Sunset Overdrive Review – The Awesomepocalypse

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Posted November 7, 2014 by Nick Cepeda in Video Games

Sunset Overdrive

Developer: Insomniac Games

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date: October 28th, 2014

Available on: Xbox One (reviewed on)

 

Let’s be honest, Sunset Overdrive is just plain awesome. Between all the random destruction, mayhem, and 4th-wall breaking jokes there was never a dull moment. There are definitely some issues with the core game, but many of it feels really minute in comparison to moment to moment gameplay. The guys and gals over at Insomniac Games should be very proud of themselves as Sunset Overdrive proved itself to be something quite amazing on a number of levels. So what is it that makes this game so special? It’s really the entire package.

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I couldn’t help but appreciate just how simplistic the core gameplay was, but it could easily become cumbersome the more you pressed forward. You’ll easily find yourself feeling like a parkour master early on with how well the game does teaching you the main gameplay staples. Going from grind, to bouncing off an umbrella, to an air dash, to skimming across water has never felt or looked so good. As for looking good, Sunset Overdrive not only is visually impressive, although it might not look that way due to its stylish look, but conducts itself at a cool 30 frames-per-second. What this really means is no matter how much is thrown at you at one time, and it can be pretty ridiculous how much is on-screen, the game keeps a nice smooth pace. The more I played, the more I got a huge Jet Set Radio vibe, if JSR was unbelievably bonkers. As fun as traversing was, I constantly found myself switching between weapons. Insomniac is well known for their pretty out of this world weapons, much like the Ratchet and Clank series, but in this case nothing really seems to fit in the game world, and that’s just fine. I will say that the most out of place weapons, were the guns most people would consider normal. Why use an AK-47 or revolver when you can use a gun that shoots fireworks, acid sprinklers, or explosive teddy bears. It wasn’t until much later into the game that I found myself struggling, trying to get stylish by pulling off really amazing traversal combos, whilst switching between weapons, and throwing in some melee dive bombs.

To throw more into the fray, there are amps, badges, and collectibles that add more variation to the overall game. Collectibles are surprisingly fitting for the world they live in, but serve more as a currency for the amps that you want to buy. Amps are basically special powers that automatically activate when your style meter levels up. One of my favorites actually causes a lightning storm around the area you’re in, helping you shock your enemies before ending them with a highly charge bowling ball. Badges are basically extra perks that you unlock for killing enemies or parkouring around enough, and the range of which give you extra damage, more ammo, or faster ways to get style. This was actually one of my gripes with the game that were very minor. It took quite a while for me to distinguish which badges I had already unlocked, only because it goes from a dimly lit white color to a bright white color. Badges can make all the difference if you need some help defeating a particular type of enemy, or need extra ammo for the gun you favor most. Sunset_Overdrive_forall_Fizzie

Sunset Overdrive always found a way to keep me engaged with the music being a surprisingly high factor in this. No matter where you were, the music playing always felt as if it adapted to the situation perfectly. In most cases a punk rock song was your main theme, but every now and then a dub step song would be thrown in for bosses and robots, and battles felt like a whole different experience. At the end of the day, with such strong gameplay elements, Sunset Overdrive is a hard game to put down.

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The campaign presents itself as this crazy, ridiculous adventure and it doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand. The only thing that really seems to be missing is a connection to the main character. Yeah, you create this character, dressing him/her along the way to your own taste, but they never have a name and are only ever referred as “player”. All of this is fine, because the story is comprised of random events, from one to another, that actually have more emphasis on the supporting cast. Every faction you meet along the way is ripe with different personalities, keeping the zaniness Sunset City is now known for to a maximum. For instance, my favorite character met was Bryllcream, and believe me when I tell you that you’ll understand when you meet him. The story as a whole isn’t totally inventive, as some of the mission structures really start to show, but there are some amazing set pieces and general in your face attitude that really makes it memorable. Just to give one spoiler-ish example, the fight with Fizzie had a nice platforming element that really added to the battle against the giant balloon. Part of the charm is how many times the game likes to throw it back that you are indeed playing a game, making reference to respawning, follow icons, or even NeoGAF. Surprisingly, this doesn’t ever feel like it takes you out of the experience, but rather faith that Insomniac truly understands what it means to be a gamer. Side-quests and challenges also add to the experience as they constantly divert you from the main storyline. Side-quests usually, after unlocked by playing specific story missions, add more story elements to the characters that just feel downright silly. Meanwhile, challenges range from traversal, to killing, and a few other random types, to gain more money and items. Needless to say there’s always something to do.

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Chaos Squad really surprised me on my first playthrough. I will note that playing this mode early into the game may seem much harder and boring because of the limited amount of weapons and tricks you’re able to perform. The first time I took to this mode, I was halfway through the story with a full arsenal and all tricks unlocked. My experience was much more fun than originally expected, as I found myself battling with friends to try and get the top spot in score and kills, while trying to fend off the hordes of enemies. The way Chaos Squad works is, you can have up to an 8-player game where you’re usually fending off hordes of enemies, trying to complete random objectives, in various missions of your choosing. These objectives can vary from killing specific types of enemies, to getting bounce kills, grind kills, etc. Each mission that you’re set on has bonus challenges that give you more points. The nice part is that each time you play through Chaos Squad can be very different, as each mission’s end lets the group vote on which mission to play next. This all leads up to a crazy night defense that gets more and more chaotic based on the amount of “chaos” you accumulated by playing the previous missions. Night defense missions are something that are also offered in the campaign with elements of a turret defense-like structure. To top everything off, the amount of points you’ve gained directly impact how many bonuses you get at the end of your match. By bonuses I mean weapons, boosts, money, overcharge, clothes, etc. It was nice to get a hairspray bomb from Chaos Squad than having to spend the $90,000 in game. Like I mentioned before, I had a blast with my time playing Chaos Squad, but I honestly feel that it’s best to start it when you have a decent arsenal built up to start killing off baddies.

Sunset Overdrive really makes you work at keeping that combo meter going when it starts throwing massive amounts of enemies at you, but it never feels like a huge chore. From the start you’ll feel like this is a very simple game to pick up and play as it eases you into all the other creative ways you’ll kill enemies. Between all the challenges, side-quests, and collectibles, you’ll always find yourself working towards something. If you’re a fan of comedic, self-referential, off-the-wall games, then you’ll find yourself right at home. Sunset Overdrive is quite possibly the greatest game to date from developer Insomniac Games, and has made quite the splash on its Xbox home. If you feel like painting the town orange, Sunset City is the place where you want to be.


About the Author

Nick Cepeda

Nick is a enthusiast of many types. Video games are his passion and is always willing to give his opinion on the matter. He's also a big Disney enthusiast.