When it comes to the modern Sonic titles I have a soft spot for both Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations. When SEGA announced the team behind these two titles were developing Sonic Forces it filled me with joy. I have always wanted a sequel to Sonic Generations as well as a title like Sonic Colours to grace the Xbox platform. Sonic Generations was and still is a great move for the franchise and they got it just right with the introduction of modern and classic Sonic. I put on my running shoes and take Sonic Team’s latest title of the franchise, Sonic Forces. Is this a title worthy to stand beside Sonic Generations? Read on and find out.
The story to Sonic Forces takes quite an exciting concept and tries to take the franchise in a much darker direction than most titles. It all kicks off when during a battle with Dr. Eggman Sonic is ambushed by Shadow The Hedgehog, Metal Sonic, Chaos, Zavok and an all new nemesis. This new comer is called Infinite and easily over powers Sonic. Thanks to the capturing of Sonic Dr. Eggman has taken over pretty much all of the world. There is however a small group leading a fight back under the direction of Knuckles. It’s at this point where we see the introduction of the most anticipated feature, your own customizable Avatar who they call “The Rookie”, more on him later. The story may not win any awards but for the most I found it easy to follow. When it came to the introduction of classic sonic it kinda came out of nowhere though. It was great to see the return of quite a few of the franchises cast like Silver, Tales, Amy and Shadow to name a few. It is just a shame that the only playable characters are Sonic, Classic Sonic, Shadows and your Avatar.
When it comes to the gameplay of Sonic Forces, if you have played Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations you will know what to expect as its much of the same. The stages alternate between classic 2D gameplay to the more modern 3D stuff. Some levels will be just 2D, 3D or both. As with both the aforementioned titles the transitioning between 2D to 3D gameplay is, in my opinion, flawless and pulled off with spectacular effect. Sonic team have also brought back the Wisps from Sonic Colours while expanding upon the original idea. I loved the in-game hub of Sonic Generations but with Sonic Forces it was a small step back. Granted the story revolves around saving the world and therefore the hub is a small world map but it would have been better if Sonic Team taken some time to produce a Sonic Generations style hub.
Modern Sonic plays just like he did in Sonic Generations with a double jump and homing attack as well as a boost gauge you fill up collecting the right wisp power-up, more on these later. You are able to use modern sonic in both 3D and 2D levels. Classic sonic also makes another appearance and is used only in the 2D levels. This sonic has the ability of the power dash but you can now also dive straight into a dash from a jump. I have to admit this is a cool feature but just keep tabs on what sonic you are using. I don’t know how many times I tried to double jump with classic sonic, must just be old age creeping in. In the control front for the most part it’s OK but there are times when playing as modern sonic in 2D levels, I got very frustrated. It can be hard to control your jumping as you can go from gentle pace to full speed in seconds causing you to jump further than you wanted. I didn’t seem to find this with classic sonic. Shadow also becomes available to play thanks to the free DLC episode that explains how Infinite came to be in the first place. There are only three stages an no boss battle but upon completion you can use him in the main game. He does play just like modern sonic with the exception of an ultra fast homing attack on multiple enemies.
The newest feature though is that you can create your own avatar for using in the game, hence the introduction of “the rookie” at the beginning of the story. You can use the avatar in both the 3D and 2D stages. When creating this avatar you can choose from seven species. While a hedgehog is one there is also a wolf, rabbit and even a bear with each having its own ability. The wolf which I chose draws items towards you, where as the rabbit extends invincibility duration after you get hit. The cat holds on to some rings after taking damage so as you can see it can be tailored to your playing style. The one you choose at the start you will use the whole game, however upon completing the game you can create new avatars. In the beginning you will have limited customization features but more are unlocked as you play and complete missions. At the time of writing I have collected one-hundred parts.
For those of you that played Sonic Colours you will remember the wisp power-ups. Well Sonic Team taken it a step further and only allow the avatar to use them. They now power up the wispon which comes in the form of grappling devices. There are seven types with each having two abilities, one using the right trigger and the other using the Y button. The right trigger ability is at your disposal anytime where as the second ability you can only use when you will up the power gauge by collecting the right colour of wisp. The burst wispons second ability allows you to boost upwards for a short time which you can use to get over gaps. The lightning wispon moves you at lightning fast speed near rings or enemies and when you have a specific trail of rings or enemies you can get to otherwise unreachable areas, this has to be my favourite wispon.
Your avatar has a ranking up system which progresses depending on your overall level score after bonuses, this is not the same as the level rank, more on that later. As you rank up your avatar this also unlocks more customizable items to use. Sonic Forces is full of in-game missions which reward you with parts. Then there are the daily missions which reward you with boost bonuses to your score allowing you to rank up your character faster. Just as well as there is an achievement for ranking up each species to the max.
The level design of Sonic Forces follows that of Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations so you know what you are in for. There are thirty plus stages to play through which is great and with this being a sonic game the stages don’t last long. They can be completed in anywhere from sixty seconds to just under four minutes depending if you go exploring. The modern sonic levels do feel like you are on rails a lot of the time. There are multiple paths in some but you need to act fast when deciding. It didn’t bother me in Generations and doesn’t bother me in Forces. The classic levels offer a little more exploration and you can see that Sonic Team has designed them in ways to make use of your wispon. Outside the main stages you have a small handful of secret and extra stages which all take the form of 2D platforming. These are much more challenging with some right evil design like Eggman made them himself. One reminds me of a super Mario Bors level where the cloud threw thing in you direction. As they have already added the Shadow story via DLC I would like to see more of these stages added. The ranking system for the levels seems to favour fast times over amount of rings collected and this stands true for all even the special stages. As long as you are fast, have a good amount of rings and don’t die you can pretty much be guaranteed an S rank. The game does have an online leaderboard for every stage but the way the stage scores are worked out takes away a lot of the challenge.
There are only a handful of boss battles and while they are impressive you get spots of deja-vu. The metal sonic battle is not only similar to that of the classic, but a stage of the Infinite boss battle is also very similar. Sonic Team have stuck to the tried and tested formula where I would have loved to have seen more unique boss battles. I did like the metal spider battle though in a sand covered green-hill zone, after I figured it out, again old age creeping in. The finale boss battle definitely takes the down right evil genius award though. I spent a good twenty minutes finishing it due to one specific stage, I will not spoil anything but when you get to it you will know it.
I thought the graphics in Sonic Colours were great on the Wii and was even more impressed with Sonic Generations on the Xbox 360. Sonic Forces graphics are full of vibrant colours which you would expect from the franchise. The eye candy is just outstanding, they carry on from where Sonic Generations stopped. Seeing Green-hill zone with the grass moving in the breeze just never gets old. I like the take on the whole Green-hill zone being covered is sand as well. The war torn city streets also look impressive. Even on the modern sonic levels the graphics are amazing and have a steady frame rate. I don’t notice any issues when you go from 2D to 3D gameplay either. I don’t know how much more impressive the game looks or plays on the Xbox One X just due to not having one yet.
When it comes to the games audio you have the usual voiceover’s which are pretty much what you would expect, although there is no voice for classic sonic and your avatar. When it comes to the games soundtrack I have to say that this is by far the best soundtrack of any recent sonic game. From the moment the intro music starts right through to the end credits, the tracks are such a pleasure. You have a mix of fast paced rock songs to a more slow and gentle song. There is even the London Orchestra thrown in there along with some electronic style music. It is clear that there were certainly some big production values when producing the soundtrack.
The Good Things
- If you loved Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations you will love this.
- The new avatar feature is awesome with some amazing looking creations by the community.
- The graphics are just outstanding.
- Best soundtrack of any recent sonic game.
And The Bad
- Modern sonic controls on 2D levels are hit and miss.
- The game can be completed in around four hours.
- Only a small handful of boss battles.
- Please make Sonic Generations backwards compatible on Xbox One Sega and Microsoft.
- Sonic Forces is another title that will have very mixed opinions with fans of the franchise. Those that want a more classic sonic game then they should avoid this and pick up Sonic Mania. Those looking for an experience similar to that of Sonic Colours and Generations should look into getting this title. There is no denying that Forces is a short sonic title and while most levels take under four minutes to complete it still does offer and enjoyable experience. If they were to tweak the controls a little via a patch it would take away some frustration. I think Sonic Team missed a trick by only including a handful of boss battles and not trying something new. As long as you don’t expect a ton of replay value Sonic Forces is still worth a purchase and with the digital price only £34.99 it could probably be picked up in retail for even less. Had the level design been more complex and longer along with more boss battles this would have gained an extra mark.
A short yet enjoyable adventure with the best soundtrack to grace a Sonic title.