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Review

Sunset Overdrive Review

A new dawn.

Sunset Overdrive is a mutant-pummelling, railtrack-grinding, beer-swilling hilarity infused assault on the senses that is weighted so fantastically that it’s actually difficult to know where to begin. Insomniac Games, formerly a stalwart PlayStation developer and creators of the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series, have jumped ship to the greener side of the console war and taken all of their toys with them. Sunset Overdrive is their first Xbox One title, and if Insomniac had a point to make, they’ve certainly made it.

This is a game about games, knowingly self referential of its own format and of pop culture in general, and of what drives players as they journey through a world. It has an utterly joyous outlook on life, and following the Awesomepocalypse (which is certainly better than your run of the mill apocalypse), your character sets out to escape the city, meeting a characterful cast of protagonists who you’ll genuinely want to spend time with along the way.

At the outset you’re found doing your dead-end job working for Fizzco, the soft drinks giant, but it’s isn’t long before all hell breaks loose. The residents of Sunset City are all turned into mutants, known as O.D.’s, after Fizzco release their new energy drink ‘Overcharge XT’ without first checking to see if there were any side effects. Aided by an excessively grumpy man called Walter, you find yourself in the relative safety of The Brewery, your first base of operations, and from here you set out on your journey.

Your first step is to create your character, with a nice touch being that you’re only able to customise your outfit following the mutant outbreak as you don’t have a job anymore. Character customisation is pretty wild and the game gives you every opportunity to dress in the most inappropriate manner possible. If you fancy wearing a unicorn hat with a giant horn sticking out of it, alongside a mini-skirt and leg-warmers combo then you can. There’s all sorts of looks that can be created and Sunset Overdrive really just wants you to look patently ridiculous. You can naturally dress like you would during your daily life, but that would be missing the point.

The game’s design and attitude embody the ostentatious title, with its wild spirit channelling the manic rush of Crazy Taxi, mixed with the traversal of Jet Set Radio, the weaponry of Ratchet & Clank and the combo building of Tony Hawks. Visually, Sunset Overdrive could well be the closest we’ll ever get to the return of Sega’s golden age, with the bright blue skies and colourful visuals reminiscent of that company’s most iconic output. The game runs very smoothly too, even with hordes of O.D. and multiple players on screen, and the city itself is expansive whilst managing to retain plenty of character.

Sunset1

The gameplay largely centres around exploring the open world location of Sunset City and performing tasks whilst eradicating the O.D., doing battle with mercenary survivors known as ‘Scabs’ and fighting the Fizzco security robot team who are sent in to eradicate the evidence. The key to the game is movement and luckily traversing the landscape is immediate, fun and rewarding. You’re able to bounce from cars to rooftops, grind along sidewalks and telephone wires, all whilst shooting an array of enemies with your zany arsenal.

How about a gun that fires stuffed bears loaded with TNT? Or perhaps you’d prefer to revel in the beauty of the fireworks fired by the One Handed Dragon gun. The game limits the ammo for your weapons, prompting you to regularly swap from one to the other, but this prevents you from relying too heavily on one particular weapon and is a good way of pushing you to experiment with different loadouts across the eight available slots. Every single weapon, of which there are many, has its uses against different enemy types, so you’re never left feeling hopelessly outmatched.

To be honest, one of the key things Sunset Overdrive gets utterly right is its sense of empowerment. All of the crazy things you’re capable of, even at the outset, have no real explanation beyond that this is all possible within the world of the game. Your character’s abilities are all upgradable thanks to Ffloyd the absent-minded scientist who cooks up ‘amps’ which you equip for different effects to both your character and your weaponry. Some are relatively benign though useful, like a powered dodge manoeuvre, whilst more powerful ones see things like lightning attacking your enemies from the sky as you pass by.

Alongside the amps, you also have character overdrives which you equip to increased health or deal extra damage against a specific enemy type. You earn badges for these purely by playing the game in your own way, meaning that you only level up the abilities you actually use. It’s a smart piece of design, and one that works extremely well.

Sunset3

Sunset Overdrive is genuinely funny and a pastiche of gaming and popular culture in general, and this is clear to see in practically every aspect of the game. When I dispatched a scab and they cried out “Please, won’t someone respawn me?” I couldn’t help but laugh. Details like the mutant ‘poppers’ who when shot explode with a huge fluid-filled ‘POP’ look fantastic and add to a comic book feel that pervades the proceedings. The fast travel option sees you down a bottle of beer, pass out, and then wobble out of a porta-loo in your desired location and when your character dies, the respawn animations are wonderful and varied, with my absolute favourite being the Bill & Ted phone booth coming out of the floor with the sound of electric guitar widdling.

There are moments and small details like these absolutely everywhere and far too many moments in the game to explain them all, especially without wanting to ruin their discovery, but their implementation is fantastic. The constant breaking of the fourth wall just brings the player right into the game, and overall Sunset nails its outlook perfectly.

