Review: Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)
HELLO VIDEO GAMERS and welcome to your Sunset Overdrive review. I want you to read this to a high paced rock song, you know the one that gets your head bobbing and arms flailing. Perhaps get an energy drink or two and mix it with some coffee then have a couple of cold ones on the side and boost it with some pure glucose. Once you do that get yourself hyped and ready to go. If you do all that, you might, MIGHT reach the energy levels of Sunset Overdrive and here. we. go.
In case you didn’t quite get it from the intro, Sunset Overdrive is a high energy game from start to finish and is riddled with so much awesome that you can be forgiven for finding anything else completely dull after playing it. The game takes place in Sunset City when a new drink from the Fizzco Corporation goes wrong and turns almost everyone into raging monsters. You take control of your player as you try to escape the monsters and go to your apartment.
Of course, you have some awesome powers because your character has played lots of video games and because he knows he is in a video game he can do pretty much whatever he wants. This leads to two points. The first is that the character is customisable to however you want him/her to be. There are different body types, faces, underwear, clothing, hats, headwear, shoes and a whole bunch of other things to make your character look as crazy as you want (see image below for my creation).
The second point, and yes you read right, is that the character KNOWS he is in a video game. This means that the game often breaks the 4th wall and makes things as crazy as your bullfighting in a tutu and rollerblades (what?). There is a lot of focus on the humour in the game and it’s a pleasure to say that it holds up throughout the game. It doesn’t get too much or annoying and makes the game a laugh to play with tons of subtle jokes and not so subtle stunts. Insomniac, please make a Deadpool game…
Humour can only get you so far in a game of course, but thankfully Sunset Overdrive has a lot more to offer than a couple of gags. The story is definitely not the strongest point. It’s a generic plot which the game makes jokes about itself. The self awareness around the story makes it easy to ignore just how standard it is, but it is more than compensated for by just about everything else in the game.
The gameplay in Sunset Overdrive is nothing short of solid. Insomniac have created a world where you can easily traverse anywhere using your character’s grind ability and bounce ability. There are rails pretty much everywhere throughout the city, which allows you to get around quickly, almost like a skateboarder. Mix it together with bouncing on cars or umbrellas (and other things), throw in some wall running and an air dash and you can cover the city in no time. The city is so brilliantly designed that you will definitely take any opportunity to look around the city to see which spots you can get to and how.
The traversing links to the gameplay with the weapons in that you earn style points and increase your style ‘meter’. The higher that goes the more abilities you unlock so keeping on the move and attacking is definitely recommended. It’s also pretty damn awesome so you won’t even want to just stand or run around and kill enemies.
Insomniac are well known for their weapon creation and it’s hard not to think that Sunset Overdrive contains their finest creations yet. You get weapons like the Flaming Compensator, which looks a little… er… suggestive. You get The Dude which shoots bowling balls. A freeze gun, a vinyl gun, or how about (my favourite) the TNTeddy gun that actually shoots explosive teddy bears. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the available weapons but should give you a good idea. Unlocking upgrades in the form of amps increases the abilities of certain weapons and balancing which weapons to use when is all part of the fun. In truth though, all are pretty awesome and no matter what weapons you choose you will have a blast.
As mentioned you can unlock amps to increase abilities, but this relates to your character too. You can equip upgrades to your skills which will enhance certain abilities such as your melee attacks, grinding abilities and lots more. Scattered through the city are various collectibles which are thankfully not pointless. Collect toilet paper, hanging shoes, destroy cameras, eavesdropping, reaching high points, tagging stuff and a bunch of others will earn you different collectibles, with which you can buy new overdrive upgrades.
While there are tons of actual quest sidemissions which have some good variation, and the challenges which offer something a little different to try, the main missions are definitely where the most fun can be had. You will encounter some really kooky characters in Sunset City and each with there on views on how to escape the city. The missions do follow a similar pattern in that you need to fulfill some errands for the people you meet so they can help you get the hell out of there. At first it feels like the game is going to be a bit repetitive but after the first couple of hours things really take off and without spoiling anything you run into some insanely epic moments, that even makes a game like Devil May Cry seem a little dull.
They are the kind of moments that will have you talking to your friends about it for days and days, as you recall some of the things that happen in the game. The cool thing is that you can even share some of these moments with the multiplayer missions. Called Chaos Squad, the Sunset Overdrive multiplayer has you with up to 7 other friends taking on missions together. You play 4 or 5 missions which vary in objectives and end up having to defend a base in a horde mode type effort. All I can say is that it is mad fun with tons of explosions everywhere and the word chaos has never been so fitting. It all works so smoothly too, with zero lag or frame rate drops on my side which is very impressive considering everything that goes on on-screen. The main issue with the MP is that respawning takes ages which breaks the play a little, and there are too few variations in the missions at the moment, something that should change over time.
The visuals in Sunset Overdrive are very noticeable. It is such a colourful world that you will stop to look at even the most ordinary of things. It does go for the more animated ‘over -realistic’ look that suits the comical style of the game perfectly. The characters are excellently designed and even more praise must go to the enemies. The different kind of OD monsters have excellent models making each easily recognizable. The robot and human enemies are a little less impressive but still fit the scene well. I do have to add that there is a fair bit of pop up though, but not to the point where it becomes annoying at all.
The sound is a bit hit and miss. Some of the music is truly befitting of the epic events that happen and make you smile non-stop. However, I encountered times where a song would finish playing and there would be a few minutes with no music at all which really killed the atmosphere. I also didn’t find the voice acting to be that fantastic. It’s good, sure, especially for the main character but some of the others just felt a little too robotic at times.
Sunset Overdrive is quite easily one of the most enjoyable games I have played. It may not be the absolute best or most polished game but its main aim is to provide a ton of fun and it certainly does that. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all and makes sure you know that. It also ensures that you don’t take it too seriously and if you keep that in mind you will no doubt appreciate what Insomniac have done. It’s filled with cool characters, moments which literally had me laughing out loud (I got a few odd looks from my wife) and some of the most ludicrous moments in a game I have ever seen, with the 4th wall breaking really sealing the deal.
There is so much to do in the game, even after you finish it. Insomniac have also announced that they will be throwing in weekly challenges to keep things going. There is plenty to collect, to upgrade and to fight against. It’s as fun as they come if your idea of gaming is to have fun, and the story, while generic, still presents itself well enough to make it worth following. Sunset Overdrive simply puts fun first and does so in a way that will have you going back for more. You won’t be sorry if you pick this game up. The announcer in the game puts it a little like this: Now that you have the idea, time to save Sunset City… so don’t F&^K it up!