During its South By Southwest panel last night, Sega revealed the name for its upcoming mainline entry in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise as Sonic Forces. The reveal was followed by a quick teaser clip showing some gameplay featuring Modern Sonic running through a European-style city as destruction rains down from above. We had a chance to see a longer version of this stage.
The Modern Sonic mechanics in Sonic Forces are inspired heavily by the 3D gameplay found in Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, featuring a new version of the Hedgehog Engine used in those games. As seen in the teaser, Sonic runs through the streets while the city crumbles around him. As he turns a corner, two giant egg-shaped robots can be seen in the distance approaching the city via water. Sonic can't immediately do anything about those giant machines, so he opts to take care of the smaller bots right in front of him. He boosts through the first set before using his homing attack to knock out another group and reach a higher platform.
Throughout the rest of the stage, I see several familiar elements from the Sonic series, including grind-rails, ziplines, and boosters. As the level progresses, side-characters like Knuckles, Amy, and some members of the Chaotix communicate with Sonic via radio as if to report in on what they're seeing during the assault. Sega tells us that though these characters are present in the game, they are not playable. Instead, gameplay is focused on Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic, and a third style that Sonic Team is keeping close to its chest.
In Sonic Forces, Eggman has already conquered the world. He's won, and the effects can be seen throughout the various stages; this was immediately evident in the stage I saw. We don't know how the world has fallen under his control, but Sega is teasing further reveals for this in the lead-up to launch.
Later in the stage, Sonic lands on a platform and the camera shifts to a side-perspective to deliver the modern gameplay with a side-scrolling twist that we've seen in prior games. Though this gives the sequence a definite retro feel, this gameplay is completely separate from the as-of-yet unveiled Classic Sonic stages.
The stage was but a quick sampling of what one-third of the Sonic Forces formula looks to deliver, but I left my demo hopeful of what this game could deliver. Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations were among the best-received entries in the franchise's recent history, and the fact the Sega is promising it has turned over a new leaf with regards to its deadline structure and development cycle has me optimistic.
You can see the first footage revealed to the public below:
Sonic Forces is set to release this holiday season for Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. However, before that hits, fans of the series can look forward to the previously announced Sonic Mania, which is being developed by a group of indie developers, sometime in the next several months. For more on that title, you can check out our most recent hands-on impressions.