The extensive open world campaign is joined by Chaos Squad, the game’s multiplayer mode, which brings you together with seven other players in competitive and co-operative tasks, all of which culminate in a group defence of your team’s base. You race to objectives, fighting for position along the way, before finally collaborating to destroy a base or hack a transmitter.

Sunset2

The name ‘Chaos Squad’ couldn’t be any more accurate because unleashing eight super-charged, and often insanely-dressed players into an area sees the screen explode with colour. It’s wonderfully hyperactive stuff, with each section’s leaderboard showcasing who’s doing well, causing rivalries to blossom before eradicating them just as quickly in the heat of co-operation. All of the experience you earn whilst in the multiplayer mode also carries over to the single player, and vice versa, meaning it’s not a walled off distraction or separate time sink, it’s all just part of Sunset City.

One of the comparisons I kept finding myself making was with inFamous Second Son, and it’s a comparison from which I feel the Sony exclusive comes out quite poorly. Traversing the city with spectacular powers, completing quests, picking up various collectibles, are all things that they both share, but Second Son feels devoid of life in comparison to Sunset. Whilst tonally inFamous took a more serious route, I couldn’t help but think that from a pure entertainment point of view the two titles are worlds apart.

What’s Good:

  • Beautiful bright and colourful visuals
  • Sense of humour repeatedly hits the mark
  • The wild array of weaponry is great fun to use
  • Traversing the city is a blast

What’s Bad:

  • Chaos Squad is tough without a full team
  • Sometimes there’s almost too much to take in

Sunset Overdrive has so many amazing moments that I could just fill this entire review with them. It is hilarious, chaotic, stupid, brash, intelligent, explosive, and empowering, and revels in it at every opportunity. If everyone thought Master Chief would carry the Xbox One’s fortunes, then they’ve got another thing coming.

Score: 9/10

37 Comments
  1. SamBeThyName
    Member
    Since: Sep 2013

    Do we know that this defiantly never-ever-ever coming PS4? I think I know the answer but still…

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 07:40.
    • Mr Blighty
      Member
      Since: Jul 2014

      It will come to PS4. Xbox one sales are so bad, there is no way Insomniac can survive, even eith Microsoft’s dumpertruck of bribe money.

      Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 07:52.
      • Dominic Leighton
        Member
        Since: Mar 2012

        Insomniac own the IP so I guess you never know, particularly if there’s a sequel – Sony passed on the project though when it was offered to them, and when it was pitched to other publishers Microsoft were the ones to pick it up.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:00.
      • Kennykazey
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        Sales so bad, it’s the second fastest selling console ever.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:07.
      • Tony Cawley
        Pint! Pint!
        Since: Feb 2009

        Careful Kenny, don’t feed the troll remember.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:10.
      • a inferior race
        I'm special
        Since: Jul 2009

        I know right blighty I’m pretty sure that titanfall didn’t sell any copies at all because no-one bought an xbone.

        Or in real life, this looks fantastic and got a review to match and will probably do quite well. If we get it on ps4 great.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:12.
      • Mr Blighty
        Member
        Since: Jul 2014

        Microsoft were very clever with TitainFail, they mixed together Xbox360 and Xbox One sales to hide the tanking console sales.

        Pretty much the same as they did in last quarter’s sales results. How many Xbox One owners do you ACTUALLY know in real life compared to last gen? I know of only one person that bought one, he pre-ordered before he found out all his mates bought a PS4. He is now looking to trade in.

        The conversion rate anecdotally of those that have upgraded to this gen, PS3 to PS4 is close to 100% the conversion rate from X360 to Xbox One is around 20%, the other 80% have gone with PS4.

        Go into any store, CEX, Game is full up unsold new and secondhand Xbox Ones. At worst PS4 is outselling it 3:1 at best in some regions 6:1

        Do you really believe insomniac can survive on these scraps? This game is Xbox One only, so there is no way to cover up the sales by mixing with Xbox360 and PC sales. Watch this game fly to the top of the charts (as there are no real big hitters right now in this pre-xmas lul) and then drop off them on week two, as the small number of Xbox One owners all flock en-masse. Expect lots of noise from Microsoft about it’s chart position, but no actual sales numbers.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:44.
      • Mr Blighty
        Member
        Since: Jul 2014

        @Kennykazey

        You seem to have your consoles mixed up.. The Xbox One is the one thats tanking, getting outsold by a factor of 7x in some regions.

        http://www.cinemablend.com/games/PS4-Continues-Outsell-Xbox-One-7-1-Spain-According-IGN-Spain-67867.html

        The PS4 is the “second fastest selling console ever”

        http://www.gamespot.com/articles/ps4-is-second-fastest-selling-console-ever-in-uk/1100-6422193/

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:49.
      • Starman
        Member
        Since: Jul 2011

        Someone got out the wrong side of bed this morning.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:58.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Yeah. Kaz’s bed.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:00.
  2. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I’m not sure why but I know this game isn’t for me. It’s too much, the look, the sounds, it drives me insane. I’m glad it’s turned out well but I think playing this game for even 5 minutes would actually see me put in an asylum!

