Sonic Forces PS4 Review

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: SEGA  Developer: Sonic Team  Genre: Platformer  Players: 1  Age Rating: 7+  

Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, Switch

A long time fan, I pretty much gave up on the Sonic franchise after Sonic Unleashed, those werehog sections too monotonous and the game as a whole a complete turn around for the series in a way that left me feeling alienated. I felt it best to finally leave my love of Sonic games in the past along with my childhood. However, I put aside my judgements and have given the franchise another go – Sonic Mania after all has proven to be true to the series origins, and so I felt perhaps Sonic Forces should also be given a chance. I can’t say I am overly impressed.

Your custom character has their own abilities, including making use of a Wispon, a device that allows your character to have multiple powers. It also acts as a grappling hook, used to smash enemies and launch yourself around.

I think it is clear to see that Sonic Team are no longer focusing on Sonic games aimed at fans of the series – leave that to Sonic Mania – and are instead now aiming their 3D Sonic games at a younger demographic, and the more casual of gamers.

The premise of Sonic Forces is that Dr. Robotnik has finally defeated Sonic with the help of new enemy Infinite. Sonic has FINALLY BEEN DEFEATED by Dr. Robotnik. A pretty big deal, you would think. Considering Sonic’s track record for defeating his foes throughout the series though, it seems laughable that this could happen, but any good ideas or character development that could grow from this huge event is simply glossed over.

The opening scene of Sonic being defeated is very rushed, showing Sonic being pummelled by Infinite, blacking out, and then cutting to exposition given through text; a pretty cheap way to show the progression of the characters reactions to this – may I reiterate – BIG event. Sonic has been defeated! More should have been made of this, but he is soon brought back, so any tension Sonic’s defeat could have actually brought to the story is pretty short-lived. You can’t have a Sonic game without Sonic!

As the story continues, it becomes more and more boring, and I suddenly started to feel like I was watching the behind-the-scenes parts of a Terminator film – instead of the focus being on the action, the focus is on the Resistance, standing around tables with blue prints and talking about war plans. In a Sonic game, it feels overly serious, and just a bit silly. If they were trying to replicate the tone of the story from Sonic Adventure 2, then they have failed miserably. True, Sonic Adventure 2’s story wasn’t ground-breaking, but somehow it worked – there was a genuine threat, and the tone, the urgency of the situation, the tension in the music, the rush of the gameplay and characterisation – it all came together to make a story that still managed to hold my interest. Sonic Forces does not.

How many times must we play Green Hill?

So with the story not holding much water, surely the gameplay is fun, right? For the most part, gameplay is certainly enjoyable. I enjoyed boosting through scores of enemies and blowing them to smithereens, though I can’t praise much more than that. Firstly, I found it very insulting that, even in Normal mode, it was incredibly easy to score an ‘S’ rank. I couldn’t believe it – even when your character dies, you are still able to score an ‘S’ rank, on Normal difficulty. This doesn’t really offer any replay value, at least for older players, as you’ll be scoring ‘S’ ranks quite easily in the majority of the stages. Losing rings, dying, playing for over 3 minutes – you’re still likely to score that ‘elusive’ S rank! It feels like the gameplay has been dumbed down to appeal to children, and this in itself is also insulting, Sonic Team believing that children don’t want a challenge and just want to watch a barrage of destruction… they’re probably right though.

Controlling the characters is also a bit of a battle – it feels like there is an invisible rope pulling your character in the direction it wants to go instead of where you want to go, so character control isn’t free-flowing. It almost feels like I am playing Sonic and the Secret Rings, but instead I am more in control of the stopping and starting motion. At times it also feels like I am watching the gameplay rather than playing for myself, especially during parts where your character is launched into the air and over to the next section of the stage.

There’s a few gripes with controls, though at least Sonic Forces gameplay isn’t as terribly broken as Sonic Boom. That’s something.

Gameplay is certainly stylish – graphically the game looks bright, crisp and colourful and characters pull manoeuvres that look ‘flashy’ and ‘cool’ and ‘hip’, all those cool-kid words that Sonic Team think children still use today, but that only describes Sonic Forces in a nutshell – all style, no substance.

Onto the soundtrack; I liked the boss fight soundtrack when battling Infinite for the first time, it’s very catchy, though some music choices are a bit odd. You’re playing through Green Hill Zone for the umpteenth time, yet it’s not the Green Hill Zone music you hear, but what appears to be a remix of the Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Splash Hill zone music, because Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a classic (!) Some music from the soundtrack also didn’t fit with the flow of the game, and is very generic – what has happened to the Sonic soundtrack? It was the one thing the games had going for them, and even that is steadily being reduced to nothing more than music you would hear in an Ibiza nightclub! Needless to say, the soundtrack here isn’t very memorable.

A positive though is that you can now create your own fan character, and this can be praised for the variation in styles that are available. You unlock clothing and accessories for your character through completing stages, and I enjoyed changing the style of my character from time to time, though it’s a shame that you can’t name your character, with Sonic and friends only referring to you as ‘rookie’ or ‘buddy’. It is also fun to watch your fan character paired with Sonic during a stage and working with him to get to the end, and I like that your character also has a pivotal role in the story – and even a slight backstory, showing their first confrontation with Infinite – as opposed to being cast as mere assistance.

As well as playing as your own custom character, you can rent other characters that other people have designed. You can also use them to play SOS missions, in which you replay a stage with particular requirements. I didn’t really understand what these SOS missions were about, particularly as they don’t feel very distinctive from one another. It felt like I was only replaying a stage, but with a different character, and I did end up not bothering with these missions as they feel rather pointless.

Levels are on the short side, and don’t seem as well planned out as previous Sonic games.

Sonic Forces as a whole though is an unfocused mess. It doesn’t know what it wants to be or who it wants to appeal to, trying to appeal to both younger children, teens, older fans and casual gamers alike – that’s a lot of people to try and please. Because of this, what we are given is a jumbled, confused mess; in some areas it feels overly serious, trying to recapture the tension from stories in older Sonic games, and in other areas it feels childish and pun-heavy. Some areas feel dark, others feel bright and breezy.

Fun and stylish to watch but incredibly shallow to play, the gameplay of Sonic Forces definitely seems to be aimed at younger players, though the Harder difficulty mode is probably where the challenge is for older gamers. The story itself won’t appeal to anyone; the way in which it is presented is incredibly dull, and makes the mistake of telling and not showing. There’s some fan service, with the return of multiple characters and references to older Sonic games, which will be pleasing for some. Mostly this is yet another downturn in the quality of Sonic games though, and especially since the release of Sonic Mania. If you’re a fan, you’re probably better off playing that again, and if not… just go play Mario Odyssey.