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Sunset Overdrive Review – A Playful Apocalypse

With the debut of Sunset Overdrive exclusively on the Xbox One, Insomniac Games succeeds in not only creating one of their most entertaining titles to date, but they have also established a bold new IP that Microsoft has needed for quite awhile now. Here are a few more reasons why now is the perfect time to dive into this open world oasis and see what the awesomepocalypse has to offer.

Sunset Overdrive could be best described as an open world, traversal-based third-person shooter set within the futuristic metropolis of Sunset City. The premise of the story revolves around the launch of a brand new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium XT and the horrifying side effects that it has on both the world and everyone who consumes it. Players dive headfirst into the role of a fully customizable ex-FizzCo employee and are responsible for rallying the survivors while taking down the corrupt organization at the center of it all.

Fans who are familiar with Insomniac created games can expect a great deal of charm, creativity and comedy to be at the forefront of this truly satisfying and rewarding experience. The primary cast of characters along with the various factions that the player interacts with all seem to compliment each other nicely within this highly stylized dystopian world. One thing that I especially enjoyed about this game was its clever ability to constantly break the fourth wall by reminding the player that this is a video game and thus everything shouldn’t be taken too seriously. In many ways, this fun approach to storytelling is a big reason why the game was both refreshing and a blast to play through from start to finish.

Traversal is the key to survival in Sunset Overdrive.
Traversal is the key to survival in Sunset Overdrive.

The core dynamics of gameplay are built around the player’s ability to traverse seamlessly throughout the environment. These moves typically include the ability to grind effortlessly on rooftop edges and phone lines, run across walls, jump off of cars and bouncy surfaces, and perform air dashes across space gaps on both land and sea. Due to the increased amount of mutated creatures, gangs and FizzCo robots roaming the streets, it is highly recommended that the player remains above ground at all times. This is actually where the game derives most of its fun from as traversal moves can be used with weapons to take down enemies while in motion and from a distance. In addition to shooting, the combat also allows you to do melee attacks and devastating ground maneuvers to decimate adversaries with force.

Fighting with style is easily one of the most addictive elements of the game. By pulling off cool moves in every encounter, the player is able to utilize their style meter to unlock Amps and Overdrives. Amps are special abilities that can be used to further customize your character and weapons. There are a total of six diverse amps including Hero Amps, Hero Extra Amps, Melee Swing Amps, Dive Bomb Amps, Epic Amps, and Weapon Amps. Participating in side quests, gathering collectibles, and beating missions also rewards the player with amps that can be leveled up over time. Overdrives on the other hand, are more passive upgrades that are tied directly to how much you use traversal moves in the game. These impact things like how much damage certain weapons can cause on a particular group of enemies. You can equip up to six of these upgrades at a time and there still is an insane amount to collect as you progress through the game.

Gaining the approval of different factions is needed to progress through the game.
Gaining the approval of different factions is needed to progress through the game.

In addition to a lot of the neat combat dynamics described above, Sunset Overdrive also adds an element of tower defense to the overall experience. This is portrayed through a series of night defense scenarios where you have to defend different bases while the scientist on your squad cooks up the ingredients to build more amps. Overcharge is used extensively during this process and easily lures several creatures into your territory. Luckily, there are several traps that you can use to provide temporary relief between reloading your weapons. While I’ve never personally been a fan of tower defense games, I definitely liked how this idea was approached in the game and this falls right in line with just how creative the studio was while working on this title.

If you’ve ever played a Ratchet & Clank game, then you probably can guess that the weapons in this title are awesome in pretty much every way imaginable. Taking conventional weapons and adding creative flair and personality to them is evident right from the start and clearly illustrates that any and almost everything can be used as an asset in dire circumstances. While you’re only able to access seven items in your weapon wheel at a time, there are a total of 20 different weapons to collect. Most of these can be purchased in exchanged for all of the cans of Overdrive that you collect along the way.

Insomniac adds a level creativity and personality to virtually every weapon in the game.
Insomniac adds a level creativity and personality to virtually every weapon in the game.

The single player campaign can take anywhere for 10 – 25 hours to complete depending upon if you decide partake in any of the side quests that are readily available to you. The world is massive and so well constructed that you’ll honestly want to explore every ounce of it. Missions and challenges can also be replayed to get higher scores and unlock even more achievements. This will definitely appeal to some people and keep them extra busy with the game long after the story mode has been completed.

On the multiplayer side of things, Sunset Overdrive has a 2-8-player mode called Chaos Squad. This brings all of the great dynamics of the core gameplay experience online and allows groups of people to vote on missions and participate in higher difficulty night defense match-ups together. Having experienced several play sessions this past weekend, I can confirm that this mode is fun but definitely demands your attention as quite a lot can happen on screen at once. It’s also worth noting that you can access this mode at any time during the campaign by visiting one of several different kiosks located throughout the city.

Chaos Squad is the perfect name for a multiplayer mode as crazy as this one.
Chaos Squad is the perfect name for a multiplayer mode as crazy as this one.

With so many positives listed above, there are at the very least two things about this game that may annoy some. First and foremost, the mission structures within the campaign can get a little repetitive at times. As you meet different factions you constantly have to do things for them to gain their approval and move the storyline forward. This may not necessarily bother some if you enjoy the playful nature of the game but it is definitely worth mentioning beforehand.

The other issue lies within the comedic writing itself. While I personally loved the jokes and various pop culture references and Easter eggs throughout, I’m not quite certain if this is a brand of humor that everyone will be enamored by. Chances are if you have a sense of humor then you’ll definitely be drawn to this game. If however you like to read more into a joke and don’t understand some of the goofiness on display, then this may not necessarily appeal to you quite as much.

Sunset Overdrive is the perfect example of what’s possible by adding a little bit of creativity and comedy to a topic as daunting as the apocalypse. Insomniac Games has created arguably their best title to date and if you own an Xbox One then you would be doing yourself a great disservice by not experiencing this for yourself.

This review was based on a digital review copy of Sunset Overdrive for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft.

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