‘Sonic Forces’ Preview

‘Sonic Forces’ lets you make your own Sonic sidekick

Sonic Forces’ takes inspiration from recent Sonic games, while adding new features and a darker tone.

Before we saw Sonic Forces for the first time, Sega social media manager Aaron Webber told us to expect a different kind of Sonic game.

“It takes a lot of inspiration from Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, but also adds a new layer of darkness.” he said.

Forces, the Blue Blur’s new-gen console debut, doesn’t immediately recall those previous entries, but the new tone is apparent from the get-go. As the heroic hedgehog hauls hide down a city street, he runs past fiery explosions, destroyed structures, and a massive robot with menacing tentacles. While many familiar elements, from Sonic’s signature red sneaks to shiny collectible rings, made it clear the game was typically “Sonic,” Forces’ almost post-apocalyptic setting is a far cry from the Green Hill Zone.

It’s still Sonic, but tougher

As the former console mascot makes his way through a foe-infested city that seems to have awoken on the wrong side of a meteor shower, the inspirations Webber mentioned begin to reveal themselves. As in Generations, Sonic’s break-neck speed is accompanied by his ability to jump, boost, and lunge into bad guys without missing a beat. This enemy-clearing power is also regenerated by colorful “wisps”, the vibrant little guys that debuted in Sonic Colors.

Of course, now that Sonic is breaking the speed limit on PS4 and Xbox One platforms, his surroundings and seat-of-the-pants abilities look better than ever. Fueled by a brand new engine built by Sonic Team Japan, his attacks leave a visually-stunning display of flying debris and twisted metal in his wake. Dynamic destruction, smoke, water, fire, and reflective effects further complement the polished presentation.

As we attempt to absorb every detail of the lightning-quick action, we briefly spot enemies that look like Buzz Bombers and Moto Bugs, albeit modern takes on the classic baddies. We also see Sonic navigate a side-scrolling section of the level, seamlessly incorporate a zip-line into his forward propulsion, and break through a gate to gain a nice boost of speed.

Make your own Sonic… Sort of

While we don’t see them during our demo, Webber said the final game will also feature a number of platforming-focused “classic Sonic levels,” starring an old-school version of the spiky-haired hero. On top of playing as a pair of hedgehog protagonists, fans will also tear up the blacktop as a brand-new customizable member of the Sonic crew Webber referred to as “the hero character.”

Created by the player, this mysterious new entry will apparently play a significant role in the game. In our demo, Webber had showed off a female cat sporting a skin-tight, leopard print leotard, and a t-shirt emblazoned with a Chaos Emerald.

On top of playing as a pair of hedgehog protagonists, fans will also tear up the blacktop as a brand-new customized “hero character.”

Players will have the ability to tweak everything from the hero’s boots and gloves, to eye color and clothing in the final game. They won’t be limited to feline companions either, as bears, birds, and, yes, hedgehogs, will also be on the roster.

The hero’s customization options aren’t limited to cosmetic tweaks. Leveraging wisps unlocked throughout the story, players can also assign specific powers to their personal hero character. Playing through a second destroyed city level, Webber’s kitty used a default flamethrower-like ability, but could also siphon a refillable meter to occasionally unleash a power that propelled her in the air to clear a large group of baddies. Though it wasn’t on display in our demo, Webber also described a wisp type that will grant its user with an enemy-zapping electric whip.

These player-crafted characters won’t be quite as fast as Sonic — even if you customize a hedgehog — but will utilize a snappy grappling hook-like ability that works seamlessly with their running and jumping skills. They can also use zip-lines and other speed-boosting environmental tricks to maintain a momentum that would make their big blue brother proud.

Somehow, this trio of characters — modern Sonic, classic Sonic, and the customizable hero — will all work together in one cohesive story-driven campaign. Though Webber did not disclose how all the pieces would fit, he said the levels and characters would complement and support each other in the narrative.

Delivering more misses than hits in recent years, this once-beloved series has given us reason to be skeptical. Still, the game’s new tone, personalized characters, and trio of playable speedsters has piqued our interest. Hopefully our cautious optimism will turn to full-fledged anticipation before Sonic Forces races onto consoles later this year.

Highs

  • Darker tone
  • Customizable character
  • Inspired by series’ best games
  • Pretty visuals

Lows

  • Are three playable heroes too much?
  • Sonic has let us down before
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