Review – Sonic Forces
The year of 2017 will forever be remembered as the year Sonic the Hedghehog fans have finally managed to proudly declare a new title featuring Sega’s blue mascot was good enough to even be considered a Game of the Year nominee. Sonic Mania was both a breath of fresh air and a delightful nostalgia bomb for long-time fans, a title that surpassed all expectations. That wasn’t all that Sega planned for the blue hedgehog for this year, though, as Sonic Forces has just arrived as well. While everybody and their mother were positively looking forward to Mania, the fact Forces is a new 3D Sonic game has left everybody, at the very least, a bit skeptical, as tridimensional games from the franchise have never been considered that great. What I can tell you about Forces, and especially the Switch version, is that at the very least, it’s not a bad Sonic game, nor a bad game overall. Don’t you worry folks, Sonic Team hasn’t screwed around this time!
The first thing I can say about Sonic Forces is that it’s basically Sonic Generations on steroids. The gameplay is basically the same, as you constantly change from 2D to 3D controls throughout the levels. It features the same controls and the same issues from Generations, such as the typical loss of all rings when you run into an enemy you could barely see due to the game’s speed and due to the amount of elements onscreen. The boost mechanic is still here, and it makes for incredibly enjoyable moments when you’re going full speed down a road, destroying everything and everyone in front of you. Playing as both edgelord Sonic and classic chubby Sonic is incredibly enjoyable. This is probably the best edgy Sonic has ever been control-wise, by the way. But there’s another playable character in this game. About that. . .
Creating your own Deviantart-esque Sonic character is weird at first and, quite frankly, dull when you actually have to use it. Your character’s gameplay isn’t as fast or fluid as both Sonics, so you have to rely on gadgets and weaponry to traverse stages. In a game where everybody talks beyond the limits of sanity (thankfully the voice acting isn’t that bad this time around, what a relief!), the fact your character is a mute makes it hard for him to shine. The franchise relies heavily on character charisma, so the mute aspect definitely makes your custom character stand out in the wrong way. Thankfully, you play as your very own Frankenstein a lot less than expected, sticking mostly to both Sonics.
And now we reach the game’s main issue: the visuals. I played the Switch version, and yes, it is the weakest version visually-speaking. Instead of running at 60 frames per second as all of the other versions, it runs at 30. Granted, the 30fps framerate is rock solid, but it’s still a disappointment since the Sonic series relies on the sensation of going insanely fast at all times.
The Switch version also suffers from having less lighting effects, reduced textural quality, and less particle effects, especially when your Deviantart monstrosity uses a flamethrower to destroy enemies. None of those issues mentioned in the last two paragraphs render the game unplayable, but it was surely a disappointment, even if it was expected due to the Switch’s less powerful hardware.
If the Switch version is clearly the less visually appealing, what advantages does it have in comparison to the PS4 or Xbox versions? Well, there is the portability factor. It might sound like a cliché, as I keep saying this during most of my Switch reviews, but having a full-fledged current-gen game on a portable is a great thing, even if the game suffers a reduced visual quality. It’s happened before with FIFA 18 and NBA 2K18. Sonic Forces features decent loading times and its levels are short enough for quick bursts of gameplay, a very pick-up-and-play experience. Another positive aspect is that the game doesn’t drain the portable’s battery dry like some other heavier titles like Super Mario Odyssey or Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. I was able to play nearly four fifths of the main campaign without needing to charge the portable on the dock.
Is Sonic Forces better than Mania? No, definitely not. Not a single 3D Sonic game has ever managed to surpass the quality and the magic from the Mega Drive era, but that’s definitely not an issue here. Sonic Forces wasn’t trying to compete with its 3 month old brother, it was just trying to be a decent Sonic game in its own right, and it definitely manages to do so, even though its Switch version does feature a myriad of issues. In this day and age, the fact a 3D game featuring the blue hedgehog is decent is already enough for me to sit back relieved. If you’re a fan, don’t you worry, the game is good enough for you, without the need to force yourself into thinking it’s not as bad as others say it is (you know you’ve done this before).
Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, PC, Xbox One