Sonic Mania is barely out the door and we’ve already had a chance to play the next big game in the series – Sonic Forces. We sprinted over to Sega’s booth at Gamescom 2017, and played the latest demo of the game behind closed doors.

Forces, developed by the same team that worked on the very successful Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, is due to release this holiday season, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be big. The highlight of the demo – a new gameplay mode, Tag, which allows Sonic to play alongside our original avatar character.

The hands on demo was comprised of 4 stages, with different configurations for the avatar character. The first stage we got to play was Park Avenue for Modern Sonic. You may be familiar with the area since we’ve seen it in most trailers. the level consists of a European city’s streets, overrun by a giant army of Dr. Eggman’s Death Egg robots.

For those of you who might be less acquainted with Modern Sonic’s gameplay (for example, if you just recently returned to play Sonic thanks to Sonic Mania), it’s not extremely complicated, but leaves you with quite the adrenaline rush. Movement is, for the most part, in full 3D but incorporates 2D areas as well. Sonic can use boost to mow down almost anything in his path, as opposed to the classic Spin Dash. Modern Sonic can also lock on to enemies from afar and attack them with a Homing Attack, as well as chain these attacks to get to secret areas.

The level wasn’t long, and didn’t incorporate anything new other than polished gameplay mechanics thanks to a new engine. I did get to see the return of the White Wisps. The Wisps, colorful aliens that give Sonic different powers, have become an inseparable part of the gameplay since Sonic Colors. In Sonic Forces, the Wisps refill Sonic’s boost gauge to its maximum capacity, and help maintain speed along the level.

The stage also gives us a bit of an exposition – Sonic and his friends are trying to locate Shadow, Sonic’s memorable rival, who has a part in the devastation going around the city.

Sonic Forces double dash

For the second stage of the demo, we got to play as Classic Sonic, the one you’d recognize from the old games. The stage we got to play was a boss battle from the Green Hill Zone, against Dr. Eggman. Eggman attacked us in a ship equipped with a wrecking ball – a classic battle for the fans. After taking 4 hits, he flees and returns with his huge and now iconic robot, the Egg Dragoon, which first appeared in Sonic Unleashed.

The Egg Dragoon, which has the shape of a dragon with drill-guns for arms, flies into the background, launches its drills at Sonic, and hurls boulders and metal balls. In order to hit it, we had to Spin Dash or jump on the metal balls. During this level we also get to see Sonic’s latest ability – the Drop Dash, which first appeared in Sonic Mania and allows Sonic to prepare for a Spin Dash while still in mid-air.

Moving on, we had two levels which show a unique new gameplay mode which incorporate the character that the player designs. The player avatar can’t boost, but its levels are designed similarly to those of Modern Sonic. With the Wispon, a weapon that can harness the power of a Wisp, it can use 3 new abilities.

The first ability is the grappling hook. The player avatar can launch it at enemies to pull itself towards them and attack them, or at floating targets in order to swing from them. The second ability is to attack using the Wispon, which changes its function depending on the type of Wisp the player chooses to equip. The third ability is to use the Wisp in order to move through the level in unique ways.

Sonic Forces red wispon

In the demo we got to choose one of three Wispon powers: Blue (Cube) which can freeze enemies and later turn them into rings; Red (Burst), which works like a flamethrower to attack enemies in a straight line, and can also cause explosions to shoot the avatar high and to hidden routes; and finally Ivory (Lightning), which can be used as an electric whip that attacks enemies in an arc shape, and also gives the player a small double jump.

Each Wispon power can turn a level to an entirely different experience. Some Red Rings, the collectible in Sonic Forces, can only be obtained by using certain Wispon powers. In addition to the three powers we’ve seen, we can make out from the game’s cover art the Violet Wisp (Void), which can give sonic the ability to turn into or create a black hole.

In the avatar’s demo level, which is based on the famous Green Hill Zone, I had to avoid gigantic robotic spider legs while advancing the level. Most of the level is in 2D, although we already know that the avatar levels can be in both 2D and 3D. It definitely took some time for me to get used to the avatar character’s gameplay. The jumps that the character makes differ in height depending on how long you hold the jump button, and I died about ten times before I fully got used to the character.

The background music for the level was electronic with female vocals. I found it to be really enjoying, as it complimented what was going on on screen nicely.

Reaching the end of the level, I managed to pass the robot spider, and the prespective shifted to 3D as it starts chasing me. I had to dodge to the sides in order to avoid falling rocks that it knocks towards us. Finally I pressed the jump button in a short quick-time event, and my avatar swung in a very Spider-Man kind of way to tie the robot spider up, leaving it crashing behind me. It’s all very epic, and these moments are usually the most exciting in the game.

Sonic Forces robotic spider

I should mention that I won’t be surprised if this turns out to be the weaker of the 4 game modes in the Sonic Forces. As I mentioned, it took some time getting used to the gameplay. I did enjoy the level design and the cinematic finish, so those are definitely excellent points about the level.

Finally we got to play Sonic Forces’ newly announced game mode – Tag. In Tag, the player controls both Sonic and the player avatar simultaneously. This game mode kind of reminded me of Sonic Heroes, but a lot more fluent. When I would use one of Sonic’s abilities, he would step in front and lead the pair, and when I used one of abilities of the avatar, it would jump to take the lead.

This game mode blends between the incredibly fast gameplay of Modern Sonic and the technical levels of the avatar and its Wispon. In addition, when the two approached a sharp corner, the avatar would launch its grapple hook and the two would use it to swing around the turn at immense speeds. The most iconic part of the level though, was when Sonic and the avatar started charging a Spin Dash and I was prompted to rapidly press the boost button. Once charged, Sonic and the avatar burst forward in a Double Boost. At this mode, they both boost in about four times the speed of Sonic’s regular boost, knocking over all enemies in their path, while the game’s theme song, Fist Bump, plays in the background.

Sonic Forces combat

In this level, the pair were seeking Doctor Eggman’s secret base, which conveniently lies inside a giant metal pyramid. The first part of the stage help get me acquainted with the new gameplay, and ends in the Double Boost stretch, in which the team jet through the side of the pyramid and jump inside. Following that, Sonic and the avatar dove inside the base while avoiding lasers. The par was either fighting waves of robots, dashing through lines of rings, or bursting in a straight line, depending on the Wisp power I have equipped. Finally, the duo reached the center of the base and that’s where the demo ended.

What will they find there? We’ll have to wait for Sonic Forces’ final version. I personally really enjoyed the new Tag mode, and am really looking forward to see more of it in the future.

Sonic Forces is due to release in November 7 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.

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