Sunset Overdrive: a review

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So far, the Xbox One is losing to the PS4 and desperately needs a system seller. From its flashy and amusing E3 demo, it looked like Sunset Overdrive would be the one to sell the Xbox One. Sadly, it’s not. The result is just a generic open-world game employing elements from Crackdown and Infamous while failing to be as good as either.

Article by Garrett Duncan

Sunset Overdrive is all about having fun and making fun of video game conventions. A few jokes made me laugh out loud, and the re-spawn animations that reference everything from Terminator to Portal are hilarious, but the story completely failed to capture my attention because it’s practically nonexistent.

The basic idea is that Fizzco, an energy drink company, is releasing a new drink in Sunset City called Overcharge. The player’s nameless, customizable character is picking up trash at the launch event for the new drink when suddenly everyone who drinks Overcharge starts turning into crazed zombie-like freaks called Overcharge Drinkers. Fizzco closes off Sunset City to contain the outbreak and keep it a secret. The goal is to escape the city and expose Fizzco.

You start off the game by creating your own character from an impressive array of options. While not nearly as customizable as Saints Row, there are still plenty of options to set your character apart.

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The real appeal of Sunset Overdrive is its crazy parkour system that allows you to bounce off of bushes, grind on power lines and run along walls. The biggest problem is the game doesn’t give you the air dash ability that’s crucial to successful rooftop hopping until about five hours into the game. Up until that point, expect to be hitting the ground a lot. The parkour system is so unsatisfying without the air dash I was about ready to stop playing four hours in. My immediate reaction when I finally unlocked the air dash was “Oh thank God.” The game opens up quite a bit with the air dash and, once I got the hang of it, hopping around the city became really fun and is easily the best feature of the game. It’s really satisfying to successfully traverse long distances with just chaining jumping, air dashing and grinding.

In fact, doing so is heavily rewarded. Insomniac intentionally made travelling by foot boring and cumbersome. First of all, there’s no sprint button so you’re stuck just jogging slowly and it’s super easy to get swarmed by OD if you’re not jumping around all over the place. While it’s cool that the game encourages constantly being on the move and looking for verticality, it shouldn’t be so boring being on foot, especially early on in the game when the air dash isn’t unlocked and you’re still getting used to the parkour system.

Because of the need for constant movement, combat can get pretty insane at times. It’s a lot of fun sliding around on power lines and jumping on cars while trying to shoot at enemies and avoid their attacks. My eyes actually got sore a few times while playing the game because there was so much going on. The extreme vibrancy of the color palette definitely adds to the craziness.

Speaking of the graphics, they’re excellent. The city looks incredible with its bold colors and crisp textures. The game also stays running silky smooth even with tons of enemies attacking you at once with explosions going on all over the place.

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It’s hard to talk about an Insomniac game without talking about the weapons. There’s a total of 22 guns in the game. The highlights are definitely the TNTeddy that fires exploding teddy bears, the Acid Sprinkler that sets out mobile turrets that spew acid all around them and the Hairspray bomb that fires clusters of explosives to cause maximum destruction. There’s also a decent levelling system that provides a number of character upgrades in addition to various weapon customization options.

Most of the missions are generic retrieval or defend the base missions. With a couple exceptions, the missions are pretty forgettable.

Sunset Overdrive is a fun game and can easily provide 20-30 hours of entertainment, but its flaws hold it back from being anything great and it’s definitely not the system seller the Xbox One needed. It’s silly, forgettable fun that requires a fair amount of patience to get into. It’s worth playing if you want to, but if you never get around to it, you won’t be missing out on much.             

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