Sunset Overdrive Review
Insomniac Games has always in my mind been synonymous with Sony’s Playstation, and with well-established and received franchises including: Ratchet and Clank, Spyro and Resistance under their belt, the studio has tasted a great deal of success. To break from tradition, Insomniac’s first effort for the new generation of consoles is Sunset Overdrive, which is surprisingly (considering the studio’s pedigree) an Xbox One exclusive. With the studio tackling a new genre, new IP and new hardware, have they managed to bring their recipe for success to the new generation? Let’s find out…
Sunset Overdrive takes place in a city where a disastrous soft drink product launch devolves into a faux zombie apocalypse. The city is overrun by the infected and a number of different factions have established territories in their own little slice of Sunset City and with cliques ranging from the live action role playing Fargathians, Ninja Cheerleaders, bandit-like Scabs and the Fizzco automated security forces, the situation is a powder keg with plenty of clashes. Players are let loose into this crazy world and will be tasked with helping some factions and killing others, all whilst experimenting with their new found special abilities to ultimately save the day for everybody.
Sunset Overdrive is a unique and entertaining concoction that combines the crude, smart-ass style of humour, wacky weaponry and general goofy vibe of the more recent Saint’s Row titles and mashes it together with the grinding and combo-based gameplay and environments of games like Jet Set Radio and the Tony Hawk Pro Skater titles. The result is an open world game in which third-person shooter gameplay and mindless killing is complemented by the necessity for jumping, tricking and grinding to maintain constant momentum.
Character customisation is a major part of Sunset Overdrive and as such it is fairly robust and works on many levels. Aesthetically, there are tonnes of available haircuts, accessories, clothing and other attire to deck out your main character in, whilst a more technical modification system sits underneath. By completing various missions and side-activities, players can earn Overdrive perks which can be used to add additional passive effects to character actions such as style bonuses or additional ammo capacity and Amps which are used to grant the player some incredibly powerful bonuses that include having lightning follow you around, to causing dying enemies to explode, to shooting tornadoes or fireballs during melee swings. There are a lot of options available and experimenting with different combinations of weapons and Amps can have some awesome and unexpected results.
The Amps and Overcharges are powered by Sunset Overdrive’s combat system which in turn revolves around maintaining continuous movement to drive a combo multiplayer system. Stylishly killing enemies and linking manoeuvres such as grinding, wall running, bouncing off environmental objects and killing enemies will all increase the in-game style meter. As the style meter fills up, different levels of Amps become active and by extension, the more powerful the equipped amps, the more stylish you have to be in order to utilise them. Failing to maintain your momentum will see the style meter decay rather quickly , so it is important to learn early and practice keeping the gauge full to make the most of the perks on offer.
The main campaign has been done very well, after a slow start it evolves into an experience that feels constantly fresh, featuring boss fights, fetch quests, base defence sequences, escort quests and several other memorable sections to keep players invested throughout and the sheer number of objectives means that there is very little repetition creeping into the mission designs (outside of the base defence missions of which there are far too many). Unfortunately though, whilst the main storyline excels in providing a constantly rewarding experience, it does feel a little on the short side, but at the same time it never feels old or uninteresting and perhaps that is for the best. Outside of the main storyline, there is a great deal of additional content with plenty of collectibles to be found, side-missions to attempt and a multiplayer Chaos Squad mode (which I was unable to access) to extend the game’s play time.
One of the most standout features of the title is its fantastic sense of humour which is crammed full of countless pop culture references from Game of Thrones, to Breaking Bad and Batman. Heck, there is even a weapon inspired by The Big Lebowski, named ‘The Dude’ which fires bowling balls and the in-game tutorial of which tells players to “Abide”. Sunset Overdrive knows that it is a game from the get go, does not take itself seriously in the slightest and just like Saint’s Row, it wants to shower you with endless fun.
The game’s visuals are also somewhat unique with what looks to be a semi-cel-shaded presentation happening to make things appear a little more vivid. A great deal of effort has also gone into character design and animation with some great looking baddies and NPCs on display. The world itself has been expertly populated with numerous themed zones and some excellent attention to detail. The aural side of the experience features some very good voice acting and a nice selection of music and ambiance to really set the tone for the experience.
Whilst Sunset Overdrive’s campaign is an enjoyable romp (for the most part) from start to finish, the game’s numerous side-missions are not quite on par. Whilst there are definitely a few exceptions, the majority of the 30+ side-missions amount to little more than find and fetch quests which get stale fairly quickly. The base defence sequences also seemed somewhat uninspired and less than fun when compared to the other missions on offer and having the game force players through at least 5 of these before the end of the game felt a little unnecessary. The campaign also seems a little short for an open world game, with the main quest line clocking in at around 10 hours.
If you could sum up the Sunset Overdrive in a single word, it would be fun. The combination of open world shooter, character customisation and constant, high-speed environmental interaction works much better than you can imagine and the excellent presentation, world design, humour and pop culture references all feed into this overwhelming sense of fun. Sure some of the side-missions can be a little repetitive and the campaign might be a little light on, but when you are having this much fun those miniscule issues are easy to overlook.
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