Appealingly chaotic. It’s the first phrase that comes to mind when describing Insomniac Studios’ Sunset Overdrive. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, thanks to a huge corporate screw-up, Sunset Overdrive assaults your optic and auditory sensors with bright colored visuals as you go around the vastly open world of Sunset City, as well as explosively loud bangs, boings,and booms when killing enemies, bouncing off of objects such as awnings, umbrellas and cars, and just creating overall chaos in an already chaotic setting.
I wasn’t always hyped for this game.
As hyped as this game was 15 months ago during Microsoft’s “disastrous” E3 presentation in 2013 (one of the presentation’s bright spots, might I add,) I really wasn’t feeling this game. It felt extremely gratuitous in nature, and was just another action game. 15 months later, I’m staring down the proverbial barrel of whether or not to pre-order Persona Q, Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, or WWE 2K15 (which I had pre-ordered for Xbox One anyway) and I find myself pre-ordering Sunset Overdrive, for purely journalistic reasons. However, once I picked it up, and popped it into my Xbox One (which I’ve only had since mid-September 2014,) I was assaulted with a heavy metal orgasm of sexy, when the intro for the game popped up.
I smiled upon seeing this, and was extremely hyped. I felt as if I would be playing a game that wasn’t afraid of being a game. While a handful of action games veer towards the movie influence, this one is unabashed about being a video game. That’s what I personally love about Sunset Overdrive, it forges its own identity, and isn’t afraid to remind you of that every step of the way.
Welcome to the Awesomepocalypse!
It all starts from the moment you create your character. Infinite (well maybe not infinite, but a myriad of) possibilities exist once you get to the character creation screen. I decided to make my character a hipster badass with the HARDCORE! Hammer (pre-order bonuses FTW). The game pretty much dumps you into the action once you finalize your character, where you have to fight off the ODs (the mutants created from the consumption of the Overdrive drink) while bouncing and grinding around the town in order to retreat to your apartment, which puzzled me a little bit. It all made sense, however, once the flashback to the Overdrive Launch party, where the story ties itself together. From then on, it’s an adventure to get out of the city while fighting off ODs, Scabs (anarchists looking to take over the beleaguered Sunset City,) and even Fizzco bots and a large ass Fizzie balloon, just to name a few.
The characters in the game also add to the story in very subtle ways. Floyd, who creates your amps (weapon and character upgrades) as absent minded as he is, becomes your guide around Sunset City. Walter, treats you like his own child and gives you a hard time, ends up being a giant softy. Then there is Sam, a techno-nerd from Oxford-West University, who is a viable ally on the technological aspects of the game. You meet others who assist you through your quest to leave Sunset City.
Traveling through Sunset City…AMAZING!
Going from one point to the other has never been so cool, as you traverse the city by grinding on rails and wires, running on walls, and bouncing off of various items in the world. The fact that Sunset Overdrive is such an open world with so many things to do, only adds to the enjoyment of the game. Shooting OD and Scabs while grinding and pulling of Parkour moves like a G has never been more pleasurable. There were times that I looked to amass the biggest style combo I could, or just explore and find everything I can climb, swing, grind or run on. Outside of the missions and quests, there are additional ingredients you can find to help create more amps, and searching for them, as well as keeping an eye out for supply drops and treasure chests (the latter of which gives you a ton of scrilla, or money for the uninitiated) just gives you much more to do in Sunset City.
Controls? What about controls?!
Move with the left stick, jump with A, perform Parkour moves with X, aim with Left Trigger, access your weapons with the Left Bumper, air dash with the Right Bumper, and shoot with the Right Trigger. Basic controls, right? That’s the beauty of Sunset Overdrive. It’s not overly complicated, but there is a complexity in how you do things. Staying off the ground while Scabs, Fizzco drones or OD are swarming is key, as it opens up so many options for attacking and eliminating the swarms. For Scabs, the Dirty Harry does it for me, as it’s one and done for them, but for Fizzco bots, I like to freeze ’em then slam into them with my ground pound attack, leaving them in pieces, then bouncing high back to my aerial grinding assault on the ODs with the Flaming Compensator or the TNTeddy (because exploding teddy bears are awesome.) The camera control with the right stick isn’t obscene at all. The near-smooth experience of moving the camera definitely adds to the experience, as opposed to taking away, as commonly seen in most games as of late.
Use your weapons!
What makes weapons fun in Sunset Overdrive? Upgrading the hell out of them! The premise? Use ’em to upgrade ’em. The higher the level the better the bonuses, and once they’re at level 2 and above, you can equip amps to add extra effects, for example, my “Nothin’ But the Hits’ has an amp equipped to create a chance for a blast of energy that can set enemies on fire. The one downside to the weapons is that they have specific strengths and weaknesses, so while High Fidelity and NBtH can only eliminate normal ODs, The Dude/Head-Banger Gun is highly effective against all ODs, Scabs and Fizzco drones. Effectiveness is rated on a four star scale (1 being least effective, 4 meaning go to town on a sucka,) so quick swapping weapons using your weapon wheel in combination with you aim button can prove to be quite useful in a barrage of crazy, should you find yourself in one.
Is there a multiplayer mode?
Chaos Squad, the multiplayer experience, throws you into different scenarios within the Sunset Overdrive world, each of which is wrapped up in a unique PvP setting. There’s some missions where you have to get supply drops to a specific spot,, blow up a blimp using the most amount of explosives, destroy the most OD, etc. While not as amazing as the single player campaign, the multiplayer mode does give bonuses to the single player experience, such as the money, weapons and other items.
This game is not afraid to admit it’s a video game.
It is completely unabashed in it’s presentation. The soundtrack to the game is a headnodic experience (I just made up that term.) I found myself chuckling and laughing at some of the dialogue that the game has to offer, where your player constantly references the fact that they’re in a video game, or the character interactions. There’s even a moment when your character mentions that it would be cool to have spy music playing as they went on a mission, and on cue…SPY MUSIC! I completely lost it laughing while I was fighting off some Scabs and Fizzco bots on that quest. Death is made pretty fun as well, with several different re-spawn animations, such as the Elvis slide, the waking of the vampire, and even hatching from an egg. It’s definitely the little things that make you appreciate the overall experience of Sunset Overdrive, despite the familiar story (company messes up and seals the city away from the rest of the world, and starts a big corporate cover up) and mission structure of the game. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…ENHANCE IT. Familiarity plus awesome still equals awesome.
Is Microsoft and Insomniac a winning combination?
- Gameplay - 9.5/10 9.5/10
- Graphics/Visuals - 10/10 10/10
- Sound - 10/10 10/10
- Replay Value - 10/10 10/10
- Multiplayer Value - 7.5/10 7.5/10
The "Awesomepocalypse" is here!
I think that Microsoft and Insomniac hit on something really special here. It takes a lot of Insomniac Games's best formulas and integrates it into a world and a story that blows minds and creates memories along the way. This is definitely a game that can be considered for Game of the Year of 2014, hands down. The action is ridiculous, the dialogue is funny and engaging, and the world you're dropped into is incredibly immerse and filled with multiple things to do, even after the campaign is finished.
- Characters are diverse and unique onto themselves
- Immersive environment
- Fun soundtrack
- Lots of stuff to do and things to destroy outside of missions
- Story idea is familiar
- Multiplayer isn't as fun as the single player campaign