When Sunset Overdrive’s brilliant trailer debuted at E3 last year it displayed a world that wasn’t afraid to take shots, spoofing the brown-tinted gritty realism of military shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield by injecting color, vibrancy and humor into a universe entirely its own. It goes without saying that trailer excited a lot of people, myself included, but now that Sunset Overdrive is released can it possibly live up to the hype it created?
It does. Well, mostly. Creatively, and in terms of presentation, Sunset Overdrive is a masterpiece. Few titles can even claim to hold a candle to its world, its humor, or its characters. Its fast-paced kinetic mayhem makes for brilliant game play, but the title’s tedious mission structure makes the game’s A.D.D. targeted play style slow to a dead halt. A problem that was only made more apparent every time I found myself having more fun veering from the beaten path.
"Its fast-paced kinetic mayhem makes for brilliant game play, but the title’s tedious mission structure makes the game’s A.D.D. targeted play style slow to a dead halt."
With repetitive mission designs that include fetch quests, tedious grinding, and mindless point-a-to-point-b travel I found it put me in a bit of a rough position. You see, the story is incredibly well written. It’s funny, it’s charming, and ultimately it complements the game’s visual tone, reminding me a bit of what a Pixar film could be like if they made one for adults. There was never any point where I wanted the story’s progression to stop, but the tired mission structures offered an inherit flaw: no matter how much I want to continue the narrative, it got harder and hard to justify trudging through tedious gameplay to keep it flowing. I was tempted many times to veer off the path and create my own story, which is ultimately where Sunset Overdrive shined most, especially when engaged in co-op mayhem.
Upon booting up Sunset Overdrive you’ll immediately meet face to face with a truly beautiful game world. Though the textures get muddy up close, the game’s stunning visual direction and character design bursts with creativity and fun. Insomniac clearly poured their heart and souls into SOs art direction, lovingly creating a world that uses a color palate full of vibrancy and beauty, in spite of all the on screen chaos. Running, bouncing, and grinding through SO’s world is absolutely breathtaking, especially when perched on a vantage point. Though the game doesn’t give you much opportunity to stop and smell the roses, moments where it does are absolutely incredible and I have to applaud Insomniac’s attention to detail. When paired with the uproarious humor, and the tongue-in-cheek storyline SO truly does knock it out of the park.
"Insomniac clearly poured their heart and souls into SOs art direction, lovingly creating a world that uses a color palate full of vibrancy and beauty, in spite of all the on screen chaos."
The open world gameplay is fast-paced and frantic. The game rewards players for accepting its twitchy play style with a combo system that is representative of Jet Set Radio or Tony Hawk, and incorporates them smoothly with familiar open world tactics that most people have grown to love. Take a sprinkle of Saints Row the Third’s over-the-top silliness, add Dead Rising’s kooky weaponry and its sheer amount of on screen enemies, then season with Bioshock Infinite’s rail grinding and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the game’s combat. Though the control system can take some getting used to, players will find themselves bouncing and grinding their way through the city, dodging massive monsters, and slaughtering hordes of energy-drink-fueled ODs in no time.
The featured weapons lend to the game’s overall charm. With an arsenal that includes the likes of The Flaming Compensator and TNTeddy you can begin to imagine just how fun it is to use the tools at your disposal. It’s very easy to swap between them on the fly, allowing you to pick the weapon that suits your needs in any situation. Seeing how the weapons work together is nothing short of awesome. Every time your gun stash grows combo potential skyrockets, adding another juicy layer of depth to the already blistering gameplay.
"Sunset Overdrive is wonderful, but its basic mission structure feels way too worn out in a game that feels this fresh."
I absolutely love SOs upgrade system as well. It borrows from Skyrim’s stat style by rewarding the player for playing a particular way, or using certain weapons. Love The Flaming Compensator? Well, the more you use it, the more powerful it will become. Want to slice and dice waves of ODs with nothing but vinyl records? Just keep using the High Fidelity and before you know it you’ll be obliterating them, leaving nothing but buckets of blood and flaming havoc in your wake.
In addition, weapons can be equipped with Amps. Amps are created in the game by collecting necessary materials. These amps can be inserted into weapons and offer a variety of different stats like stunning, slowing, and boosting weapon damage. This genius addition may seem simple, but it allows players to custom tailor weapons to their situation and their play style resulting in gameplay that feels just as much personal as it does fun.
Sunset Overdrive is wonderful, but its basic mission structure feels way too worn out in a game that feels this fresh. I’m in no means disregarding this wonderful title, but I can’t help but compare it to Crackdown: it’s a fun romp, especially with friends, but ultimately the fun lies in what you create, not in the story laid out for you. Regardless of the campaign, if this is Insomniac’s picture of the apocalypse I’m definitely in, I’ll just be busy weaving my own story.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Xbox one