Review – Sunset Overdrive
As one of Microsoft’s biggest Xbox One exclusives for the holiday period, Sunset Overdrive rightly arrives under heavy expectations. Sunset Overdrive is bright, brazen, loud and proud – but have developer Insomniac Games delivered what could well be the best Xbox One exclusive to date?
Sunset Overdrive isn’t your typical post-apocalyptic game; there are no dull shades of grey or destroyed architecture here. The game kicks off the story right from the get go – a brand new energy drink has infected the population of Sunset City, turning them into zombie/monster hybrids known as the OD. You play as a character simply known as Player as you attempt to battle the OD, and other foes, in order to survive and hopefully escape Sunset City.
Sunset Overdrive is acutely aware that it’s a video game and plays to its strengths tremendously without trying to deliver meaningful, emotional narrative and instead focusing solely on over the top fun. Traversing Sunset City sees the player grinding, wall running and bouncing around at a high tempo – touching the ground slows you down immensely and leaves you vulnerable to being mobbed and killed.
Thankfully, Sunset City has been designed with these mechanics in mind and it’s entirely possible to reach one end of the city from the other without ever touching ground. Absolutely everywhere are grind rails and fences, cars or canopies to propel yourself upwards from and perfectly placed walls allowing you to grind, bounce and wall-run anywhere with little effort. Initially it’s a little daunting and keeping a combo going can be challenging – anyone who has ever played the older Tony Hawk Pro Skater games will be right at home though, combining a string of grinds, bounces and parkour together whilst wiping out any enemies that cross your path.
No explanation is ever given as to how the player can grind wearing normal, everyday trainers (or high heels if you so wish) and Sunset Overdrive is all the better for it. The focus here is entirely on madness, havoc and fun and it’s this freedom that makes Sunset Overdrive a joy to play.
Sunset City, like the entirety of the game from insanely bizarre customization options to the colorful variety of weapons, rocks a bright color scheme bursting with character that makes Sunset Overdrive so enjoyable. Non player characters are loud, and although largely stereotypical, fun to be around – cut scenes aren’t drawn out or boring, but rather enjoyable and amusing. As you traverse the city, the player will also chip in with amusing quips and comments based on what’s happening around you.
Sunset Overdrive‘s sense of humor overall is one of the games strongest suits. Maintaining consistently funny humor over any length of time can be difficult even for the most experienced comics, but Sunset Overdrive manages to sustain its humor without becoming tiresome. Video games, modern culture, movies – there’s a lot of satirical humor and humorous nods to Pulp Fiction, Breaking Bad and the entire video game industry in among many others.
Throughout the course of the campaign, players will encounter a variety of NPCs including preppy rich kids, ninja cheerleaders and a live action role playing society that refuse to break their role, even in light of the OD threat. Insomniac deserves recognition for maintaining interest – many games have tried and failed to do the same thing, with some dragging down the entire experience in the process.
Combat is also a large part of Sunset Overdrive and, although slightly shallow with the bulk of missions requiring the player to go to point A and kill x amount of B, a blast. The bizarre weapon selection makes the combat more fun thanks to the outrageous options on offer. There are standard guns available, but it’s much more fun to wipe out OD using a cannon that fires explosive teddy bears or an automatic machine gun that fires fireworks directly at your opponents.
Another nice touch that Sunset Overdrive gets perfectly right is in its ammunition distribution. Although you can often find plenty of ammo in the mission areas, you will quickly get through ammo for one weapon forcing you to change weapons. It keeps things fresh and interesting and after a couple of hours into the game I was a master at grinding above my enemies, switching weapons on the fly to cope with the impending threat. The aforementioned explosive teddy bears are great for wiping out a crowd, with the standard machine gun much more accurate for picking off enemies from a distance.
As the campaign progresses, new types of enemies are introduced as well as threats from human ‘scabs’ (read: raiders) and Fizzco (the company responsible for manufacturing the energy drink) robots. The campaign itself is fairly short – I completed the campaign and all available side missions in around 15 hours, with some exploration and toying with new weapons, without too much of a challenge. Having said that, the campaign is fun right from the beginning to the end and making the game any longer may have compromised the fun factor and/or humor.
There’s a lot to see and do aside from the missions – side quests regularly pop up, there are speed run challenges and base defense quests which allow you to place a variety of traps down to help you defend. There are also an insane number of collectibles, allowing you to upgrade or purchase new weapons.
Although predominantly a single player experience, Sunset Overdrive does have multiplayer modes available including a co-operative base defense game in which players defend against huge waves of enemies. It’s a fun mode, although I found it more fun to play single player – the multiplayer, called ‘Chaos Squad’, sometimes overwhelming and with a high player count feels a little like too much is happening at once for the games’ own good. Playing with friends is much more rewarding than with strangers, although Sunset Overdrive is unlikely to be a hugely popular multiplayer in a couple of months, once the novelty wears off due to its lack of variety.
Sunset Overdrive is the best exclusive game on the Xbox One at present – if you have an Xbox One and any interest in this game, I implore you to jump right in and enjoy yourself. Not bogged down with narrative, Sunset City’s adventures are exciting, fresh and provide plenty of talking points when comparing stories with other players. And although fairly short lived, Sunset Overdrive is an awesome, insanely fun and unrivaled experience – there’s genuinely nothing else like it on the Xbox One, or any other console for that matter.