Sunset Overdrive is the first foray for Insomniac Games in creating a fresh new IP, exclusively for the Xbox One. Said to be the “rock and roll end times”, Sunset Overdrive borrows heavily from titles such as Dead Rising, inFamous and an old favourite of mine, Jet Set Radio Future.
Combining the antics of all these titles, Sunset City is ripe with collectibles to find and enemies to blow up in as many crazy ways as possible.
Upon starting, players are thrown right into the shit, standing on a train trying to get home when the OD (People who drink too much Overcharge) are causing havoc all around him. Acting as a tutorial, players learn the basic mechanics of the game. Vaulting over walls, bouncing on top of cars and parasols for boosted jumps and grinding alongside railings to amply traverse the game world. When the player finally reaches his apartment, a Herker (Large OD enemy) decides to try and make him mince meat but is distracted by an unnamed character we are yet to be introduced to.
Here the player obtains their first weapon “The Flaming Compensator” which resembles male genitalia, it’s a shotgun that also ignites enemies on fire when hit. Players can shoot enemies whilst running, grinding or under-grinding (Underneath railing) or jumping in the air.
Once the Herker leaves, the character barricades himself in his apartment then we’re taken back in time to the FizzCo Pre-Launch party for their latest energy drink, Overcharge Delirium XT, which causes anyone who drinks it to become OD. Fast forward 17 days into the future, the character is safely secured within the comfort of his own home, it’s here you’re given the chance to change what your character looks like.
In the apocalypse vanity is almost as important as survival it seems, as you can dress your character in any way you want. Players can equip various layers of clothing on their character from singlets, hats, tattoos, pants and underwear to name a few, as well as the body type and gender. Clothes can either be bought with money you earn from missions, breaking ATM’s or unlocked by obtaining a certain point goal in various challenges. Banking up to $300,000 + for my character, spending money on clothes was quite possibly the least of my worries.
It seems like a useless currency and buying a White Fang Mask that costs $35,000 doesn’t give you much of an advantage over your enemies apart from making you look like a total bad-ass. It’s a shame when every single collectible within Sunset City has a much larger purpose to your character and money just buys clothes.
Collecting stinky shoes from power lines, toilet paper from poles, destroying security cameras, collecting Fizzie balloons and obtaining FizzCo neon signs all go towards buying Amps. Amps are the way a player can enhance their Hero, Melee attacks and Epic. Whilst some are a mere cosmetic options, others do encourage the player to portray a certain level of skill to activate, in a somewhat very accessible game. Various Ampa will cause enemies to become frozen on the spot, others will change an enemy into a TNTeddy and cause damage in a small area.
Some Amps can be bought from Floyd the games mixologist and used instantaneously, however others that you obtain as you progress through the story need to be made via a Night Defense mission and there are some extremely good ones that are well worth the trouble. This requires the player to places traps around their fort with traps unlocking through side quests or story missions, turning a valve and surviving the onslaught of OD. It’s during these missions that the game truly utilizes Amps, Overdrives, and the crazy weaponry you have available to you. I had a complaint at the start of the game where I wasn’t happy with the amount of enemies it would throw at me, but that gets address the more you progress where the game becomes relentless.
Using multiple crowd control weapons when only a dozen enemies would be on screen at a time, it was a problem but not anymore. When you equip Amps they can only be activated via raising your Style Meter, which is located at the top right hand corner of the HUD. Performing outrageous grind kills, bounce kills or shooting with style will raise the meter. At Style Lvl 1 the player will unlock their Hero amp, Lvl 2 unlocks melee amps and weapon amps (As long as a weapon is Level 2 they can be equipped with Amps), and Lvl 3 unlock your Epic amps and activates all other amps simultaneously.
The Style Meter is nothing new, however as you progress further into the game and obtain better amps there is nothing more epic than igniting a bunch of enemies with lightning rains down from the sky at random, whilst an announcer comments of everything you do. Players will also unlock new moves when compleing certain missions such as an air and water dashing and double jumps which are the games more advanced combo moves.
Much like Amps, Overdrives work to enhance the players abilities whether it’s the amount of damage they can do to a certain enemy type or the amount of Style that is generated during combat. Overdrives are unlocked and upgraded by obtaining badges, which can be rewarded for killing x amount of enemies, x distance grinded, or a certain number of times you’ve bounced on a car. There’s no real way to track these in the menu hub, but they are consistently rewarded to the player the more they play. When you unlock enough Overdrives you can only have a maximum of 6 equipped, so depending on what you want to spend your badges on be wise, as the higher level Overdrives cost multiple badges to unlock and upgrade.
