I know, it's December and this game came out over a month ago, but I needed time to process this. I pre-ordered this game because I wanted to play it without bias or pre-judgement. After seeing the mixture of reviews to come out, I do feel, had I seen them all, I would have been pushed to buy this game, considering a lot of reviews came from a game development standpoint as opposed to just simple enjoyment, and that is why I am here today.
As a consumer, I prefer reviews from people that elaborate on the enjoyment of said product. There are tons of "awful" games out there that still provide enjoyment and the same could be said for movies and books, as well. So the main question to keep in mind throughout this review would be: Is Sonic Forces enjoyable to play? Let's find out.
1. Gameplay Mechanics
From the moment I began playing this game, one thing stood out to me the most, and that was the controls. Now, the controls are split into three sections because there are a total of three different people you can play between.
A. Modern day 3D Sonic:
From my personal experience, Sonic was probably the most enjoyable to play gameplay-wise just because of his fast features and that is technically why people still, to this day, love his character. The cons with his gameplay style is that there are dozens of moments when the game control is just completely taken away from you and it sometimes feels like you're being handed a win. Now you could be thinking: but don't a lot of games have automatic features? And yes, you are completely right in that aspect, but how many times can you say those automatic features made you feel any less of a player? That is the big disconnect for me when I play with Sonic. I feel like sometimes I'm just telling him where to move and that's enough for me to get him to do 20,000 things at once without my control. Once the game actually does let me control him full force, I get a BLAST out of playing him...but then the level is over just as quickly as it started, and I will be getting into that a little later.
B. Past day 2D Sonic
Giving my honest opinion that a lot of people may disagree with: I HATE 2D Sonic in 3D form. 2D Sonic is someone that I loathed playing throughout this entire game. Any time a level came up where I had to play him, I would give no effort at all because I just didn't care anymore...but why? What happened to make me feel this way? One thing: gameplay style. I do not think 2D sonic is meant to coexist in the 3D world, or at least not until it is properly executed.
When playing 2D Sonic games from back in the day, it was possible to get that same rush you get when you're playing 3D Sonic in modern day form. With Sonic Forces being a leading example, 2D Sonic came out the worst. There were so many slow-downs that I felt that I actually needed to take my time whenever I played with this Sonic. Sonic is supposed to be fast and the gamer is supposed to have minimal time to react to situations. I get that. I just felt that 2D Sonic was not as properly executed as he could have been. I do have a feeling why, but it relates to a later topic.
C. Custom Character
Granted, I had tons of fun winning items for my character and dressing her up...but that was it. The custom character idea was a GREAT idea, and I still think it is because it honestly was the only thing that kept me playing this game when I was halfway through and wanted to throw it in the trash. Down to the mechanics of it, I feel like the custom character, in certain aspects, was poorly executed as well. Although playable, it's hard not to get frustrated when you're told how the game is supposed to work and it ain't working.
I will give an example just so I can put a picture in your head. There is an object that can be used to do the Sonic ring dash with your custom character and I thought it was so cool at first, until the levels continued on. I cannot count how many times this ring dash has led me to my death or was supposed to destroy robots. It didn't and I died anyway. I won't nitpick at each weapon the character can use, but just understand that there are a lot of flaws in the custom character play design that will lead you to either die a lot or get hurt a lot.
2. Level Design
Level design is honestly my second biggest complaint about this game. How I feel about the level design is ten times worse than how I feel about 2D Sonic being implemented, so I'll break this down into four subsections.
A. Modern Day Sonic Levels
I've already explained about how the automatic control was an issue, but I did say that Sonic was the most enjoyable to play. If there was one thing I could say about him and his levels, it was that his controls did work. As far as his levels are concerned, they are just too short. The average time for Sonic's levels is about a minute and thirty seconds but REMIND YOU, you do not control him entirely for certain parts, so it's almost as if you yourself are averaging minimal gameplay time each time you play with him, which sucks because he is literally the most fun person to play with.
I'm not going to get into how hard it is to make a Sonic level because of how fast he is, but when I look at Sonic Unleashed and even Sonic 06, I can say both games did a pretty good job at level design to keep up with Sonic while adhering to his adventurous lifestyle. The reason this is an issue is because, as someone so solid in the gaming community, Sonic as a character should NOT be going backwards! If he has had good level design before, it's possible now and that's why I'm concerned.
B. 2D Past Sonic Levels
2D Sonic's level design I think played a major part in why he was not enjoyable to play. Besides all of the slowdowns in how his character works, the levels sometimes would seem as if they were just taken apart from other levels and thrown about to give this Sonic something to walk on. It's easier to create longer and memorable levels with 2D Sonic in his 2D world, but harder to execute that in 3D time for whatever reason (I simply don't know. I'm not a game designer). Because of this, I think they should have left 2D Sonic out if the levels were going to be as mediocre as they are.
