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‘Sonic Forces’ Review: A Lack Of Self-Awareness

If Sonic Mania is a love letter to fans, then Sonic Forces is a death threat. It’s yet another reminder that Sonic Team are stranded a million miles away from what makes a Sonic title enjoyable to begin with.



Sonic the Hedgehog has experienced an excellent year for himself. The critically and commercially successful Sonic Mania saw a return to Sonic’s glory days of two dimensional platforming, complete with authentically old school visuals and music. Every facet of the Mania package was pristinely polished to deliver the experience for which fans had been clamouring for many years, and it was safe to say that upon its release, everybody’s favourite hedgehog was back on top form… But then Sonic Forces came along.

I feel disappointed to be a Sonic fan. I feel let down and insulted by Sonic Team. Worst of all though, I feel guilty for supporting such a poor product with my own money. If Sonic Mania is a love letter to fans, then Sonic Forces is a death threat. It’s yet another reminder that Sonic Team are stranded a million miles away from what makes a Sonic title enjoyable, to begin with. Unfortunately, the most substantial success Sonic Forces has to show for itself is its confident display of Sonic Team’s incompetence at quality.

Following the titular hedgehog’s defeat, Eggman has taken over ninety-nine percent of the planet. As modern Sonic, classic Sonic (who appears unexpectedly from another dimension as a result of whatever paper-thin reason Sonic Team could pull out of their backsides), and a custom avatar, players must band together with modern Sonic’s eclectic band of friends to defeat Eggman (who has assembled a team comprising of various villains pulled from the hedgehog’s many outings). It’s a haphazardly hatched narrative that drifts far into the camp of taking itself too seriously. From the villain Infinite, who delivers lines such as “You may call me Infinite, in the brief moments that remain to you” in a failed attempt to appear intimidating, to dialogue detailing that Sonic has been tortured following his imprisonment by Eggman during the beginning of this arduous adventure, Sonic Forces neglects to demonstrate any sense of self awareness, being uncharacteristically dark in places. As somebody who shed a tear as a result of a character death in the Sonic X anime (the Japanese language version mind you, as the English dub decimates it dreadfully), I am open to establishing emotional investment into Sonic’s expansive cast of characters, but Sonic Forces pushes the boundary significantly further than it ever needs to be.

Alleviation from this darker-tinged narrative is delivered in the form of all too frequent one-liners from Sonic. From insulting his opponents to making an abundance of chili dog references, the Americanized hedgehog never passes on an opportunity to solidify himself as comedically inept. If the gameplay of Sonic Forces is not irritating enough, then try playing it whilst Sonic quips “The whole place is going up in flames. Not the kind of fireworks I like.” This line is delivered intended as humour, but it fails at eliciting even a smirk. If you’re currently asking “Wait, where’s the joke?” don’t worry — I have been asking the same question myself.

Of course, the narrative of a Sonic title is far from a make or break factor. What matters most is the gameplay, but unfortunately this is the biggest stumble of Sonic Forces. Controlling any one of the three available characters is a chore due to their appallingly balanced movement properties. Stiff and unresponsive controls are accompanied by inconsistent and temperamental physics, creating a miserable marriage that serves as the catalyst for a bombardment of unfairly cheap deaths (even when tackling the most simplistic of platforming tasks). Performing a specific command concerning character motion can often bring about differing results each and every time, even when the performance of this command is identical in all instances. This creates a wildly unpredictable nature of character responsiveness, meaning success in leaping over a pitfall is often dictated by luck rather than skill. These factors, alongside unnatural momentum, a complete lack of aerial control, and surfaces that feel as if they’re covered in slippery ice (creating a lack of friction in stopping ability), makes short work of draining every ounce of fun.

Sonic Forces flaunts three variations of gameplay, with each one corresponding to one of the player character types (modern Sonic, classic Sonic, and the player’s custom avatar). Modern Sonic features the predictable speed-fetishising gameplay found in Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colours, and Sonic Generations. It frequently creates scenarios in which it’s impossible for players to backtrack due to the lack of control that’s granted to them, resulting in the acquisition of collectibles throughout each stage to be an exercise in tedium. This drawback aside, the three dimensional instances of modern Sonic’s gameplay are the best of a bad bunch, being relatively inoffensive (especially when compared to the rest of the schlock on offer), but the two dimensional confusion is where the aforementioned appallingly balanced movement properties are most noticeable.

Given that classic Sonic’s gameplay is presented entirely within a two dimensional plain, his moments to shine in Sonic Forces sees the title at its weakest. Unlike the stellar Sonic Mania‘s hedgehog, this iteration of classic Sonic is void of the plethora of positives that make speeding along in two dimensions a blast to begin with. The iconic classic Sonic formula excels when it places its focus on intelligently designed physics-based movement. Utilizing momentum to spin dash around loops and leap over hazards is a blast in the hedgehog’s true classic format, but the shameful tribute act that Sonic Forces presents in its place is akin to Sonic Generations, in that the aforementioned intelligently designed physics-based movement is abandoned in favour of a Sonic who’s motion falls firmly into the category of abysmal.

Finally, Sonic Forces allows players to create their own avatar, equip them with various gadgets (known as Wispons), and immerse themselves in a piece of the action. Following the predictable three-dimensional-integrated-with-two-dimensional pattern of gameplay, the avatar stages suffer from many of the same drawbacks as their hedgehog-driven counterparts. On a positive note, unlocking new garments to kit out this custom character is quite possibly the highlight of Sonic Forces, though this is partially due to it being the singular example of game design that’s consistently functional. When navigating a menu screen exists as a substantially more enjoyable experience than the primary gameplay, it’s proof that something is most definitely amiss.

Regarding stage variety, Sonic Forces boasts a smaller quantity of backdrops than what would be expected, with few of them being memorable or visually impressive (unlike the plentiful amount of stage variety seen in titles such as Sonic Generations and Sonic Mania). Differing from the expansive range of visual spectacles found in Super Mario Odyssey‘s kingdoms, Sonic Forces offers only minute splashes of greatness within its aesthetics, being predominantly bland and uninspired in most instances.

On a more positive note, the boss encounters of Sonic Forces are satisfactory. Whilst they’re far from fantastic, they’re of a quality that won’t actively cause unhappiness, unlike much of the other gameplay on offer. The upbeat soundtrack is also a highlight, serving as a reminder that throughout Sonic’s many failures, his titles have always boasted catchy ear worms that dip into a variety of genres. Regardless, these are simply ripples of decency within an ocean of failures. A better title for Sonic Forces would be ‘Sonic Forces Misery Upon Players’, and that upsets me given just how much I wanted to enjoy this title. I entered it with an entirely open mind, prepared to enjoy myself and write a review declaring “It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly good fun,” but I simply couldn’t ignore the glaring faults that were staring me in the face just three stages into the journey. As a Sonic fan, I feel well and truly betrayed by Sonic Team (but then again, I always feel betrayed by Sonic Team, so what’s new?).

Despite a significantly higher budget and a far larger development staff, Sonic Forces isn’t even as half as good as Sonic Mania. It’s rife with a lack of polish in its most fundamental mechanics, and feels confused as to what it’s trying to achieve. With frustrating gameplay as a result of characters that handle horrendously, and a narrative that takes itself far too seriously for its own good, the hedgehog’s latest outing will only appease the most forgiving fans of his modern adventures.

I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games.