The new generation of gaming hasn’t yet seen a lot of original concepts brought to the table. There have been a handful of new IPs, such as Knack, Titanfall and The Evil Within, but nothing has come as unexpectedly as Sunset Overdrive. Developed by Insomniac Games exclusively for the Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive is part shooter, part open-world sandbox, and completely crazy.
Sunset Overdrive sends you into Sunset City, which has been overrun by a population turned into mutant creatures by mass consumption of an energy drink (OverCharge). Creating your own character is the first step and probably doesn’t need too much explaining. There aren’t really any options for ‘normal’ clothing, so your creation will have to be pretty bright and outlandish. It fits with the theme of the game, but until you unlock some more clothing, the early choices can feel pretty ridiculous.
Got a character? Good, let’s hit the streets. Sunset Overdrive employs a style of combat that has you running along walls, grinding power lines and bouncing off pretty much every object you can see, all while firing on your enemies with a fiery blunderbuss, a teddy bear grenade launcher, or perhaps a gun that shoots bowling balls. It’s extremely strange at first, but i found it surprising how quickly i picked up on the controls. Before long, i was traversing large portions of the city without ever touching the ground. Combat is kept interesting by a range of different enemies with different abilities, and a strength / weakness system that means certain weapons are more or less effective against certain enemies. It’s a system that’s simple enough to understand but requires some active participation in combat.
The main portion of the game will task you with traveling around the city, doing quests for various characters and factions as you attempt to escape the city and deal with FizzCo, the company behind OverCharge. Sadly, most of the quests are very standard fare. Go to X location and kill enemies. Defend Location Y against waves of enemies. Search Area Z for Item 1. The quests can easily be broken up by sessions of collectable hunting though. Sunset City is absolutely littered with “important items” you’ll need for upgrading weapons and acquiring extra abilities. Whether it’s toilet paper hanging from poles, shoes dangling from power lines, or floating FizzCo balloons, you’ll need to clean up the city to reach your full potential. Traversing the city will take some getting used to, but the learning curve isn’t too steep and it doesn’t take long for your mind to start seeing cars and vents as springboards and trampolines.
Possibly the most entertaining aspect of Sunset Overdrive comes in it’s writing. I found myself pushing through quests just to meet new characters and hear what they have to say. Despite some spotty moments of voice acting, I often found myself laughing at the dialogue and interactions between characters. There’s no respect for the fourth wall, and you’ll find characters working in small references and gaming humor throughout most conversations. My biggest issue with other titles that have been marketed on how crazy and insane they are is that it’s far too easy for “crazy and insane” to become “cringe-worthy and stupid”. Sunset Overdrive never really crosses this line. The humor is mostly kept family-friendly, but everyone is going to laugh at least once.
I’ve found Sunset Overdrive complicated to review. Individual systems and mechanics feel familiar and you might be tempted to say “Oh, it’s just like [Insert Game Here]”, but no comparison holds true for every aspect of Sunset Overdrive and that gives it a certain uniqueness. Minor flaws will become noticeable as you’re playing through, and there’s bound to be at least one mission type that you get sick of doing by the end, but the problems will rarely bother you for long. The small issues are vastly overpowered by the positives that are on offer.
From the jam-packed open world, to the awesome style of the game, Sunset Overdrive is one of the most entertaining games you could play this year. Minor flaws aside, Sunset Overdrive is a big, bold, and colourful jewel in both the Xbox One and Insomniac crowns.