C. Custom Character Levels
The design for custom character levels wsas pretty good in my opinion and probably the BEST out of all three characters. They were probably better designed than Sonic's levels because your custom character doesn't always need speed to get things done and, because of the weapon your character uses and their unique powers, there is a lot more engagement and skill that goes into playing your custom character, which is why I emphasized earlier that this was a great idea that needed better execution. The timing of the levels is great because you have full control majority of the time. There are points in time where I feel automatic control isn't needed where they give it, but compared to Sonic's levels, it's a lot less with your custom character, so minimal complaints from me on this.
D. Boss Levels
I. Can. Not. Explain. How. Bad. These. ARE! If you are into mobile games, that's great and you'll probably love this, but for those of us who buy a console/PC game, we EXPECT a console/PC game, not a mobile game formatted for consoles and being sold at console price. Minor spoiler alert: They all are side scrollers. Every last one of them is a side scroller, with the exceptions of maybe one or two, but that's even a stretch because even those levels have minimal movement involved. I have never been so disappointed in my life. For me, a bad game can be bad, but I need my boss battles to make me feel like I'm fighting someone ten times stronger than me. Sorry to break it to you if you haven't played the game yet, you will get hardly any satisfaction from those boss battles.
I could have given these boss battles a pass if they were HARD side scrollers, but unfortunately, they weren't. You'll be done with a majority of them in a minute or two. Why is this an issue? Once again, bringing up the history of past Sonic games, Sonic boss levels are not simple nor are they short. Everyone says Sonic 06 was the bane of existence for Sonic, but as someone who played it and enjoyed it regardless of all the cons, THE BOSS LEVEL "DESIGNS" WERE ON POINT!
Even the LAST boss was probably the biggest disappointment because it's supposed to be the hardest, and it wasn't hard, nor was it long. It didn't make me feel like I just saved the world, it made me feel like I just took Eggman down for the umpteenth time and I'll see him and his minions again next week. Once again, Sonic is not supposed to be going backwards. Moving on, because I could rant about boss level design all day and would still have more to say tomorrow.
3. Story Design
A. Character Development
Biggest F goes to character development because I have this L saved for last. 2D Sonic had no business being in this game. He felt as if he was added for substance, but ended up being nobody that just dropped in for a visit and some cookies. Everything we are used to with Sonic just felt like it got thrown out the window when it comes to character development. Knuckles, Rouge, Amy, Tails, just everyone felt like a bland character. The only person that had any type of character development was our custom character which I give the team an A plus for.
Infinite on the other hand...I will not say anything about Infinite because I don't want to spoil anything, but just know, he is probably the most overhyped character in gaming history with the biggest letdown percentage of all time. He ain't even that scary y'all, trust me >_> I wish he was.
As a writer myself, I cringed so hard at the screenwriting. This goes in hand with character development. Everyone's lines sounded so generic. It was almost as if no one had any personality. Granted, the voice acting was okay, I guess, but it did nothing for me because the lines always sounded so forced and robotic. This leads me to my final subsection and biggest L hand out.
C. Story/Concept Design
This as a WHOLE gets a big fat L! I could not believe me eyes when I saw how little effort had gone into the cinematics (This is not to discredit the animators because I'm sure they only did as they were told. The animations themselves were not bad so please do not take it that way.) and just everything! First off, I think this might be the shortest Sonic story to date. Even Sonic Heroes had better cinematics along with a better story. There is no excuse for such short cutscenes when they are supposed to immerse us into the game and distract us from everything else trash going on.
As soon as a cut scene started, granted they were cringey and filled with little emotion, that doesn't excuse that they should've been longer to at least build us up for what's to come. So many corners were cut as far as this story is concerned and it is the number one COMPLAINT I have about this game. Everything else I mentioned could have been looked over because I still finished the game, but a good story would have at least kept me entertained as I'm trying not to scream my lungs out at everything else. Like come on now >_>
So let's bring it all in, was Sonic Forces an enjoyable game?
The answer is, and I'm sure you guessed it, NO! From a loyal Sonic fan all these years, a thousand times NO. I don't recommend anyone buying this game, save your money and watch a YouTuber PLEASE. Trust me, $40 is not worth it just for a custom character, I'm sorry. If I could go back, I would not buy this game. I could have taken the short levels, I could have taken 2D Sonic slowed down, I could have taken doing custom character levels over and over until my powers didn't kill me, but all of that AND awful story design? What's the point of getting the game if not even ONE THING is top notch? If you made it through all of this and you still want to buy this game: good luck, but for those of you that are choosing to save your money: good choice.
Do yaself a favor, go to YouTube. Thanks for reading everyone, and until next time.