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 07:43.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      It certainly ain’t my cup of tea. Looks like the kind of thing a 7 year old kid with ADHD would enjoy.

      Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:16.
  3. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Great review! I’ve been cautiously optimistic about this game, but now I can order and start pre-loading it knowing there’s as much fun to be had as promised.

    It just looks so wonderful, and after the disappointing inFAMOUS (it was my most anticipated launch-window title for PS4, but personally I felt it was clearly the weakest entry) this could be just what the doctor ordered. Now, if only Sega would make another Jet Set Radio…

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:05.
    • Dominic Leighton
      Member
      Since: Mar 2012

      Hope you enjoy it as much as I have bud! Feel free to add me (Dom El) if you want to play Chaos Squad!

      Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 09:54.
      • Kennykazey
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        Will do. I don’t have a headset for the Xbox yet though, so I can’t voice-chat. Need to get one of those thing you plug into the controller.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:20.
      • Kennykazey
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        I’ve now added you, I’m YummierNevada5. :-)

        Got the gamertag when I made the account many years ago for GFWL, and haven’t been bothered change it. I’ve grown oddly attached to it, certainly better than Kennykazey. I actually hate that name, but it’s always available and I’ve used it since the PS2 era so I won’t forget it.

        So that’s my bio… :-P

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 13:03.
  4. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    So basically it’s dead island on acid?
    Fingers crossed it comes to ps4.looks like a ton of fun.

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:15.
  5. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Aside from Quantum Break this was the standout Xbox One exclusive for me, it’s choice of colour palette refreshing when many choose dimly lit worlds or 100 shades of brown

    Always weary of open world games though which have a particular brand of thinly disguised fetch quests or just traversing the map from map marker to map marker, endlessly!

    I’ve been conned 3 times by inFamous’ hype & have never come across such a boring, repetitive game each time.

    Glad Insomniac seemed to have found a groove with this.

    Among a sea of averageness & general just being ok, is this the first ‘next’-gen exclusive retail release that’s very good?

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:26.
    • Kennykazey
      Member
      Since: Mar 2010

      I think perhaps what helps this game is that they’ve made traversing both challenging and fun.

      Forza Horizon 2 is very good too. Yes there’s a 360 version, but that’s not even the same game.

      Oh, and most first-party Nintendo Wii U games.

      Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:34.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      I’ve seen a good few preview videos about the game and repetition was one thing that came up again and again. Talk of it being so boring after the first hour or two it was horrendous.

      No trouble with that, Dominic (our lovely reviewer)?

      Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:02.
      • Dominic Leighton
        Member
        Since: Mar 2012

        In terms of repetition, it’s certainly no better or worse than a myriad number of titles we’ve all probably loved – there’s a lot of go here, do this, take this there, but I just found it fantastic to play thanks to the mechanics – the traversals are spot on, the weaponry is eclectic and great fun, and I found more than enough variation in the campaign, with one off events and boss battles.

        It’s a far more engaging open world than that found in Infamous Second Son, and far more characterful than the Crackdown series (which I also loved).

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 12:16.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Ah, good to know, fella. Thanks for the reply.

        I liked the inFamous franchise but felt like it should either lighten up or get quite a bit more serious about the plot so it has more gravitas. The latter being the obvious choice.

        Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 12:48.
  6. VanLee86
    Member
    Since: Oct 2014

    Awesome review! Friday cannot come soon enough.

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:38.
  7. Starman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    This is the first new gen game I’ve really being excited for. Has looked like a breath of fresh air and pleased the review score is a great.

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:44.
  8. ron_mcphatty
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Great review, your excitement and joy came across very well Dom! I first played on an XBox One yesterday, only five minutes of the Forza Horizon 2 demo, but the machines menu, controller and the visuals of the demo made a big first impression on me. And now there’s this review of the fantastically fun sounding game I’m wondering why I never even considered buying the Xbox. Ah well, I can always buy Sunset Overdrive for my sister’s other half and spend my days off round there :)

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 08:49.
  9. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Sounds like a fun game, will definitely consider picking it up if it ever makes it over to the PS4. If not, well, good to see the competition keeping Sony on their toes!

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:07.
  10. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Be interesting to see where this charts. I’m guessing around 3-4, and then a pretty quick drop off the charts.

    Comment posted on 27/10/2014 at 10:07.
Sunset Overdrive
  • Developer:Insomniac Games
  • Publisher:Microsoft Studios
  • Platforms:Xbox One
  • Release Date:31/10/14
15 hours ago
5

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