Sunset Overdrive (REVIEW)

written by Jay Hammon (@GravityFlux80)

I like to blame a lot in life on the copious amounts of caffeine I ingest. I think this is how I found myself in the checkout line with a copy of Sunset Overdrive in my hands. Once you play this game the fact that a caffeinated beverage lead me to purchase it will either cause you to chuckle or reach for your nearest flaming empanada launcher in preparation for the onslaught of OD.

I wasn’t really excited or anticipating the release of Sunset Overdrive but I was bored with what was currently out and in one of the trailers I watched I caught a strong Crackdown vibe so I figured Insomniac’s latest offering could probably tear me away from the Destiny grind for a bit… and it did for a short time.

The basic premise here is that Fizzco is the devil. They make caffeinated energy drinks for the masses but they don’t really care what their drinks do to consumers. Their latest batch of high test jitter juice has the lovely effect of turning consumers into monstrous mutants called OD and this drink basically brought Armageddon to Sunset City. Fizzco has turned this city into an apocalyptic warzone and you… well, you’re just trying to get out by wall running, grinding and blasting your way through layers of baddies.

If you want an original city under siege or apocalyptic story you won’t find it here. But you will find interesting and engaging characters that fill every clichéd character type you’d expect in this sort of adventure. But seriously, the characters are truly funny and interesting for all the right reasons. The humor in this game is dark, vulgar and so riddled with pop culture and geek life references you could make a drinking game out of trying to notice them all. There’s one. Drink! There’s another. Drink! And that’s just the first 45 seconds of gameplay.

The game is bright and eye popping. The only problem with this is if you’d actually like to check out the city and take it all in you’ll need to stand still… and that equals death. If you stop moving outside of your bases you’ll find yourself overrun by OD and respawning in a safe zone; which I might suggest doing a few times. You’ll notice respawns referencing all manner of movies, games and TV shows. The problem becomes picking a favorite and reminding yourself you’re supposed to be upset when you die in game.

Your weapons are ridiculous and upgrade as you use them (my favorite is the exploding teddy bear launcher). This mechanic is great since the weapons you favor quickly power up but the ones you ignore will need to play catch up. You’ll also learn new abilities and find new ways to earn style points. Style points will allow you to use your abilities and really lay into the OD. Herein lays my biggest complaint with the game. It starts to feel too much like a Tony Hawk game. I absolutely despised the grinding aspect of movement in Sunset Overdrive so having to do that a ton while bouncing, swinging and battling… it ripped my will to live out of my body and beat me with it like I were a whack a mole. Not a fan of the grinding to get everywhere bit. Fortunately some of the boss battles are as ludicrous as you’d expect and just as fun so I often found myself pulled right back into grinding around the city completing the never ending stream of go there, get this and bring it back here missions.

Getting bored of trying to save a city and survive a toxic energy drink induced apocalypse solo? Grab your wolf pack and hop into Chaos Squad! CHAOS. SQUAD. This multiplayer mode sees you and your friends battling waves of OD as you defend your base, set traps and just otherwise run around creating havoc and making mutants explode. You’ve never wanted to see a group of caffeine zombies flopping to the ground to drink a puddle of orange beverage this much in your life. This also gives you a chance to show off your character to your friends on Live. You create your character at the beginning of the game but as you play you’ll find new styles and items to try and make yourself as true to real life as you’d like or you can go completely bonkers like I did. Video games; much like life, my friends, are all about choices.

Verdict:

For this gamer the colors of the game world and character dialogue are the main draw here. The movement mechanics (grinding) really killed a lot of the enjoyment for me but I think that is going to be a love it or hate it aspect for a lot of gamers. Crazy weapons and an off the wall storyline should keep most players engaged long enough to beat Sunset Overdrive. I don’t see a lot of replayability here especially with all the great games coming out over the next 2 months but this may be one of those games you dust off every few months to blow off some steam.

PROS:

+ Colorful world full of vibrant characters
+ Unique weaponry
+ Hilarious dialogue and visuals
+ Great level design
+ Robust chracter customization

CONS:

- Grinding
- Lack of mission variety
- Short campaign
- ... GRINDING

Score Breakdown:

Story: 3 It’s not very original and the character types are cliché but Insomniac does add their own flare to the genre.

Graphics: 4 It’s a vibrant and beautiful game. It makes my eyes feel all shiny and happy.

Audio: 5 The voice acting and sound effects are on point. Some of the music was a little on the meh side for me but overall the soundtrack was enjoyable and fitting.

Level design: 4 The city looks and feels like a city and Insomniac did a pretty good job of not making the grinding/swinging mode of travel feel too forced by having enough wreckage and such around for the player to use to traverse the town.

Polish: 4 It’s a great looking and sounding game. I didn’t encounter any hit detection issues or pixilation; I didn’t get my character stuck anywhere or fall through any floors. This party just kept rocking.

Controls: 4 Initially they can seem daunting but once you get the hang of everything all your commands will flow smoothly and you realize how well layed out the controls are. There can be instances of the game doing something other than what you thought you commanded but not a lot of that occurs.

Overall Gameplay: 3 The mission types do get monotonous, grinding and the longevity of the game garner the lower score here. Sadly, I just don’t see a lot of potential for this game to be played long after release even with DLC.

Extras: 3 There isn’t a ton going on here. There’s some basic collecting of items around the city to create upgrades for various items but I never really found myself needing any of the upgrades and didn’t care to spend time hunting down the items needed to make them. If you’re a completionist or feel like one of these upgrades is worthwhile then there’s a lot of city out there for you to explore.