I had been waiting for a Sonic Generations sequel ever since the game came out, and not for nostalgia reasons. I genuinely enjoyed the boost gameplay started in Sonic Unleashed and near perfected in Generations. Six years later, I got my wish… or did I?
Sonic Forces is not what it seems at all. It advertised itself as a 3D Sonic game with Generations’ gameplay and a story style like Adventure with 2D Classic gameplay for those who wanted it. And, to be fair, it got one of those right. Forces’ story is a much more serious tone than any of the more recent mainline games. Eggman has taken over the world and supposedly beaten Sonic, and it’s up to Sonic’s forces (heh) to take control back from Eggman, including your own OC in the form of a new force recruit. It’s not a bad story, if cheesy at times. The idea of the Phantom Ruby doesn’t make a lot of sense — is its spawn real or just an illusion? — but otherwise it’s fairly competent. If anything, I’d probably say it’s the second best part of a first run of the game. The first best part, of course, is the music, but that’s a given. It’s a Sonic game. I’ll go into more detail on that later.
But the meat and potatoes of the game — the gameplay — is extremely misleading to the eye. It looks like Generations, but it plays like complete garbage. There’s no getting around it. Every single part of the gameplay is a downgrade compared to the previous Boost games. The levels are ridiculously short and fairly forgettable, or memorable for the wrong reasons (a certain water slide level comes to mind). Both Sonics control like you’re trying to move through molasses on the moon, or like you’re playing a Dimps game. The momentum is unnatural, making it really hard to land platforming. For some reason, sometimes it takes the Simon Belmont style of jumping where it’s impossible to maneuver during a jump, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint what causes it, which just makes its movement worse. In the 3D seconds, the drift has been inexplicably removed, making it hard to move in any way besides a straight line or using the bumpers, which also no longer lock to rails like in Unleashed and Generations. The Avatar can simultaneously move too fast and too slow to control. And finally, there’s enough of a delay in input to make it require getting used to. Somehow, Sonic Team has struck that perfect balance of having trash mechanics for opposite reasons simultaneously.
It’s a shame, too, because what it brings to the table is fairly neat. The avatar’s weapons, or Wispons as they’re called, are actually pretty fun to use. Grappling is a very fun mechanic, and the character creation is really versatile. I’d go so far as to say the Avatar stages are the most fun parts of the game to play, once you get used to the bad control. But the fun ends fast, because the game only lasts 3 hours — 2 if you don’t die a lot. There’s a lot of collectables — mostly red ring deviations — but why would you want to go back to an unfun, unmemorable mess of a game?
The one final nice thing I have to say about it is that the music, while not really Sonic sounding, is very good. I especially love the Avatar stage tracks, such as Prison Hall and Capital City. It has a weird pop meets DnB mix that really works. I don’t have much to say about Modern Sonic’s music, but I do have something to say about Classic’s music. It all sounds like it’s rendered off a YM2613, which is fine, but it doesn’t use the Sonic sound signature at all. It’s like the director was given a Genesis and told to go nuts, rather than using any previous classic Sonic music. It’s also purely FM synth with no additions, so it sounds really off when combined with the more realistic sound effects.
Overall, this game makes me sad. It has so much potential. If it was ported using the proper Generations engine, I’m sure it could be a decently good game, even with lacking stages. But it’s just so technically incompetent on a fundamental gameplay level that it’s really hard to recommend to anyone besides a die hard Sonic fan like myself and my friends. I ended up having fun with it in the end, but it’s really hard to see its flaws and think, “this game is worth $40.”