To purchase weapons within the game world, players can find Overcharge cans scattered through Sunset City or via the games story missions. Each new faction you encounter within the game allows you to buy newer weapons from Two Hat Jack, who is always located at every single weapon point. Overcharge cans aren’t as easy to rack up in quantity, with some higher costing weapons requiring me to play for a few more hours before I could obtain them. Some are beter than other so it’s best to wtch each weapons tutorial before deciding which to buy.
‘The Dude’ which (The Big Lebowski reference) is a good weapon if you want to kill multiple enemies at once. The downside to this weapon is that it takes a few seconds to charge up and only fires straight, meaning that any enemies on your left or right wont be affected by the guns trajectory. Meaning that unless you really want this gun, it most likely isn’t a good choice to spend your overcharge on when you can buy a automatic weapon that shoots out exploding fireworks.
Like some of the weapons available to you, the games humour at times can be tiresome. Sunset Overdrive is an extremely meta-game and it’s is definitely self aware. It knows it’s a video game and it knows that it’s over the top. Character animations during cut-scenes are extremely wooden and sound like they are reading directly from a script. It’s hard to grow any form of real investment to any character in Sunset City. Most missions will require you to save someones life, and it really just feels like a chore to progress the story.
The further you progress into the game the better the humour becomes, however it’s still too dry and only makes you chuckle or smile at best.
There are a lot of references to other forms of work, with respawn animations by far the best inclusion in Sunset Overdrive. Whilst you go through them quite quickly, it’s always a treat seeing your character come back to life the same a Terminator is first introduced in Terminator 1 or 2. Enjoy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure where they use a Phone Booth to teleport through time? That’s here too. My only gripe with respawn animations is that death has absolutely zero meaning in this game apart from being able to show you these. If you die when doing a mission you’ll either respawn exactly where you left off with no loss in money, overcharge or items.
During some missions you’ll respawn at a checkpoint but apart from that there’s no real need to be careful in this game since there’s no penalty. It’s meant to be extremely accessible to any gamer and that’s evident with the aim assist when shooting as well as the fact that you never have to reload any guns. I just wonder why they included the player being able to die when the novelty of re-spawning wears thin.
These are the games only real faults though alongside it being very polished. Never did I find myself caught in large scale battles where the framerate would drop, and I could see very little clipping or textures issues throughout the city. With so much happening at any given time I was surprised at how smoothly it ran, going for 900p with a much more stable framerate over 1080p was definitely a good decision by Insomniac. On my 60″ SONY Bravia I cannot fault the game, despite some character models looking a little wonky from the waist down and some pieces of clothing being way too big.
It’s hard to say this game isn’t worth purchasing, when you can enjoy the mayhem it incurs without investing in the lackluster story.
Chaos Squad is the games only form of multiplyer that is accessed via photobooth type outlets in the city. Players walk up to these hubs, select a portion of the city they wish to search for, and the game will instantly try to find a maximum of 8 players and thrust them into Chaos Squad all whilst you’re still roaming around the city. This multiplayer game type is basically made up of 5 different challenges players can vote for and upon succession can build up points and a chaos rating. When all 5 challenges are completed, the final stage is determined via the the previous 5 challenges. Depending on the amount of chaos accumulated, this stage can either be very easy or extremely difficult.
Again, this horde type game mode makes great use of all the games abilities, from Amps, Overdrives and Traps. Through future DLC, Night Defense can definitely enhance the 15-20 hour overall length of the game, so long as the variety with traps and enemies is built upon, Sunset Overdrive will give players multiple hours of enjoyment. I just do hope that Insomniac Games includes a free roam co-op option much like Destiny has where you can encounter other players and do random quests without needing to do Chaos Squad.
+ Over the top, quirky and accessible
+ Plethora of ridiculous gun to keep the game fresh
+ Multiple collectibles with dozens of easter eggs scattered throughout the city
– Characters during cutscenes are wooden and sound like they’re reading from a script
– Dry humor does get tiresome after a while
– Story is a means to an end, with no investment in characters needed.
– No cutsom game soundtrack as in game music gets annoying
Sunset Overdrive is exactly what Insomniac Games envisioned when starting this project and shopping it around years ago. Its a fresh over the top, third person open world shooter than blends the best of various games to create something quirky and unique . Whether or not you’re into this type of game, there’s no denying that Sunset Overdrive is easy to get stuck into for hours on end without actually progressing through the story.
For completionists there’s a lot to do and for the casual gamer they can get stuck into it easily. For the dedicated though, they may not seem interested for the lack of a real goal and those who currently don’t own a next generation console, this may not be the game that pushes you in favour of grabbing one now.
Review conducted via a digital copy of Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition provided by Microsoft.