I suppose you could also say that the voice acting isn’t dreadful – but it’s certainly nothing special. As usual for a modern Sonic game, there are far too many of his scattered menagerie chipping in with advice when the vast majority of them would be more appealing as roadkill.
So what does Sonic Forces do right? It’s certainly a marked improvement on Sonic Lost World and Sonic Boom (you can already tell we’re clutching at straws here). There are lots of nods to the last 26 years of the Sonic series and reuniting enemies from key past titles such as Sonic Adventure and Sonic CD is a nice touch – even if the inclusion of Zavok suggests a degree of barrel scraping. The Avatar customisation options are also impressively varied, with tons of new content to be unlocked.
Otherwise, Sonic Forces seems destined to join the likes of Sonic ’06 and Sonic Unleashed as yet another stumbling block in the resurrection of Sonic The Hedgehog. In truth, this time around the insult stings a little more following the triumph of Sonic Mania.
Sonic Forces features a vision of the future where SEGA‘s iconic mascot is no more. On the basis of this game and for the sake of his long-suffering fanbase, it would probably be the best outcome for Sonic and his irritating entourage.