by Matthew Thompson
I finally got myself an Xbox One a couple of weeks ago. It is as much for future games as anything that is already released though I plan to explore some of the exclusives I missed thus far. The one game I was dying to play these past couple years was Sunset Overdrive and it was the first title I snagged for my new system. I’m a huge fan of Insomniac Games – mostly for their Ratchet & Clank series – and this looked like the kind of game I wanted to see them making.
Nobody does creative weapons quite like Insomniac and they deliver once again with a wild assortment of armaments in Sunset Overdrive. If you ever wanted to shoot off explosive teddy bears and litter the ground with acid-spewing sprinklers, this game has you covered. And mixing the game’s various weapons together is part of the fun. You have the deployable weapons like the aforementioned sprinklers and your more typical (I use that term loosely) guns. So you throw out some proximity mines and you let loose some gun-toting, remote-controlled helicopters to do work on their own while you pelt enemies with guns that shoot off fireworks and flaming bowling balls. It is chaotic, but somewhat necessary to control the onslaught of baddies heaved your way. Oh and it’s really fun too. On top of this, Sunset Overdrive features a similarly addictive, experience-based upgrade system like the one seen in R&C and Resistance 3 plus mods called Amps that give your weapons added effects like turning enemies against each other. I do feel like the speed of the leveling system and the amount of money you receive could be tuned a bit better. The former feels a bit too slow and they are a bit stingy with the latter, but perhaps if I played the multiplayer my issues would be solved. Otherwise they have once again hit it out of the park when it comes to weaponry.
The other major component of the game is traversal. You’ll move around Sunset City by bouncing on canopies, grinding rails, running along walls and dashing through the air. What impresses me most about this is how they have managed to add a level of challenge to the platforming that isn’t typically present in open-world games. A style meter rewards you for linking all your moves together without stopping or hitting the ground by making you more powerful in various ways. Balancing this with fighting off hordes of mutants and scavengers is really quite tricky. But there are also tons of missions and challenges that require you to move from one area to another quickly. These make you take a more linear approach through the world. And the truth is platforming is just better when it is relatively linear. What they have done with it here is impressive and helps it stand out from other comparable sandbox games.
The premise to this whole affair isn’t anything special. An energy drink has turned many Sunset City residents into mutants and you are trying to escape after they have overrun the city. What makes the story so much fun is the one of a kind sense of humor and zany cast of characters. That means a game that is constantly breaking the fourth wall and making a myriad of pop culture references from Breaking Bad to The Big Lebowski. That means running into a samurai scout troop, a group of hardcore LARPers and a squad of Dia de Muertos-inspired cheerleaders. And then there are the respawn animations that are so absurd that they make you almost glad you died. It isn’t my ideal kind of game narrative, but it is hilarious and deserves a lot of credit for its originality.
My biggest issue with the game would be the encounter design. Like a lot of sandbox titles there doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought put into enemy placement during battles. They just throw a ton at you. Once you get enough weapons, this becomes easier to deal with so it isn’t quite as bad as in some other games. Other than that and maybe some repetitive missions in the main storyline, I didn’t have a whole lot of problems with the game.
At times, Sunset Overdrive reminds me of many games I’ve played before. Like Ratchet & Clank and inFamous and Saints Row, even Tony Hawk. Despite some of those similarities, Insomniac has created something unique with Sunset Overdrive that is heaps of fun to boot and served as a great way to break in the new addition to my console family.