Videogame Review: The Best and Worst of Sunset Overdrive
Available on: Xbox One Exclusive
Insomniac Games are known mostly these days for Resistance, but before that they helmed the fantastic cute-and-crazy shooter series Ratchet and Clank and the Spyro games back when they were about a cute dragon named Spyro spitting fire and not buying toys to use in game like some sort of bizarre real-world hybrid DLC. So they’re not strangers to cute fun, nor to bright colours, nor to epic explosions and in Sunset Overdrive, their latest effort and first Xbox exclusive title, these three concepts marry into a high-octane grind-fest of bizarre, self-aware characters and badass beasts.
You play a nameless protagonist, a lowly worker who is beset on all sides by hideous mutants. You must perform tasks and help your new friends in an attempt to escape the city and alert the world to what FizzCo, the giant conglomerate villain, has done to your home. It’s a pretty loose narrative. Deep story is not what this game is aiming for.
So is it good? Yes. Categorically yes. I’ve not had so much fun in a game for a long time. Here’s the best and the worst.
The Map: Sunset Overdrive takes place in Sunset City, a decently sized metropolis filled with tons of quirky details. Like any good gaming city it’s divided into smaller neighbourhoods and each one looks and feels like a perfect little world all its own. There’s hidden items, supply boxes and easter eggs galore and with the game’s self-referential style of humour, it can be quite amusing at times.
Movement: The game plays like an updated Jet Set Radio – although with even more freedom and speed than that game ever offered back in the olden days of the Dreamcast. The player can grind on any rail easily, with everything from power lines, to pipes, to the edges of roofs. Tap A to jump, tap X to magnet to the nearest grindable object and start sliding along. With the game’s painfully slow ground speed, you’ll be grinding and bouncing everywhere and that’s good because the game both encourages and rewards it. If you stop, you loose your Amp power – the games powerup system – and will quickly be swamped by the dozens of enemies the game lobs at you at any one time. You can also easily switch from grinding atop to swinging below any above-ground powerline or pipe.
Bouncing is equally easy, with surfaces ranging from cars to window awnings, table umbrellas, inflatable trees, air conditioning intake fans, and many other oddly springy items placed around the world. Jump, jump, jump! It keeps you out of harms way as you kill the OD. There’s a melee feature, tap B to smack things with your crowbar. It’s fast, and it’s fun.
Customisation: You are literally able to play as anyone you like. Male or female. Big or small. Wanna be a woman with La Calaveras makeup and a three-piece suit with inflatable ducky lifesafer belt? Done. Want to play as a burly dude with a green mohawk, glowing blue eyes and a tutu? Done. Man with a beard? Woman with a beard?Any race. Any style. You get a whole slew of things to begin the game with, and can change anything at any time – including your entire facial and body type. The game then lets you buy new things from Callista, which unlock by completing missions. New location to find her in, new clothes available. Go nuts.
The Arsenal: This game has so many weapons and all of them are batshit crazy. You start with a gun that shoots fire ammo called the Flaming Compensator. Later you get the TNTeddy, a sort of rocket launcher that fires exploding teddy bears. Nothin’ But The Hits hurls vinyl records at enemies. Theres a freeze gun. There’s a gun that shoots fireworks. In one section you get a cannon that lobs cute kitty dolls to a desired space, so your temporary robit-dog companion will head to that place and kill monsters for you.
This is that kind of game.
The OD!: The game has some weird as hell monsters in it. The standard OD (Overcharge Drinkers, the mutated citizens of Sunset City thanks to a contaminated energy drink) are slobbering and hideous and they only get worse from there; some of them mutated differently, depending on their surroundings so a guy near a bunch of liquid nitrogen canisters became a frozen mess that freezes his surroundings and another one merged with an excavator. There are also human enemies, and a giant robot blimp.
Speedy: This is such a minor complaint; the game goes by so fast you can tend to miss all the pretty, funny, gnarly stuff in there. Every now and then I like to stop and smell the roses in a game and this one punishes you, brutally, for taking the time to admire the scenery.
It’s possible, just keep your eye out for nearby OD. The game tends to throw a lot at you all at once.
Duplicates: In a game with a million ways to customise your character I was disappointed to see an exact duplicate of my face within the first hour of the game. Another, identical me – different hair style, although the same colour. That feels sloppy, and cheap given how much effort Insomniac have put into making such a diverse and personal gameplay experience.
That said, you’re only likely to get one, and the game does explicitly mention that yes, this is a videogame. Several times, in fact. So it embraces such things, as annoying as they can be.
Sunset Overdrive is fun, funny, explosive and downright weird. It’s the reason I got an Xbox One, and I don’t regret that decision at all. If you’re on the fence about buying an Xbone; this game could well be the reason to leap off.