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Sonic Forces Review

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Up to now Sonic Generations still stands as one of the greatest Sonic games in decades. Nothing has come close to beating it and you would think that SEGA and The Sonic Team would be trying to create a sequel to it seen as it was such huge success. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all as the team would rather focus on creating new things in an attempt to release another hit masterpiece. Well, Sonic Forces is not that, if anything I have not played a worse Sonic title since the Sonic The Hedgehog reboot back in 2006. Sonic Forces is made up of a dull and awkward story, clunky controls, a sub-par level design, and worst of all features a new avatar that you create yourself that does not deliver anything when it comes to the game's narrative and mechanics.

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Dr Egg Man is at it again and this time he has created a new being called Infinite. With the help of these crystals known as the Phantom Ruby, Dr Egg Man and Infinite build a robot army and take over the world. During an attempt to stop him Sonic falls and everyone believes he is dead until they later find him locked away in a prison somewhere. Seen as Sonic is dead, supposedly, the resistance is now trying to bring down Dr Egg man without him until the first mission where they find Sonic alive. Convenient right? That is how poorly the game has been written where even the most dramatic moments are predictable and ruined by terrible characters and dialogue. 

Sonic and the resistance team, made up of other characters in the universe like Knuckles, Tails, Rogue, Espio and more now set off to take down Dr Egg Man and his army. Oh, and old evils are also back like Chaos, Metal Sonic and Zavok. While they are present in the game, they play very little role in the game's story at all and even their boss fights are poorly done. It would have been nice to at least have a little bit of attention put into each character, seen as they have been such a large focus in the series up to now. Dr Egg Man is also boring and his cheesy dialogue and weak boss fights make his threat in the game feel like a bedtime story. 

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Worst of all is the new antagonist Infinite. While he looks like a badass villain, his choice of words are overly exaggerated and awkward. That day, I gave up my own unsightly face. And I let go of the old me, the one that was so weak, so that I could become stronger. And then, at last... I obtained the power. The power to make all yield to my will. I... was... REBORN!. I mean who says things like this? 

The new avatar system lets you take on the role of a silent protagonist and create a character using clothes, weapons, and a breed which determine what perks you have. I went with a badass rabbit. The game is divided up into missions that sometimes lets you control Sonic, Classic Sonic, or the avatar you create at the start of the game. Classic Sonic stages are all side scrolling, Sonic stages are mostly running from one point to the other, and the avatar stages are a mix between the two.

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While these avatar-driven levels are meant to be a selling point in the game, they actually don't have the impact I was hoping for. Each avatar has a retractable arm hook to reach new heights, and each one can equip a range of tools that have different shots and power up effects that are only usable if you collect a specific pickup on the stage. You could spend your time in the level exploring each route and trying to figure out the use of each power up but when you mess up once the chance is gone. You see, for example, the fire burst pickup activates an ability to burst into the air to reach new heights. You can use this to reach new areas and even red rings which act as collectables in the level. 

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The issue here is that the platforming mechanics do not work for the game's new system. Moving in the air after bursting thanks to the fire is tough and often timing it perfectly to hit the next pickup so you can refill the burst meter is almost impossible. You then fall to the ground without any way to try again due to the fact that these pickups do not respawn again. That is that for that level. No way to try again unless you die. Not to mention there is a huge timer in the corner counting that puts pressure on you to go as fast as possible. 

The avatar system gets even worse as different tools give you different powers and you unlock these tools along with other cosmetic items after completing stages. I never changed my character at all until the last stage as I saw no point in doing so. Sure, some tools give you buffs like a shield as long as you have over 100 rings, but good luck getting to that number and keeping it there. As for the cosmetic items, the game has a handful of missions where you play as your avatar. Again not seeing him or her until then. This makes the cosmetics feel unwarranted and not giving you a real reason why you want to look cool at all. 

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The game is at its prime when playing as Sonic or Classic Sonic on a handful of stages. Levels look amazing, really. The Sonic Engine can produce some fantastic visuals with some stunning lighting effects, but the levels are not the best design-wise in the series. Short stages that take just over four minutes to complete litter the game with the feeling that you cannot master a stage before it is over. The smaller levels also mean that everything is on a shorter scale and you need to be as fast as possible to collect rings, red rings and if you are lucky to find secret routes by jumping or using the power tools at the right time. Again, all this requires a lot of work and most of the time it is not worth it at all.

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The game features around thirty levels that are all selectable again if you wanted to replay them. These levels are scattered around a world map that you can navigate around. Often SOS beacons will alert you to the opportunity to replay these levels for specific rewards but there is no real reason to do so. Some levels even let you take a long an avatar from an online player. You can switch to them at any time during that level and make use of their weapon. This was a nice way to access new areas sometimes only accessible if you have a specific weapon equipped. Seen as you can only have one, this helps.

Besides the average levels, there are a few boss stages that see you running after Infinite on an endless path trying to hit him using Sonic's air dash, and one or two decent Egg Man robot fights that can be cheesed pretty easily. The issue with Sonic Forces is that it is trying to do too much at once and the pace of the game keeps you confused from start to finish. 

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As each level has an objective, you never actually do anything to achieve it. Rather you are just running around pretending to do something while the radio chatter from the resistance applauds your efforts. The characters scream at you about how close they are to infiltrate the base, meanwhile, you have been running around inside of it for a few minutes already. There is this whole story going on with a massive war between robots and the resistance that you never really see until the end of the game. 

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It is sad that all this is trying to achieve something great that does not ever deliver on its promises. Everything Sonic Forces try to do feels like a half-hearted attempt that brings either an awkward feeling or something that simply does not work. Its story is all over the place, its new characters are a snooze fest, and the game's levels lack the polish we need for them to be great. This 5-hour Sonic game can be skipped until it is on sale sometime

Available On: Xbox One, Windows 10, Switch, PS4 | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro |  Release Date: 7 November 2017 | RRP: R629

This review is based off a review copy provided to us by SEGA

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