Sunset Overdrive Review

Dan Webb

“In a world full of photorealistic games with serious tones, dark and dreary backdrops, comes a game full of colour, humour and more importantly, fun.”

If Sunset Overdrive was a film, that right there would be the voiceover’s gravely toned spiel that would have spilt from every orifice of its trailer. It’s very pertinent though and if I had to sum up Sunset Overdrive in 25 words or less, that would be how I'd do it. Thankfully I don’t, so let me get my waffle on.

"Explosion, explosions, explosions! They're everywhere!"

Sunset Overdrive throws you into the shoes of an unnamed and fully customisable lead character amidst the breakout of a mutant virus in Sunset City caused by a rogue energy drink, OverCharge Delirium XT. Usually, without a defined lead, the stories of third-person, open-world action games of this ilk can suffer greatly. Thankfully, Sunset Overdrive doesn’t do that. In fact, it shines.

The game’s inability to take itself seriously, combined with the genuinely funny script and superb voice acting – read, Stephanie Lemelin – makes for an extremely enjoyable experience from start to finish. Combine all of these aspects with the game’s constant breaking of the fourth wall - possibly the game’s most charming aspect of its delivery - and you have an excellent package. It’s one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. It's up there with Portal 2 in terms of humour, which is a huge statement to make, but I stand by it. With everything from the acknowledgement of the disembodied voices, the bizarre and wacky outfits, the amusing respawn animations, the quick-witted comebacks and the game’s often comical tone, it’s a winner.

What makes Sunset Overdrive a hit, however, is its gameplay, which harks bark to Tony Hawk and Jet Set Radio, and combines its excellent traversal mechanics with the madness of Dead Rising and more colour than a bag of Skittles. With rails to grind, telephone wires to zipwire across, cars to bounce on, walls to run along and more, traversal never gets boring, especially when you unlock the glide ability.

"Meet Walter, the "Master of Badass Entrances.""

It’s not just about traversal though, it’s about combining that with frenetic combat, wielding the game’s brilliantly wacky guns – like the TNTeddy, the One Handed Dragon and The Dude – and more importantly, killing stylishly and building the combo counter and style meter. Not only will killing with style build up your style meter, but it’ll also allow you access to some of the higher level amps – amps are weapon and ‘hero’ modifiers that grant the player special abilities if they maintain a high enough style combo.

It’s all bloody good fun, which is what video games should be about. It’s pretty deep as well, which is obviously aimed at more of the hardcore gamers, although it spells it out enough to those not versed with video games that they would understand it. It genuinely reminded me of the first time I played Crackdown, which is nothing but a good thing. That feeling that I was free to do whatever I wanted and however I wanted. It's a beautiful thing.

It’s a game that is purposely designed not to frustrate either and in the true spirit of Sunset Overdrive’s humour and tone, it even acknowledges that rather cheekily in the script. Fall off the top of a building while you’re traversing around one of the bosses? It’s okay, you’ll spawn back up where you were, with the player character nonchalantly saying, “Thanks for not making me start from the bottom!” That constant and brilliant breaking down of the fourth wall is quite excellent at times and not only does it offer some more comic value, it keeps the player from becoming frustrated.

"Oooohhhh, it's so chuffin' purdy! Look at those colours!"

From a story perspective, it’s entertaining, but the most alluring aspect is easily the dialogue, the script and its delivery. It may seem like a trite zero to hero story, but the moment you start to take the story – or the game, for that matter – seriously, you’ve lost the battle. Sure, there may be a lot of fetch quests, but the game does just enough to prevent it from ever becoming stale. Whether that’s by throwing in a horde-style mission – which allows you to set traps as well – an interesting mission that looks to fully utilise the traversal and combat mechanics, throwing in new enemy types or even just dropping in a bit of humour, not once did the mission variety ever become stagnant.

Okay, if you were pushing me, it could do with a smidgen more mission variety, a button that allows you to dismount without jumping and we did expect a little more from facial animations this generation too, but other than that, I can’t really fault it.

How much you get out of Sunset Overdrive might become its sticking point though. If you went straight from A to B in terms of story, you’re likely to be done in 8 to 10 hours, but with hundreds of collectibles, challenges and side-missions to do, you could probably easily double that if you wanted.

On top of that there’s Chaos Squad, the objective-based co-operative multiplayer experience. Players will join together to take on numerous objectives that can have you defending points of interest, delivering goods, taking down bases, but more importantly, killing tons of fodder that comes your way as a dynamic team. Because of the way it's structured too, you can even just wander round the free-roam world and explore together, should you so wish. It's a decent addition in all, and one that utilises the key mechanics of what makes Sunset Overdrive so fun.

Achievements, you say? Well, they’re rather bland and by-the-numbers (a phrase I say far too often these days, which is a shame!), but in fairness, they are balanced and functional, and at times, interesting. Maybe when the player character looks through a telescope on top of a building – one that counts towards an achievement – the comment, “Nice view, I am one step closer to a pointless achievement” is a joke layered with the true sentiments of the team towards achievements. Still, they’re not that bad, we just expected more, especially with the combo counter and style system being so fun.

In Sunset Overdrive, Microsoft has another superb exclusive under its belt and yet another reason for gamers to own an Xbox One. It’s colourful, genuinely funny, handles like a dream, but more importantly, it’s great fun to play. Insomniac Games have truly outdone themselves here and smashed our expectations. Quite simply, Sunset Overdrive is an all-round pleasure and a must buy for all Xbox One owners.

The quirky soundtrack is solid, as is the voice acting. Kudos to Stephanie Lemelin’s performance who could be the next Laura Bailey or Jennifer Hale if she can perform like that week in, week out.

Colourful, vibrant and beautifully presented, Sunset Overdrive is an orgasm for the eyes.

It controls like a dream, that’s all there is to say.

An enjoyable romp of a story, with a great script and superb delivery. Plenty of things to see and do in the world, even after the main story, and thanks to the superb mechanics, the co-op is always going to be a blast.

On the whole, they’re pretty bland and by-the-numbers, but the balance is decent enough and when Insomniac do use their noggin, they can be pretty creative.

Sunset Overdrive is one of this year’s finest games, chock full with refreshing humour, a vibrant sandbox and some of the most fun gameplay mechanics we’ve experienced in some time. It’s a hit, so do yourself a favour and go out and pick up this son of a bitch.

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