Sonic Forces surpasses expectations in almost every way. The FingerGuns EGX Preview;
2017 is being heralded as “The Year When Sonic Is Finally Good Again” and on the basis of Sonic Mania alone, I’d absolutely agree with that. Strangely, there’s a Shadow hanging over SEGA’s other Sonic title set to release this year – Sonic Forces. Maybe it’s because Mania was so good that people are wary of the series taking a step back or maybe it’s because 3D Sonic games have never reached the same heights of enjoyment as the 2D equivalent. I don’t know where the trepidation is coming from. Whatever the reason, there’s an air of caution surrounding Sonic Team’s next game.
I’m here to say you needn’t worry. Sonic Forces is 10 times better than I was expecting.
Based on the 4 demo’s I played at EGX 2017, it feels like Sonic Team have learnt their lesson from the past and rather than trying to revolutionise Sonic for the 3D space, they’ve evolved what has worked for Sonic in the past. They’ve spliced the gameplay of the classic Sonic titles with the positives for the 3D games and then added a sprinkling of Sonic Dash for good measure. The result is a fast paced but measured Sonic game that looks and plays superbly.
Take the boss battle for example. This demo was labelled “Classic Sonic” and that’s exactly what it felt like. The demo started at the end of what I can only presume was one the levels based on a Green Hill Zone-esque stage. It certainly had that type of aesthetic. Side on, like Mania, Eggman appears swinging a circular saw from side to side on the screen, reminiscent of the wrecking ball he swung around in the first boss battle of the original Sonic The Hedgehog game. A few spin jumps into his floating ship and Eggman retreated to the background but is soon joined by a huge mechanical dragon called the Egg Dragon (because of course it is). The dragon that proceeds to whip its tail and thrash its wings to force blocks to fall into the foreground on top of Sonic. After a few rounds of this, surviving on a single ring, the dragon starts to throw black seed like boulders which, when attacked fire into the background. The aim is to knock these seeds backwards when the dragon is in the right arc of the seeds. To say I enjoyed this boss fight would be an understatement. It’s not a cheap boss fight like Sonic has been criticised for in the past and it combines the 2D gameplay that we know and love with multi-layered 3D planes to great effect.
The second demo allowed me to play as a new player created character in a prolonged battle with a giant spider mech. Side on again, this level felt more like a traditional platformer with branching paths that cater to characters with different skills. Parts of it were slower than expected with combat and acrobatics sections that felt more akin to a Mario game than a Sonic title (which is no bad thing) but there were still sections with high octane speed. This level ended with a Sonic Dash style section that had you running away from the spider mech while avoiding rocks it was knocking towards you. A tap of the Dualshock 4 R1 and L1 switched between the 3 lanes of play as the rocks hurtling towards my character sped up. It ended with an incredible cut scene and a huge grin on my face.
The other two demos were ones you’ve likely seen before on the trailers or in the published game play videos. Chasing down Shadow in the city streets as Sonic, dashing through Egg bots feels super satisfying.
One improvement I noticed in Sonic Forces over other Sonic games is the team chatter. The roster of Sonic characters are almost constantly talking to you via radio and while not all of the lines of dialogue are needed, there are some absolute blinders mixed in there. During the Egg Dragon battle, Tails is trying to throw Eggman off his game. Eggman exclaims “This robot is even more powerful than I had calculated” to which Tails retorts “So you miscalculated? As a scientist, that’s a failure”. Eggman rushes it off with claiming that overwhelming power can never be a failure but you can tell through some pretty impressive voice work that Tails had managed to get under his skin.
When I sat down to play Sonic Forces, I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve not enjoyed a 3D Sonic game as much as a 2D Sonic game since Sonic Adventure back in 1998 on the Dreamcast but the 4 demos I played of Forces left me smiling from ear to ear. I went from cautiously waiting on reviews to being a definite pre-order in 15 minutes flat. There’s every chance that 2017 might be “The Year When Sonic Is Finally Good Again” if the rest of Sonic Forces matches up to the quality of what I played at EGX.