Published on October 29th, 2014 | by admin0
Sunset Overdrive XBox One Review
Summary: Sunset Overdrive is a fun romp through a unique world that mostly succeeds in despite of it’s overbearing attitude
A fun romp!
Format – Xbox One
Game Genre – Shooter
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – Insomniac Games
Game Publisher – Microsoft Studios
Reviewer – Jamie Kirk
Sunset Overdrive wants you to know that it is different. Even its trailers, which took aim at cover based shooting systems that popularized the last generation of shooters, took great pains to show audiences that Sunset Overdrive would be a break from the norm. This would be a game that redefined open world third person shooters, and in doing so would give the Xbox One a much-coveted Triple-A exclusive. Now the game is here, and while some of the mechanics and design certainly are different, there are also a host of familiar aspects that no amount of in your face “attitude” and fourth wall breaking can paper over.
Let’s start with the good. Sunset City is an ultra stylized take on open world games that recalls the great Jet Set Radio. It is essentially a giant, neon soaked playground where everything can be bounced, grinded or transitioned on. Staying on foot in this game will get you nowhere, as hordes of monsters will immediately swarm you and rip you to pieces. The key to the game is constant movement and while there is a difficulty curve at first, soon you will be determined to see just how far across the city you can make it without touching the ground once. Traversing the landscape is a joy, so much so that the fast travel system will go largely unused. Combining all the tricks in the book to travel will also build up experience points for your character, which can be used on a wide range of customizable abilities.
The combat system is also built on constant movement. Moving and blasting enemies contributes to your Style Meter, which in turn gives you access to Amps, your special abilities that deal extra damage or bestow you with additional movement techniques. Building up your amps eventually allows you to unleash all kinds of playful destruction, and it will feel cathartic to lay waste to a large group of enemies after a long chain of frenetic combos. The weapons you use to cause such damage are straight out of the Ratchet and Clank Playbook. They are creative and finding out uses for each one is part of the fun, although many of them are given a coat of Sunset Overdrive humour, such as your first weapon, a shotgun that looks like a penis called ‘The Flaming Compensator’.
Sunset Overdrive looks beautiful. From the city itself to the designs of the monsters, Insomniac has certainly put a unique spin on the genre. When the player body slams in the ground a comic book-eque ‘KRAK!’ will appear, and giant ‘POPS’ will crowd the screen when annihilating one particular type of enemy. This vibrancy really sets it apart and is a welcome change in a world full of criminal antihero stories.
Then there is the humour. So remember what I said about ‘The Flaming Compensator’? If you thought that was hilarious, chances are you will be cracking up throughout the game. If not, you may quickly find yourself irritated at the constant mugging and fourth wall breaking of the entire cast of characters. Sunset Overdrive is constantly pointing out that it is a video game, mocking various tropes and clichés along the way. This would be fine, and is occasionally quite clever, but Sunset Overdrive does not know when to stop. In a way it is kind of like a drunk guy at a bar whose first proclamation makes everyone pay laugh and pay attention to him. Buoyed by the attention and full of confidence, the drunk then proceeds to throttle their shtick to death, to the point where you wished they hadn’t even made the first joke. The constant need to overdo it is part of Sunset Overdrive’s whole aesthetic, but it really could have dialed it back a bit and been much more entertaining as a result.
Sunset Overdrive also falls back on the very limitations it mocks throughout the game. The mission structure is incredibly repetitive, almost always involving moving to point A, fetching something from point B, and then defending point C from hordes of enemies. It’s as if the developers felt that pointing out how lazy this was excused them from constantly executing it. It does not. The most disappointing part about this is that it makes the games unique parts, such as the boss fight on a rollercoaster, feel like a missed opportunity.
Sunset Overdrive wants to be liked and it wants to be different. Badly. The fact that it manages to pull this off in spite of more than a few annoyances is an achievement in itself. At the end of the day, it is a hell of a lot of fun to navigate the city and blast enemies, the customization is enjoyable to mess around with and even some of the attempts at humour land (The re-spawn animations in particular). The shortcomings are there however, and it prevents Sunset Overdrive from being the game it so desperately wants to be seen as.