Sonic Forces E3 Impressions: Alex’s Take

SEGA has been frustratingly quiet about Sonic Forces since they revealed it as Sonic Project 2017 last year. It’s only been in the lead up to E3 that the game’s identity has begun to take shape publicly. While the game features shades of Sonic Generations, to call it an outright sequel (or rehash) isn’t quite right. The Forces demo is both familiar and new, if not also a little awkward.

The modern Sonic game play is essentially just a polished form of what we’ve been getting since Sonic Unleashed. Visuals aside, this game would be right at home in Sonic Generations, and there is zero learning curve for anyone who’s already played that game. The same can also be said for classic Sonic’s boss battle, which starts out as a new (if not exactly inventive) take on Eggman’s swinging ball weapon, replacing the ball with a buzz saw that cuts through platforms.

After that (easy) fight, Eggman hops into his Egg Dragoon, which first appeared in Sonic Unleashed, and starts attacking from the background. He fires a giant chain gun and chucks rocks and metallic boulders, the latter of which can be hit back to damage him. This part takes longer and is more entertaining, though the boss fight on the whole is fairly easy. The first two parts of the demo are as fun and polished as Sonic has ever been, but they do nothing outstanding or new design-wise. If all you want is more Generations (like me) than you’ll be satisfied with what’s on display for these modes in the demo.

So that’s what’s familiar, but what about the new stuff? Well, the visuals of Forces are a nice upgrade from past Sonic games. While some have complained that the new Green Hill stage looks barren compared Generations, this game looks better than any past Sonic game at an objective, technical level. The demo runs at a near silky smooth 60 frames per second, the first non-PC Sonic game to do so (Dreamcast HD ports notwithstanding). Individual blades of grass in Green Hill now move back and forth individually. In terms of pure polygons, this game is clearly pushing way more than any past Sonic game. These are the highest fidelity Sonic models I’ve ever seen.

That said, as with any E3 demo, the visuals aren’t 100 percent polished. At the end of the avatar stage, during a chase scene, the frame rate does get a little janky. But given that E3 demos typically boast notable technical issues due to their incomplete state of development, what I saw in the demo bodes well for the visuals in the final product. And speaking of the avatar stage, this brings me to what will surely be the most controversial part of this game.

I have felt uneasy about the player-made hero character since it was unveiled. While my time with the character does allay those fears somewhat, I do still have some concerns.

First, the positives: the “wispons”, wisp fuelled weapons that can be used for both attacking and traversal, fit surprisingly well with the flow of game play. During my playthrough, I used what was effectively a lightning whip. It let my character lightspeed dash across trails of rings, reverse the direction of my jump in mid-air, briefly boost forward, and attack and destroy horizontal rows of enemies. Overall, the wispon actually positively benefited the flow of play, and didn’t feel nearly as awkward as it looked.

On the negative side, there’s a learning curve to controlling the character. The character cannot roll, jump dash, or perform any of Sonic’s other moves. The way the character jumps feels different, and potentially awkward. I was missing a lot of jumps in my initial play through as a result, but whether this was because I was used to Sonic’s jumping mechanics and need to simply get used to the custom-hero character, or if the character’s controls simply aren’t very good, I can’t say without spending more time with the game.

Sonic Forces doesn’t look like it’ll be a groundbreaking title, but it ought to be a very fun one. While the hero character is a potential chink in the armor, it doesn’t look like the disaster I thought it might be either.

There will be additional game play impressions later this week, as well as a more in-depth impression of how the hero character plays.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks for the write-up! Hopefully you all get to try different animals for the Avatar levels. Did any of you get to play this in the Switch?

  2. Did you happen to play the Switch version or PS4/Xbox version?

    Some people are questioning whether the Switch version is 30 fps or 60fps because the gameplay dips during gameplay at times. I hope someone can clear this up.

  3. Actually, the Eggman Boss in Green Hill was a CLASSIC Sonic boss, not a Modern one.

    Okay sorry, Fastidious Beaver moment over. X)””

    Yeah, I guess it’d be nice if the custom hero character had a spin jump at the very least, it would make things feel a little less hairy, but it doesn’t seem like it would be that steep of a learning curve to get past. I’d definitely would just need some time to get used to it, but I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as bad as everyone else is making it out to be.

  4. While Forces may not be “groundbreaking” I have hopes that this will be a step in the right direction towards bigger and better games. I mean, this game seems a lot more ambitious than previous titles (which I love) but also somewhat safe with familiar gameplay styles. I do wish Forces was more new and outstanding, I’m happy with them testing the waters like this, especially after so many years without a good title.

  5. so far, everyones levels look super short – im hoping thats a beginning of the game thing or they just make up for it with ALOT of them

  6. Love the look of this. Do we know if Sonic (modern or classic or both) have Wisps as well? I can’t remember if they’ve been in the same stage. I’d love that personally, I think the Wisps are great. When people say they don’t make sense in terms of story, fair enough, but who plays Sonic for the narrative really?

    1. Many people do. Hence the demand for (and integration of) a deeper narrative for this game. Ask most fans what the weak points of Colors, Generations, and Lost World were, and chances are the story will be one of them.

    2. Sonic Forces has wisps in containers that recharge Sonic’s boost and the Avatar’s Wispons (weapons made from Wisps). Sonic Mania will not have wisps.

Comments are closed.