Coming Q4 2017 to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Since Sonic Generations proved that Sega’s iconic mascot was still capable of something good, our hopes were set higher than usual for Sonic Forces. By combining the nostalgic 2D origins of the blue bullet with his less than stellar modern outings, we saw an inconsistent yet lovable adventure. Sonic Forces aims for something similar, but appears to stumble at every conceivable hurdle.
However, like a hedgehog waltzing clumsily into a nearby road, it’s something you can’t help but watch.
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Sonic Forces is split into three distinct stage types: Modern, Classic and Avatar. Each of these play in a vastly different way, although none are particularly intuitive or fun to experience. The modern levels feel like almost every 3D Sonic title from the past decade, with many of the annoyances you’ve come to expect. It’s difficult to predict when Sonic will suddenly launch into an obstacle, losing all your precious rings and momentum.
Being punished for circumstances you can’t predict, and the constant chore of stopping and starting, remains as tiresome as it did in 2003’s Sonic Heroes. Control is often taken away from you, too, and set pieces are presented through a wildly choppy frame rate. Platformers are at their best when you’re rewarded for tight precision and exploration. Sonic Forces clasps your hand like an overbearing parent and seldom lets go.
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The classic Sonic stages may fare better, although I didn’t get a chance to play a fully fledged level. Instead, we took part in a boss battle taken straight from the original Sonic The Hedgehog. Fighting Doctor Eggman, you must collect rings and bounce into his spherical ship to secure victory. It’s perfectly fine, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
Sonic Generations’ classic stages were a nostalgic blast, and Forces appears to make no attempt to build on its charm or aesthetic. The world Sonic inhabits is laughably dark and almost apocalyptic with explosions and debris dotting the horizon. It’s a huge shame, and hopefully Sega is yet to pull the curtain back on a slew of worlds dripping with platforming magic. For now, I’m not holding my breath.
Last up are the Avatar stages, which harbour a surprising amount of potential. Players can now bring their “fursonas” to life in Sonic Forces, kitting them out with an assortment of weapons and abilities ripe for customisation. We didn’t get to make our own, instead picking from two prefabricated heroes with jetpacks and lightning guns. You know, the usual stuff.
At first I was optimistic, hoping my new weaponry would alleviate previous frustrations. I was wrong. The Avatar stages play almost exactly like the aforementioned Modern playgrounds, with all the disappointment in tow. It’s a shame, and I desperately hope the customisation tools are refined since they currently feel broken. By holding down the ZR button I sent out a constant stream of lightning that killed everything in my path, essentially making me invincible.
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Sonic Forces feels rough, and being shown off in the same room as Super Mario Odyssey certainly didn’t help its chances. Poor design elements that have plagued the series for years are still present, making us question whether Sonic was ever any good in the first place.
We’ve yet to see a full Classic stage in action; time will tell whether it can remedy the mediocrity of its counterparts.