Sonic Forces Review

November 20, 2017

Sonic Forces just goes to show that you can’t please everyone – and if you try, you might not be able to please anyoneSonic the Hedgehog’s fanbase is notoriously fervent and demanding, but also split in several ways. Some fans want a continuation of the epic storylines of the Sonic Adventure series, some fans want a return to the ‘Boost’ gameplay formula introduced in Sonic Unleashed, and some fans think the franchise never worked in 3D in the first place and wish Sonic Team would just go back to making 2D games. That latter group finally got its wish in this year’s excellent Sonic Mania, yet Sonic Team’s mistake in Sonic Forces is still attempting to cater to them, as well as everyone else, in one big hodgepodge of a game (or should that be hedgepodge?).

The biggest obvious influence is 2011’s Sonic Generations, the last ‘Boost’ Sonic title and the last 3D Sonic game that garnered any kind of critical acclaim. Yet, six years seems almost too late for such a direct follow-up, especially when it not only rehashes it with re-skins of a couple of its levels, but also squanders Generations’ central mechanic, of having both 3D Modern Sonic levels and 2D Classic Sonic levels. Here, Classic Sonic is used exceedingly sparingly, and his controls are disappointing, especially when compared to the recent Mania. There’s a lack of natural momentum – instead you feel like you’re constantly pushing back against Sonic to make accurate jumps. It feels like his inclusion was solely for marketing to bring in the Sega Mega Drive crowd.

However, Modern Sonic doesn’t fare much better. Here, Sonic often feels too slippery and imprecise, as he runs along rollercoaster-style roads collecting rings. Thanks to the Boost system, this isn’t usually a problem, as collecting Wisps to power Sonic’s Boost will let him blow past enemies, and even entire sections of the level. However, there are times when you’ll need to turn a tight corner with no guard-rails and Sonic’s momentum will just see him fly over the edge time and time again, like the controls just aren’t built to handle any kind of precision. Luckily, you’ll never face any enemies that will pose much of a threat either – in the game’s entire 3-hour running time, I did not encounter a single enemy outside of bosses who could withstand more than a single homing attack hit or required any strategy.

After a decade of relatively light-hearted Sonic stories (compared to 2006’s time-travel ridden Sonic the Hedgehog), Sonic Team attempt to go full-on dark with Sonic Forces. In the game’s opening minutes, Dr. Eggman not only defeats Sonic but also takes over the entire world. His secret weapon – an omnipotent jackal named ‘Infinite’, who has the power to warp reality and create illusions, including past Sonic villains like Chaos, Shadow, Metal Sonic and the oh-so-memorable ‘Zavok’. While Sonic is held captive and tortured for six months (yes, really), his friends form a resistance movement to fight Eggman and tip the scales of war back in favour of freedom, recruiting a new ‘Buddy’ to help.

The story tries to draw upon the entire Sonic canon, bringing back fan-favourite villains and locations, as well as introducing a new over-confidently ‘cool’ baddie in Infinite. It just never seems to have the focus to flesh any part of this out, or the resources to make the scope work. Of the four returning villains – only two are actually fought, with the other two dispatched in cutscenes. A clash between the Resistance and Eggman’s army plays with literally copy-and-pasted models duking it out on a generic rocky field. I don’t expect, well, anything from a story in a Sonic game, but Sonic Forces fails to capitalise on the goals it sets for itself.

With all that said, the brightest part of Sonic Forces actually comes from Buddy and this ‘Avatar’ mechanic. I know! It’s the one part of the game that was endlessly mocked upon its announcement, as Sonic Team finally cashing in on a fanbase which loves to create its own original Sonic characters so much, you can basically Google any name + ‘the Hedgehog’ and you’ll get a result on DeviantArt. However, there’s actually a great deal of customisation behind your Avatar, down to the fact that its species affects what special abilities it has, and the hundreds of costumes and accessories you unlock after every level, depending on how you perform. You can equip them with ‘Wispons’ – gadgets that range from flamethrowers to whips and air-guns that are powerful enough to clear screens of enemies.

As cheesy as it is, the best moments in the game are when your Avatar teams up with Sonic himself, in a quasi-Sonic Heroes style where its unclear which of the pair you’re actually controlling at any one time. Nevertheless, combining your character’s gadgets with Sonic’s speed to blow through levels feels good, especially when the returning trademark Sonic butt rock kicks in and catapults your consciousness back to 2003. While in general, the Avatar stages suffer from the same problems as Modern Sonic, they show a little more creativity than much of the rest of the game.

At launch, there is also additional material with Episode Shadow available as free DLC. It makes the edge-hog playable in Modern Sonic’s levels in the main game, as well as giving him three short levels of his own using existing assets. It’s nothing substantial except for giving a terrible backstory for Infinite, and testing your skills in slightly harder variations of the game’s levels.

Sonic Forces draws desperately on the entire Sonic canon as it tries to appeal to its fanbase. Classic Sonic from Sonic Generations. Villains from Sonic Adventure. Boost gameplay from Sonic Unleashed. Wisp power-ups from Sonic Colors. The Death Egg from Sonic 3 & Knuckles. And so on and so forth – it tries to be huge without the apparent resources to make it work, and in doing so fails to properly develop its truly unique feature – the Avatar system. For all the jokes you can make about Sonic fans’ obsession with creating original characters, the Avatar customisation is deep and it shows glimmers of working really well. If the focus had been solely on this, fleshing it out and allowing you to properly develop a character and team up with Sonic in an original adventure, I think it could have pleased fans and worked as its own game. As it stands, Sonic Forces is merely mediocre – although luckily we can always go back and replay Sonic Mania.


- Avatar creation is quite extensive, and the most interesting mechanic
- Some cool visuals in the game's levels
- Glorious return of Sonic butt rock
- Avatar creation is deep and interesting


- Slippery controls
- Squandered Classic Sonic
- Scattered focus that doesn't build on its strengths
- Unengaging story

Overall Score: