I Think 'Sonic Forces' Is Bad. Some Don't. I Listened to Them Explain Why


#1

As yesterday wound down, I booted up a copy of Sonic Forces, the latest 3D Sonic game. Though I’ve always been more of a Mario person, a good platformer is a good platformer, whoever’s in the starring role. It’s why I wrote about the surprisingly solid Super Lucky’s Tale! 90 minutes, a half dozen completed stages, and one horrific original character later, I couldn’t take any more of Sonic Forces, a game I described to a friend as “absolute garbage.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/wjg7by/i-think-sonic-forces-is-bad-some-dont-i-listened-to-them-explain-why

#2

Honestly I’ve stuck with the Sonic series so long because of the soundtracks more than anything, and this one’s got one of the best in absolutely ages, so I’m well up for it. Plus I generally enjoy the modern sonic stuff following the Sonic Unleashed Daytime stages formula a ton because it’s basically a racing game with spectacle. I can get that argument about “cheesy” too, especially since Forces seems to be leaning HARD into the kind of bollocks that’s made it’s “world” so endearing to fans.


#3

My general sentiment about Sonic Forces, after about an hour or two of play, is that yes, it’s a bad game. It feels bad in the moment-to-moment play, with Sonic (or your Avatar) feeling slow and loose in terms of controls. But it’s also weirdly better than the sum of its parts? It’s a “trash” game that I’m adoring like I adore a “trash” movie like The Room. It’s so in on what it’s doing that it doesn’t even care if you like it or not? And I kinda respect it for that.

I do find its narrative to be bonkers beyond belief and I find it weird that there’s a plot point that Tails have a breakdown and Sonic has been tortured by Eggman… but I find myself enjoying this otherwise bad game.

The tl;dr is I can see why Patrick would find it hard to believe people like this but I can also understand the otherside mostly because I’m surprsied to be a part of that other side right now?


#4

I have kind of had a re-invigoration of interest in Sonic thanks to Mania. Realized that the central style of the series as displayed in Mania, the color and life that fans really want, actually speaks to me. I want more of that in games right now. Pure joy. Looking at this coming out in the same year as that is bizarre.

I haven’t played Forces, but the music, at least, seems pretty good. I also know how important is for folks to be able to make their own Sonic character after all these years and have that character considered canon and put into cutscenes by the game. However, I couldn’t look at someone playing the side-scrolling stages for 5 minutes without immediately feeling stressed out.

The way the obstacles seem to be constantly bouncing you away from progression and around in circles seems like someone came to the game with all the pieces to build a Sonic game but misunderstood the flow. There’s also things that seem instinctually wrong to me, having just played Mania–downward paths that are actually just instant death, instead of the usual alternate route they represent in Sonic, huge skies full of rings that seem sacrilegious… IDK.

Sega, your move. I think people have made it clear what parts of Sonic they want and what they don’t.


#5

Hey I made this terrible image last night and I can defend my reasoning with spoilers and at least argue that Sonic Forces is thematically worthwhile in the most unexpected way possible.

So, this isn’t just nonsense.

Remember when one of the creators of Sonic mentioned Sonic would be against fascism? That’s literally the entire point of Sonic Forces.

See, the big new bad of the game, Infinite, is a mercenary who’s entire squad was destroyed by Shadow on a mission, and he ended up consenting to Eggman’s phantom ruby experiments. He’s your basic, boilerplate fascist: Egotistical, deeply insecure and unhappy, sadistic, and pretends to be far more competent than he actually is. He’s shortsighted and thinks he’s more powerful than he really is, and the phantom ruby’s power actually thematically adds to this read.

The big joke about Infinite’s powers are that they aren’t as strong as they seem. It initially appears that he can completely rewrite reality, but it’s more accurate to say that he rewrites a current reality in a set area. He’s also not terribly good at it either, able to make a lot of troops and screw with the rules of reality, but only in big shows. He lacks control and focus, shown further by his terrible decision making to underestimate his enemies. The entire reason he’s doing any of this is because he wants to prove to everyone he’s a super powerful guy and not the miserable failure of a person he really is behind all his violence and posturing.

He’s literally what Nazi Cap should have been: Seemingly powerful and dangerous, but really just a short-minded dope being used by monsters even worse than himself. It’s why Eggman seemingly kills him in the end to get the ruby back, to drive home that Infinite is really one of the most pathetic beings in the entire Sonic villain line-up.

Also, the game ends with the aftermath of Eggman’s conquest, with Sonic saying they need to focus on fixing things before them for the sake of the world.

tl;dr: Sonic the Hedgehog is more woke than the majority of the Marvel Comics writing staff.


#6

i loved Generations and Colours, more than mania in fact, and Forces is one of the absolute worst games i’ve ever played. it’s close to 06 levels of bad. the incredible floatiness of the characters and the god-awful level design are disgusting, and the unreliability of literally all your abilities (especially homing attacks) makes it absolutely awful to play. i am still enjoying the fuck out of it, purely on the basis of the excellent character creator and the fantastic soundtrack.
e: feel like i should say i’m playing on pc, as reviews of the console versions seem to suggest they’re at least a little less awful


#7

Sonic Mania really did lead to some great conversations about understanding of pinball-like momentum rather than speed being the core concept of Sonic as a platformer.

I’m really glad Mania exists and has led to some honest assessment of the series (especially in a year where a big replay of Sunshine is helping illuminate that actually 3D platfomers are incredibly hard and maybe previous criticism should have been of the genre’s issues rather than of Sega’s output - a meme replaced informed critiques and reinforced rather than dismantling tribalist views of various series).


#8

Sonic Forces is honestly really competent and basically nothing else. But it also GETS why people like Sonic and its actually fun to play in the moment, even if it is really slight. Heather’s review at Kotaku basically got to the heart of my feelings on the game and the criticisms of it:

what bothers me more is that at this point there’s such an incredible assumptions on what 3D platformers should be, what Sonic should be, and a meme like dispersal of pre-baked opinions and jokes about the series that so many people refuse to engage with the games on their own terms. people even brought out the “Sonic has never been good” arguments for Sonic Mania despite how high quality it is, which shows how entrenched the idea is. everybody’s mind is already made up, and the idea of engaging earnestly with something you already believe is bad is ridiculous to them.

there’s also this running idea of how 3D games should be approached (in reductive terms, they should be Mario 64), which basically penalizes anything that diverges or doesn’t exactly imitate the high quality, high budget Nintendo productions. this year alone has had tons of 3D platformers, but it’s rare for any of them to even get a cursory glance. like even Lucky’s Tale, which Patrick mentions liking, is getting blasted critically.

real talk: it’s really disheartening to see people like Patrick and Dan use things i like as easy dunking fodder and not even bother to engage while simultaneously going out of their way to deeply examine pure garbage like South Park. you know, that goes out of its way to make playing as anything outside the gender binary a hurtful joke. or how what is essentially a saturday morning cartoon gets mean spirited takedowns of its writing while the orc slavery game makes the spider into a hot lady and makes sure the orcs make jokes about how they dont mind being slaves.


#9

This is kind of the reaction I’ve been having with the game, but on the opposite spectrum. I’m enjoying the game a lot, and while I can certainly see people not liking the game, it’s hard for me to understand where the amount of hate it’s getting is coming from. I feel like at worst it’s maybe a bit bland, but an average and competent platformer, so it’s strange to me seeing talk about it like it’s complete trash, or the next Sonic 06.


#10

The endless cesspool that is the Sonic hatedom. Like, it used to be that the fans were truly the most insufferable people, but after Generations, we’ve started to wrap around to the other end of the spectrum poisoning any and all Sonic discussion.

Gotta tell you, I am so happy Game Grumps is genuinely enjoying Sonic Forces because Arin ragging on Adventure created a whole disaster zone of discourse over a game most of the people complaining about it have never played.


