Sonic Forces

Af­ter the stodgy spin-off Sonic Boom, Forces looks to get the se­ries back on track

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - PREVIEW - Robert Zak

“I fig­ured there was de­mand for play­ers to put their own cre­ations into the game”

The iden­tity of one of gam­ing’s most iconic mas­cots has been in flux for years, bounc­ing around like a spin­ning Sonic stuck in an end­less loop of spring-pads. From trans­form­ing into were-hogs in Son­icUn­leashed to the ill-ad­vised col­lect-athon of Sonic Boom, the trou­bled hedge­hog has been look­ing un­set­tled, but now Sonic Forces wants to bring the se­ries home. Dur­ing a hands-on event for Sonic

Forces, we got to speak with head of Sonic Team, Takashi Iizuka. With so much tur­bu­lence in the Hedge­hog’s life of late, we ask Iizuka to pin down what he con­sid­ers the ‘essence’ of the games to be.

“The core ele­ment has al­ways been speed, and the dif­fer­ent ways in which play­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence that,” he tells us. “It’s been a while since Sonic Team made a new game ( Son­icBoom was out­sourced), so with Son­icForces we wanted to do some­thing fa­mil­iar for the fans.”

The fa­mil­iar­ity is pal­pa­ble when we play a 3D level as ‘Mod­ern’ Sonic, bolt­ing through the burn­ing streets of a city that we as­sume is Spag­o­nia, the oddly Mediter­ranean cul­tural cap­i­tal of the Sonic world that’s been ru­ined by Dr Robot­nik. As ro­bots tear up the city in the background, Sonic him­self is con­fined to a nar­row fast lane of ob­sta­cles and en­e­mies—which is where the se­ries has al­ways thrived.

The me­chan­ics are sim­ple—spin, boost, slide—and bol­stered by the now-fa­mil­iar auto-tar­get­ing sys­tem. The pace is re­lent­less, and hav­ing a run abruptly halted by a mist­imed jump or haz­ard is as jar­ring as that first time you spilled Sonic’s coins all over the lime-green grass of Green Hills Zone 1. About half­way through the level, things neatly switch to the clas­sic 2D per­spec­tive, send­ing you through a fa­mil­iar as­sort­ment of springs, rings, and showy corkscrews.

2D or not 2D

It’s the other part of Son­icForces that raises more ques­tions. In the story, you al­ter­nate be­tween play­ing 3D lev­els as Mod­ern Sonic, 2D lev­els as Clas­sic Sonic, then an­other bunch as a hero you cre­ate—us­ing an as­sort­ment of mo­bian an­i­mal pre­sets, goofy ac­ces­sories, and spe­cial abil­i­ties for your weapon. Iizuka ad­mits that his­tor­i­cally, new char­ac­ters have some­times been detri­men­tal to the games, but it was hard­core fans who in­spired him to add this ele­ment. “Fans would cre­ate their own char­ac­ters and send the il­lus­tra­tions to me,” he tells us. “So I fig­ured there was de­mand for play­ers to put their own cre­ations into the game.” Iizuka isn’t shy about nam­ing Sonic

Ad­ven­ture2, di­rected by him­self, as his fa­vorite Sonic game, high­light­ing its sense of rhythm in how the story shuf­fled play­ers be­tween Sonic, Tails, and Knuck­les. Forces looks to take in­spi­ra­tion from what’s ar­guably the most loved game of the 3D Sonic era. “I want switch­ing char­ac­ters in Forces to have a sim­i­lar rhythm to Sonic

Ad­ven­ture2,” he tells us. It’s a rea­son­able goal, though yet to be at­tained. While the Mod­ern Sonic level and ‘Clas­sic’ 2D sec­tion struck the right chords dur­ing our time with them, the ‘Hero’ level felt dis­so­nant— slower-paced, and de­signed more to­wards generic plat­form­ing than the high-oc­tane speed­ing of Sonic’s lev­els. The light­ning and fire powerups, mean­while, didn’t stand up to Sonic’s moveset. Thus far, as has so of­ten been the case with this se­ries, this is a Sonic game that feels best when you play as the tit­u­lar hero.

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