Quest of The Avatar: Forsaken Virtues
The game is a mix of 3D and 2D side-scroller platforming. Two of the playable characters, Modern Sonic and The Avatar, will switch between the two based on context. Classic Sonic, the third playable character, is nothing but 2D side-scrolling. In 3D mode Sonic Forces is alright, if a little simple. The 3D moveset has been reduced since Generations, with the most notable exclusion being the drift mechanic. The boost is now contingent on 'wisp energy' item capsules and combat instead of ring collection, making it a less-constant presence in levels. The result of this so-called streamlining is that you can sometimes feel like you have less to do in these 3D levels than ever before. The enemies are also less proactive and varied, with almost every level being peppered with generic spherical robots that just sort of stand there in a line waiting to be boosted through. The homing attack has become oddly prickly, not allowing you to lock onto an enemy unless you're looking in the exact right direction. It never caused me to die or even interrupted my flow when playing normally, but whenever I'd work outside of Forces' 'intended' playstyle by slowing down or attempting to backtrack it would cause minor headaches. The side-step functionality of the post-Unleashed games returns, but it feels awkward here. The sidesteps never seemed to line up with the obstacles or items placed. Trying to quickly swap over to another lane and collect a rare item would place me about half a foot to the left of the item and swapping lanes to avoid one laser beam would put me in the path of another, for example.
That was me describing Sonic Forces at its best. It's when the camera shifts to 2D that things go downhill quickly. I'd heard that the physics for Classic Sonic had been messed up, and that's true. His spindash is particularly questionable and inconsistent-- it seems to react differently to each new situation you use it in. But that's actually fairly irrelevant. The real issue is that all three characters control horribly in 2D sections. I imagine Classic Sonic catches the most blame simply because he's always in 2D. The jumping and mid-air physics in 2D are just miserably bad in a way that's difficult to describe. The amount of momentum you carry in midair veers wildly between 0% and 100% for reasons I can't begin to guess at, with a weird acceleration and de-acceleration curve that doesn't seem to fit with whatever velocity you had on the ground preceding the jump. To make a precision jump you'll find yourself noodling your character back and forth, trying to prevent their overwhelming desire to simultaneously over-jump and under-jump.
And yes, the level design exacerbates this issue by forcing precision platforming, oftentimes over bottomless pits. Sonic Adventure 1 is twenty years old as of December 23, 2018 and they still haven't learned to not put a ton of bottomless pits into a Sonic game. Otherwise the levels are both flat and short. Each one has multiple paths, but they're often not as robust as the ones in Generations; only making for slight detours that quickly converge. This is likely because there's not much room in these short, short levels. By all means, levels in a Sonic game shouldn't overstay their welcome. God knows the series has wrestled with that particular problem in the past. However, every single stage in this game lasts about 2 minutes tops and feels like it grinds to a halt just as it's getting started.
There's also the issue of themeing. The game's premise of Sonic At War is hilarious, especially with regards to its half-assed execution. On the other hand, for level design this leads to a lack of the colorful, fantastic, and distinct zones that makes progression in Sonic enjoyable. Instead you get different flavors of grey industrial bases and bombed-out cities. Apart from the obligatory Green Hill, each area's color palette is tonemapped to Cinematic Teal or Cinematic Orange respectively. It's boring and uniform, especially as you visit each level thrice. It's also potentially disastrous if you've designed and clothed your Avatar improperly. It can be very easy to lose track of your character's position onscreen unless you made sure to cover your custom fursona in a bright, high contrast color.
Speaking more on the premise of Sonic At War, I have to say they really bunged it with the villains. Dr. Eggman is still a silly goof despite being sold as a world-conqueror and newcomer Infinite is just the worst. His powers are to have zero presence and a plotline that makes him look like a wuss. They try to do this thing where they bring back all the old villains, but that kind of fizzles out into nothing. Far be it for me to critique the story of a Sonic game that's ripping off a thirty year old Sonic cartoon show, but it just didn't make me feel.
Also the boss fights stink.
I've been really harsh, and... yeah, about 40% of the time I really, really hated this game. Every time I fell down a pit because the controls didn't work properly, for example. But there was also a lot of time spent playing where it felt like a mildly interesting diversion from the horrific ambiguities of life. Which is to say, I was able to turn my brain off and have a good enough time making a cartoon hedgehog jump around. And isn't that what it's all about? No. I would have greatly preferred a better game. Oddly enough, I had the most fun slowly combing through each level for the five hidden Red Coins. So if you're into doing that, try Sonic Forces.