Sonic Forces: review

Poor ol’ Sonic. People love him, but his games? Not so much. This year’s Sonic Mania proved popular, in no small part due to the fact that it apes the old 16-bit adventures as much as possible. Sonic Forces is largely a celebration of the blue hedgehog’s history but, unfortunately, cannot avoid the perennial Curse Of The 3D Sonic Games.

Sonic Forces’ story is, well… odd. The plot sees Dr Eggman somehow recruit the help of an ultra-powerful being known as Infinite (who looks and acts for all the world like Sonic’s Persona-style Shadow). This Infinite fella can warp people’s perception of reality, create VR apparitions that somehow impact the real world, and even interfere with the very fabric of reality itself. Perhaps he could even win a teddy from a rigged claw machine.

All the fiddling about with space-time drags classic Sonic into the same world as modern Sonic. Not to mention all of modern Sonic’s friends that nobody cares about such as Silver, Rouge, Vector, and other nobodies. As for the script, we’ve been scratching our heads as to whether or not it’s self-aware, and really can’t decide. Sometimes, there’s a joke which is genuinely funny precisely because it seems to have its tongue welded into its cheek. The next moment, though, things are being taken so seriously (in cutscenes for which, incidentally, PS4 native recording is disabled) it beggars belief. Let’s just mention the fact that the theme song has lyrics & vocals from the guy out of Hoobastank and let you draw your own conclusions, shall we?

The gameplay impact of having the classic & modern Sonics in the same world is that you’ll get chances to play as each throughout the story. The differences extend beyond classic hog’s stubbiness and modern hog’s sexy legs. Classic can spin along the ground old-school style and double jump, while Modern has the mid-air homing attack and super-boost ability. As you might expect, generally speaking, Classic gets side-scrolling levels and Modern gets 3D stages.

There’s a third playable character. You! Or somebody you make, anyway. Y’see, you get to create your very own character in the Sonic art style, and have him/her participate in many of the levels and appear in cutscenes. The depth of customisation is a little disappointing, but the species you choose is important(ish) as each has its own perk (keep a ring when hit, double jump, etc.). The real aestheic differences come in clothes and accessories. There’s a huge amount of these to unlock throughout the game. The biggest difference when playing as “Buddy” is that you’re armed with a whip, used to latch on to things in the environment and also as a weapon (though you can stick to jump attacks if you like).

This is Phillip the Cat, who likes to mix up Persona and Super Monkey Ball cosplay. Now the official CG mascot.

In terms of presentation if nothing else, levels recognise and capitalise on what people love about Sonic games. Needless to say it’s usually pretty fast, and the frame rate is always (on PS4 as we’ve played it, at least) impressively silky smooth. The goings-on tend to be comically overblown in a good way, and the music amusingly drum & bass or suitably cheesepop. The 3D levels remain linear while incorporating alternate routes and semi-hidden collectables. It’s loud, fast, colourful, and fun.

It’s also rather short.

There are 30 levels to the story; but considering the fact that pretty much all of them can be completed in five minutes or less, it’s likely most people will be done with it in 3-4 hours (that’s including the half dozen ‘secret’ levels). A few of the later levels are annoying though, level 25 even making the frustrating error of rendering your character difficult to follow through a combination of camera distance, colours, and effects.

The idea, therefore, is to encourage people to replay levels. A past stage will sometimes be marked with an SOS alert which, basically, means you need to play back through it without dying with a special requirement (find a hidden character perhaps, or use somebody else’s avatar). With no new content to speak of though, it’s questionable how long this can hold your attention. Apart from that, it’s the old chestnut of perfecting each stage. Winning all S ranks, grabbing all red rings from each stage (and therefore unlocking all Ex levels).

The problem with relying on replays is the overarching problem with the game as a whole. Sonic Forces is like a huge, fancy rollercoaster; an enjoyable yet brief ride that you suspect you paid too much for, and not something that you’re immediately going to want to go through again and again and again.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you’ll find something he’s written in there.

Luke doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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