Sonic Forces pitches Sonic and his friends in a war against Dr. Eggman and his latest creation: the mysterious reality-bending creature known as Infinite.
Players take control of their own personal avatar, alongside Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic, as members of a guerilla operation of resistance freedom fighters, populated with almost every other Sonic character that has featured in previous Sonic games. The plot seems to have rather darker overtones in comparison to previous games, with war and torture featuring as themes in the opening gambit. Even though the game is resplendent with an all-star cast, gameplay is limited to levels featuring Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and your personal avatar. It can be difficult to adjust to the mix up of characters and their unique abilities as you attempt to learn the controls in the initial stages of the game.
Plot progression is witnessed through various cutscenes, each with their own, unique, cringeworthy elements. Whether it’s Tails gushing over just how cool Sonic is, or Infinite with an attitude and canter that would be the envy of Count Dracula, you’ll find yourself tapping the skip button after listening to a handful of the voice acting. Classic Sonic remains, thankfully, unvocal, and is all the more lovable for it.
The speedy elements of the game feel good to power through, but the controls are occasionally clunky, which leads to frustration. Trying to adjust your character’s trajectory to avoid an upcoming obstacle whilst running at mach 3 speeds often feels like trying to push through treacle, and inevitably ends in frustration. There’s also the occasional pitfall of not realising certain hazards are, well, hazardous. In the dayglo cyberpunk world of the industrial levels, it can be difficult to discern the difference between a glowing checkpoint and a glowing death laser. However, restarting a level when your character meets its untimely demise is a breeze: with the aforementioned glowing checkpoints liberally scattered throughout the level, it’s merely a matter of seconds before you’re back running on the same path, only this time you’re equipped with new valuable insight.
The ability to create your own Avatar in the Sonic universe feels like it’s a dream come true for hardcore Sonic fans. Finally, you can create your very own technicolour hedgehog, dog, wolf, bear, cat, rabbit or bird and let them run and fight alongside Sonic. Additional customisation options are available as items of clothing, which are earned as rewards for achieving missions throughout the game. There’s an incredibly generous amount of loot to be had for adjusting the aesthetic of the avatar, and players can spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking their outfits as well as adjusting their skin and eye colour to suit. The Wispon, a type of elemental energy weapon the avatar uses, also comes in a variety of collectible types to suit the play styles of individual players.
The unfortunate drawback to the fast paced nature of the Sonic series of games is that players rarely get the opportunity to properly watch their lovingly nurtured original character run a loop-de-loop with Sonic, as the pacing and reaction time required to seamlessly play through a level means you’re constantly looking ahead to avoid pitfalls.
Throughout the game, players are requested to assist on SOS missions – replaying previously completed levels to rescue or assist other players’ avatars. It’s an element that encourages players to revisit old levels that may not otherwise get a second appearance; and as a added bonus, scores are often improved, which leads to more achievements and even more goodies unlocked in the ever-growing wardrobe for your avatar. Despite this replay value, many levels feel like they are cut short, despite the scale of the worlds within them feeling vast.
Classic Sonic levels feel like a welcome respite to the fast paced 3D levels, and are resonant with retro blips and bleeps that invoke a warm sense of comfort in any retro Sonic fan.
Overall, Sonic Forces is an enjoyable speed run through a colourful collection of classic Sonic worlds. The addition of the avatar feature is a guaranteed attraction for many Sonic fans, and lends itself well to mixing up the play style, combining firepower with speed. When the game performs well, it performs beautifully. Playing as Sonic boosting through hordes of enemies at blinding speeds before seamlessly rebounding off a trampoline to launch through the air is thoroughly satisfying. However, where it falls down, which seems to be an unfortunately common issue with modern 3D Sonic games, is in the frustratingly difficult to navigate level design coupled with controls that don’t quite respond how you want them to.
Guest review by Cara Packwood.
Sonic Forces is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. We reviewed the PS4 version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Sonic Forces was provided by SEGA. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.