Running A Familiar Route
Sonic Forces, Dr. Eggman remedies his decades of disappointment by aligning
with Infinite, a being who can replicate Sonic’s greatest enemies to have them
all gang up on him at once. Similarly, Sonic Team has remedied its recent
struggles by piecing together things that have worked in the past to create a better
3D Sonic the Hedgehog game. Unfortunately for both Eggman and Sonic Team,
despite this being their best effort in a long time, the flaws are still evident.
Forces puts you in control of modern Sonic, classic Sonic, and a custom hero as
you speed through more than 30 stages to take down the maniacal doctor. Rather
than delivering jarringly disparate pacing, Sonic Team made all three playable
characters focus on speedy gameplay. The main differentiating factors between
these characters is their movesets. Modern Sonic has his signature homing
attack that lets him lock onto enemies in mid-air, as well as slide, stomp, and
boost abilities, while classic Sonic is limited to his spin dash.
two versions of Sonic, Forces also features a custom character you take control
of in dedicated stages. The creation suite allows you to choose from several
anthropomorphic animal species, and equip them with cosmetic clothes and
accessories. While you can easily create an abomination that sticks out in
cutscenes like a sore thumb, making a hero that feels at home in the world is
just as simple.
custom character shares most of its moves with modern Sonic, but you can also
swing from grapple points and equip a Wispon weapon. Wispons range from an
electric whip to a device that traps enemies in cubes, but the most effective
is the flamethrower you start with. Each Wispon also carries a traversal
mechanic – the flamethrower allows you to burst upward to reach higher levels,
while the cube device can spawn platforms. I like how you can reach different
items if you have a particular ability at your disposal, but a few extra rings
are usually all that’s at stake when choosing your route.
Sonic’s 3D stages are better than they’ve ever been, and deliver a terrific
sense of speed without making you feel like you’re out of control. My favorite
3D sequences come when you’re rushing down a straightaway, relying on your
reflexes to sidestep enemies and obstacles. However, Sonic Team has yet to
fully crack the code of how to make Sonic feel great in motion when not on
rails, and the slippery controls feel like he’s skating through the world.
Sonic’s 2D gameplay is surprisingly the worst part of the trio of characters,
as his side-scrolling portions don’t control nearly as well as the classic
games, and precise platforming is unnecessarily frustrating. In addition, classic
Sonic inexplicably loses momentum at a rapid rate, slowing down too quickly after
hitting a booster, and often struggling to make it up ramps seemingly placed
for him to easily blast over.
many recent Sonic games, level design has been a sore spot. Sonic Forces
largely fixes the series’ longstanding problem with random pitfalls; I trained
myself to let Sonic speed forward with little fear of my character falling to his
death thanks to the better designed stages. Unfortunately, Forces’ attempts to
create branching paths falls mostly flat, giving you little incentive to
explore the alternate routes when they do pop up. Instead, Sonic Forces is
mostly about blasting through the stage as quick as possible while scooping up
tons of rings and taking out some enemies along the way.
Forces encourages you to revisit stages with the promise of new customization
items for your created character. SOS missions pop up at random on previously
beaten stages, but the missions are poorly defined. Despite making it through
the stage again during these SOS missions, I sometimes received an ambiguous
“Mission Failed” screen with no explanation as to why. In addition, daily
missions give you simple goals like clearing a Sonic stage, while other challenges
focus on tasks like using specific weapons. While I like the added emphasis put
on replaying older levels, I am frustrated and baffled that the action-stopping
tutorials from the earlier levels persist on repeated playthroughs.
Despite my multiple gripes
with Sonic Forces, I still enjoyed the adventure. 3D Sonic games still aren’t
to where they should be after such a long time of iteration and
experimentation, but through improved gameplay and level design, Sonic Forces
continues the series’ evolution in the right direction.