#11

@Sety yeah basically any reaction to these games is going to have a power multiplier on it at this point, so there’s this kind of inflammatory response to the slightest perceived problems. it’s also an easy target, and a good way to do some dunks and show that you’re part of the in-crowd that’s unlike the mindless fools who would dare love something imperfect.

i know im kind of Sonic Defense Squad at this point, but playing Forces reminded me that i was exactly the person who was making those easy dunks around when Generations came out. even growing up liking the games and characters i basically bought into the narrative id heard that the series was irredeemable, so i refused to believe that Colors and Generations could be good, even after i’d played Generations.

it took a lot of critical reevaluation, self-examination, and a desire to meet games on their own terms to find out that there’s plenty that’s enjoyable in the series.


#12

Hi Patrick, if you want an example of being shocked that people have an utterly different view of a game than you (which, wait until you find out how people respond to music and movies), was pretty shocked to hear about how you, as “one of the good ones”, wrote a long ass apologia for a game based on a show that’s devoted multiple episodes to how mixed race people like me are scary subhuman nightmares.


#13

uhmm, wait, what? which show was that?


#14

oh also i just wanna say, the soundtrack is INCREDIBLE. there’s a lot of good remixes and then some new vocal tracks that are the absurd flavor of 2000s music.

it’s really cheesy but it’s also totally earnest and works well to drive the action. then there’s that main theme that comes in at dramatic moments like when you team up with Sonic to do a very anime double boost using the power of friendship:


#15

That Aqua Road track is genuinely one of the best game tracks this year IMO, even in this, The Year of the Automata.


#16

Yeah this reception has genuinely been a bummer. And to come to a pretty heavy conclusion, the kind of reception B-tier games like this tend to get only seems to further cement the homogeneity of AAA gaming. A game being messy, trashy, short, or unpolished should not be taken as an affront to the holy altar of games consumerism.


#17

I think its a unfair to paint dissenting opinions as solely people who hold Mario as the only standard and people who just dunk on Sonic no matter what. This is a worse iteration of a formula thats been better executed in previous 3D Sonic games with inexplicably worse feeling controls and a convoluted self serious story that released a few months after one of the best 2D Sonic games striking a huge contrast. Its not that great of a game, and between being in Mania’s immediate shadow and being the latest in the Lost World/Boom string of mediocre at best 3D games featuring Sonic, its not hard to see why this one’s flaws are being amplified.


#18

This, of course, brings in the problem of the divide between classic and modern Sonic fans, which is a hell discourse none can ever escape once exposed to it.

Like, Sonic discussion is almost pointless because it’s never allowed to be constructive or interesting it just instantly gets everyone either defensive or jokingly aggressive. I want to talk about how this game is literally about beating up a superpowered fascist dope being played by a much smarter fascist but it instantly gets drowned out by everyone;s idea of what Sonic is.

People, Sonic Adventure had genocide as a major plot point, and its sequel was about a government cover up of a mass execution in space. We are far past the point where a resistance movement against fascism is a bad thing for this series.

Heck, that was one of the most beloved continuities way back when (SatAM).

The fact that the game is loud, tone deaf anime lunacy while shouting “HEY FASCISM IS BAD” is one of the features for many, not a fault.


#19

No offense, if you’re going to complain how bad sonic discourse is I would hope you would come with something stronger than “A lot of people like it so there!!!”


#20

regardless of opinions on the game or series, i just find it way more constructive and positive to take in both failures and successes of uneven games and see what you can take away from them. it’s way more interesting to engage genuinely with things that are flawed and see what people enjoy about them, giving them the benefit of the doubt like so many other things get by default.

being snarky and going for the easy dunks feels very performative, and is often what passes for criticism in games circles. popular video people like yahtzee and AVGN also helped popularize it as well and make it an easy way to seem smart, and i hope we can agree at this point that’s overall had a negative effect on the discourse at this point.

there’s a real value to earnestly liking a thing for what it is, flaws and all. especially in this internet culture that values a detached, ironic view that’s become popularized on reddit/4chan/something awful etc.

people i’ve met who like Sonic, Kingdom Hearts etc tend to appreciate that earnestness, even when, or especially when, as corny. i think that’s worthwhile.

i’m not saying everyone has to like the game or think it’s good but it’s worth thinking about and making space for that kind of energy.