Sunset Overdrive is an open world action adventure developed by Insomniac, the creators of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance, released on October 31st this year. It is one of very few Xbox One exclusives, and can be purchased both digitally and as a retail copy for $59.99. A season pass including two DLC's and some in game extras is available at the price of $19.99. The game is also a part of an exclusive bundle where you get the white Xbox One and the game at the discounted price of $349.99 (at GameStop).
"FizzCo has released their new hit energy drink, OverCharge Delirium XT. The only itty bitty problem is that it’s caused everyone who drank it to turn into mutants. You are one of the survivors of Sunset City and now you must now band together with others (at least the ones who aren’t *****) to try and escape. That’s easier said than done. Are you up for the challenge? Let’s hope so!"
The game kicks off with some good old fashion "go pick up stuff" missions, designed to get you accustomed to the game mechanics. The first thing you learn is that Sunset Overdrive might look a lot like other games in some aspects, but it does not is stick to the standards. If you think all it takes is to run around and shoot your enemies, you are wrong. Stay on the ground and you will suffer a brutal, but quick death. Your enemies still have some IQ left after mutating and will take you out fairly simple if you let them come too close, so you will have to stick to the program. The key is to keep moving, bounce, grind, wall run and if you can, chain all of these together. Doing so will keep you alive and you will also build Style, which in turn will activate your Amps. Amps are powerful upgrades designed to give you brief moments of massive overpowered attacks. It might feel like the game uses a very long time to show you the ropes before you can actually start it, but there are a lot of ropes. You will be thankful for it later.
Because when you get the hang of it, it feels pretty great to fly around the city and kill mutants with awesomeness and style. And if you die, it doesn’t really matter. Just enjoy the animation, and pick up where you left off. The game really grew on me as I unlocked more style, more awesomeness and funky new gear. As you face a diverse selection of enemies, it requires a diverse selection of weapons. And the guns are something special, all homemade of whatever was available at the time. Dynamite filled teddy bears, watering cans filled with acid and a bowling ball launcher are only some of your options. Your guns level up by being used, so make sure to swap them around. It would be a shame to run into a boss and be out of ammo for the only upgraded gun you have.
As you progress the missions get a lot better. There is a varied mix of chases, attack or defense missions and boss fights, you will also find small time-based challenges that have you completing tasks under a ticking clock. These challenges come attached with a high-score table to give you incentive to replay them. You can also kill some time in the 8-player co-op mode called Chaos Squad. It offers an entertaining bonus where players vote on different mission types and decide on the difficulty as well as the potential rewards. It is good fun both with friends and strangers.
Sunset Overdrive plugs you straight into a fantasy world of total freedom and maximum speed ahead, after everything has gone straight to hell in a hand basket. Just like a lot of games have done before, really. But this is not your standard dark post-apocalyptic sandbox game, it is lighthearted, colorful and both chaotic and acrobatic on a hyperactive level. It has some similarities to Dead Rising 3, another Xbox exclusive, the open world, the excessive amount of enemies and the silly NPCs and equipment feel much the same. There are similarities to other games as well, at times you feel like you are playing Jet Set Radio Future, SXX Tricky, Crackdown and a Tony Hawk game from back in the days before Ride ruined everything. I’m not saying that Sunset Overdrive lack identity, it certainly has features that sets it apart, like how words are spelled out in the goo after you kill something and the revive animations where your character jumps out of a sarcophagus and dance the “Walk like the Egyptian” from the old Bangles music video, or climb out of a TV screen like Samara from "The Ring".
Several features are more amusing then they are fun, but some of the details really made me start liking the game more, and won me over even after shaking my head numerous times over some of the flashy comments that are being made. Because I was not really convinced I had made a good decision by buying the game after the first hour of playing. The introduction is clumsy, and the story is nothing but an excuse for building the sandbox. You start out by creating your character, and as they all look stupid, I picked the worst one. After playing for a while, nothing I did changed the fact that he was charmless and unsympathetic. I decided to start over with a female character, and man am I glad I did. The female voice actress changes the game experience entirely. The animations are better too, so in this game it is not a bad thing to be a girl.
Sunset Overdrive is both creative and inventive and manage to avoid the monotony, even though the game does try a little too hard at times. Some of the jokes feel forced, one example being Sunset TV, an in game feature designed to bring you game tips, contests and fan art. The host resembles what old farts like me remember from MTv in the 90’s and does not impress at all. Too tryhard even for this game.
The developers left Kinect behind to take full advantage of the Xbox One's processing power, allegedly used to boost the AI. I honestly see no problem with the lack of Kinect compatibility. Visually the game is not the most impressive, there is no new generation revolution here. The cel-shaded look is undoubtedly somewhat of an eye-catcher though. The graphics are displayed in a modest but stable 30fps and 900p, and what we get is a world designed in cheerful and bright colors. Not the largest sandbox you have ever experienced in a game, but it is packed with content and enemies everywhere.
The most impressing feat is the insane energy level maintained over such a long period of time without exhausting on the players, and the variety is to thank for that. It is one of those games that will grow on you, and gets more entertaining as you progress into the story and unlock more awesome goodies. Even though some of the elements are borrowed from other games, the combination feels fresh. The game might have done better as a launch game, and not presented so close the Halo/ CoD fest though. But there is no doubt about the fact that Insomniac games made a game true to their roots. The colorful and ingenuous homemade weaponry will make any Dead Rising fan proud, who wouldn’t want to grind along with a TNTeddy blasting teddy bears stuffed with dynamite at their foes?
I still have some mutants left to kill in Sunset Overdrive, and while I'm waiting for the multiplayer in a certain AAA title to get fixed, I just might go do that. And so should you.