Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It’s a cliche at this point to start a Sonic review by describing the hedgehog’s turbulent history. After years of being subject to underwhelming releases, the once-beloved Sega mascot has become a punchline. Sonic the Hedgehog has become one of the most mismanaged franchises in gaming history. For every promising Sonic Generations, fans have gotten dumpster fires such as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Sonic Forces is Sega and Sonic Team’s latest effort to bring the series back to life, arriving just in time for the Blue Blur’s 25th anniversary.
Like many of its predecessors, Sonic Forces is most definitely ambitious. This new entry promises a more mature story, an abundance of fan-service, and three distinct playstyles that cater to all types of Sonic fans. Unfortunately, Sonic Team’s middling execution can’t save it from being another painfully mediocre offering in the Sonic canon.
The story in Forces is laughably serious and melodramatic for a game starring anthropomorphic woodland creatures. Forces begins with Sonic and his friends finally being defeated by longtime series antagonist, Dr. Eggman, with the help of Infinite, his new powerful ally. It is up to Sonic and his team of resistance fighters to recapture the world from Eggman’s clutches. On paper, the story is interesting as the classic Sonic formula has been flipped on its head. Fan favorite characters such as Shadow, Espio, and Chaos also pop up throughout the narrative, causing this Sonic faithful to squeal in delight. However, the game’s heavy reliance on exposition, poorly-written dialogue, rushed pacing, and abrupt tonal shifts hurt what could have been an entertainingly cheesy ride.
Just like in Sonic Generations, players take control of Modern and Classic Sonic after Classic Sonic conveniently finds himself fighting alongside the resistance subsequent to being sucked into a wormhole. Modern and Classic Sonic both control very differently. For the Modern Sonic stages, Sonic Team brought back the “boost” formula seen in Sonic Unleashed, Colors and Generations. Unfortunately, this time around, the stages aren’t nearly as fun as they were in previous outings. Modern Sonic’s stages are incredibly linear, to the point where it feels like they are on autopilot. They take very little skill with regard to platforming and, unlike in Generations, these stages rarely lead to branching paths for players to explore.
The Classic Sonic stages don’t fare much better. After experiencing the brilliantly creative and sprawling labyrinths featured in Sonic Mania, the other 2017 title featuring classic 2D Genesis-style gameplay, it was a chore to play through the soulless and basic Classic Sonic stages featured in Forces. Also, Classic Sonic’s momentum feels unnatural compared to Mania. Every action, even jumping, brings Sonic to a screeching halt.
The new addition to Forces is “The Rookie,” an original character that the player is given the capability to create. The customization is impressively robust; it’s fun to play dress-up with all of the different accessories the player can unlock throughout the journey. Outside of the customization, however, the Rookie is the worst element in Forces. The Rookie’s stages are similar to Modern Sonic’s linear perspective shifting roller-coasters. Modern Sonic’s boost mechanic is replaced by a grappling hook and a “Wispon” weapon that grants The Rookie various ways to dispatch foes, like an electric whip or flamethrower. The Wispon overpowers and eliminates all challenge during The Rookie’s boring levels. Outside of the Wispon and the slower running speed, The Rookie is basically a re-skinned Modern Sonic, which is disappointing.
Sonic Forces is another misfire for Sonic Team. After the enjoyable Generations and the superb Mania, it is disheartening to see Sonic fall back into mediocrity with this latest outing. Hopefully, Sonic Team finally learns from their mistakes and creates a better product for the next go around. Forces can only be recommended to the most die-hard Sonic fans. Mania still stands as the superior Sonic offering this year and, if you are scratching for your Sonic fix, that game is a much better option for you than Forces.