Not a long time ago, Sonic had an amazing comeback with Sonic Mania. The good news is,: it’s not the only Sonic game releasing this year. Sonic Forces, Sonic Team’s next installment, is currently slated for a November release, and SEGA revealed new modes and stages for it this week. Sonic’s upcoming rebellion not only introduces a custom hero feature but also a tag team mechanic. How well does this work and play? I got the chance to try the latest build of Sonic Forces at Gamescom and I’ll tell you if Sonic fans should get excited or if fans should keep their fan characters on their sock drawers!
I had the opportunity to play all four types of stages that were available at Gamescom: Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic, Custom Hero and tag team. I will only talk about custom hero mode and tag team mode in great detail because classic Sonic and modern Sonic didn’t offer much new content. I had to run with Modern Sonic across a city that was destroyed by Eggman’s robots. There isn’t a big difference between his gameplay style from Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors and what he presents us with in Forces. Actually, Modern Sonic really felt like a mix of his Generations and Colors incarnations, and I was glad they brought back his double jump from the latter. The level I played was very short and basic, so I still feel I need to see more stages to get a better feel for his gameplay style. However, it’s alright thus far.
Classic Sonic fought against the Egg Dragoon, so I was pretty limited in how to get a good feel for his controls. So far, he feels VERY similar to how he handled in Generations except with the inclusion of Sonic Mania’s Drop Dash. But since this is a boss fight, I couldn’t get a real feel for the gameplay of Classic Sonic.
Now with the custom hero, it gets a lot more interesting. As soon as you finish customizing your hero, you get to choose a weapon to defend yourself. In my case, I had the opportunity to give him the Burst, Lightning or Cube Weapon. But choose wisely, because those weapons can affect your whole play style. Every weapon feels very distinct and…in this context, I don’t even know if I should praise it. With the Burst weapon, you get a flamethrower and you can even use it while walking. However, this is not true of the other two weapons. With the Lightning weapon, you get an electric whip that instantly stops your movement upon using it. And since there are quite a lot of enemies gathered in the levels, it feels very awkward. Likewise, the Cube weapon, which turns your enemies into blue rings, also brings your momentum to a halt. At least you get alternate paths depending on your weapons, and only certain Wisps will give you special moves which can swiftly eliminate some enemies. But overall, I was sadly disappointed with the custom hero’s gameplay because it just felt like a Stop n’ Go game with any other weapon than the flamethrower. It also doesn’t help that the Custom Hero feels exactly like Modern Sonic with his movement speed, physics and his grappling hook which functions like Sonic’s homing attack. Therefore, you kinda expect that the Custom Hero can also eliminate an enemy with a jump but…he can’t. It’s probably my fault that I couldn’t get rid of the feeling as if I were playing as Modern Sonic, but it made my gaming session quite frustrating and disappointing. And I was actually optimistic about the custom hero feature…
But that’s not everything I played. I was also allowed to play the newly revealed tag team stage, and I personally think some fans are going to enjoy this mode a lot. As the name might imply, your Custom Hero will team up with Modern Sonic. Together, you have to stop more robots from taking control of the world. In this level, I had to go to an “industrial“ pyramid with a lot of gears inside. To describe the gameplay best, it’s basically Modern Sonic with the ability to use a custom weapon and a grappling hook. You’re going like Sonic at fast speeds and some parts require the use of the weapon from the custom hero and others demand using the grappling hook (which is again basically the Homing Attack or is used for Sonic’s Drifting). And, of course, only a certain weapon gets you to an alternate path. Another feature of the Tag Team Stage is “Double Boost”. I wish I could tell you how to properly activate them but it just suddenly happened in the middle of the stage. Your custom hero and Sonic suddenly stops and you have to mash multiple times one button to unleash the Double Boost. You boost in high speed and you’re pretty much invincible against any obstacles. I think the Tag team mechanics were…alright. Some parts of the level design really felt gimmicky thanks to the weapons, but I think it’s actually better in these parts than in the custom hero solo stage. And I think many fans will love this mode. I mean, Sonic constantly praises you and calls you his “partner“. What fan wouldn’t love to get praised by the most famous Hedgehog in the world?
Something I almost forgot to mention: The graphics are very clean. Sure, it’s building on the look and engine of Sonic Generations but I didn’t mind it. I know that everyone’s doing all the “Graphic is my passion”-jokes regarding the UI but I think it really fits well to the aesthetics of Sonic Forces. And I also dig the music, but I think I like techno-based soundtracks in general. So some might not like it. As a quick sidenote: I played the PS4-Version of Sonic Forces. So performance might be different in the Nintendo Switch-version.
In general, Sonic Forces was alright. Both classic and Modern Sonic looked alright, even though I felt that we still need more to better judge their gameplay. Custom Hero is, unfortunately, more miss than hit and I didn’t feel their abilities are suited for the stages they inhabit. Furthermore, I found their weapons gimmicky and unenjoyable. But when paired with Modern Sonic, it feels better and more fun. Overall, from what I played, I’m not sure if I’m confident in the quality of Sonic Forces. I personally think that hardcore fans will get the most fun out of Forces while the rest will be less enthralled.
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