Sunset Overdrive Review

Sunset Overdrive’s juvenile attitude and repetitive nature makes this a fun, yet forgettable Xbox One game.

Games that come out early in a console’s life cycle are usually developed to show the capabilities of the new machine and little else. To a certain extent, Sunset Overdrive, the latest endeavor by Insomniac Games (creators of Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance) is exactly that: this action-adventure with third-person shooter elements is the perfect example of style over substance. It looks impressive and the traversal gameplay mixes ideas from previous Insomniac-developed titles in some engrossing ways. But ultimately, Sunset Overdrive’s juvenile attitude and repetitive nature makes this a fun, yet forgettable Xbox One game.

The story goes like this, Sunset City was run by FizzCo, an energy drink manufacturer that created a beverage called Overcharge Delirium XT. The company skipped health regulations, so this drink turned regular people into flesh-eating creatures known as Overcharged Drinkers (ODs for short.) You used to work for them, but since your main goal in life is now to survive the apocalypse, you craft some improvised weapons, grind your way around Sunset City and try to kill as many ODs as possible.

After creating a character from scratch, you start exploring the vibrant metropolis. Emphasis is placed on velocity and momentum, so you bounce on obstacles, wall-run, air dash, use zip-lines, grind on narrow surfaces or edges, shoot enemies and you do all that without the need to ever touch the ground. Once you get used to the controls, you pull off some visually striking moves and the game is so fluid that there’s no need for a cover system that disrupts the action. Playing gracefully builds a style meter that once activated, gives you access to some special abilities. In a way, Sunset Overdrive reminds me of games where you need to pull off stylish tricks like Devil May Cry, Jet Set Radio, Prince of Persia or even, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series.

Like those games, Sunset Overdrive has a unique look and sound to it, but in this case, the style misses more than it hits. Sunset City and all the people who live in it are extremely flamboyant and colorful and a punk attitude permeates this world. Chances are you’ll find this aesthetic entertaining or dated, depending on how old you are. Although I loved the punk soundtrack that plays in the background, the visual aspect rubbed me the wrong way and whenever I see Sunset Overdrive in motion I can’t help but to feel that the game’s trying too hard. To give you an idea of how the game looks, all the colors are saturated to the point that the visual style can be extremely overwhelming.

Furthermore, the characters’ attitude feel forced and contrived. Take the main character, for instance, apart from being heroic and nimble, we don’t know anything about his personal life apart from the fact that he likes punk rock, used to work for FizzCo and lived on his own. Maybe that was on purpose, since you create your own character at the beginning of the game (and you can customize them however you prefer at any point,) but there’s nothing remotely interesting about him or her.

Sunset Overdrive might looks like a next generation video game, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Most missions are fetch quests, so you’re encouraged to kill a certain number of enemies, defeat a boss, stop waves of baddies, retrieve a specific item for a character and so on. Naturally, these missions quickly become repetitive even if you receive money, customizable items or amps for your efforts.

There are several weapons to choose from and you unlock more of them as you progress through the game. Some of them shoot fireballs or remote-controlled helicopters that fight for you or teddy bears that explode when they come in contact with an enemy. As you can tell by their descriptions, they are incredibly fun to use and since they improve them the more you use them, your favorite weapons will make more damage or carry more ammunition.

Other than weapons, there are other items that come into play in combat. Amps are modifiers that affect your guns. For example, when you strike an enemy with a melee attack, some equipped amps summon a tornado or balls of fire. Then, there are traps which you place on a survivor settlement in a single-player, wave-based mode. At the beginning of each of these levels, you have a pool with energy and each trap you place on the ground costs you some energy. There are different types of traps and you can combine them in some creative ways, such as a device that launches enemies into spinning blades creating a bloody mess. Finally, there are overdrives that expand your ammo capacity, increase the damage you make with a specific weapon or reduce the damage ODs make.

Apart from the main campaign that you can play by yourself, there’s an eight-player multiplayer mode called Chaos Squad where players complete a series of missions that have similarities with tower defense games. All the progress you make on this mode is transferred to the campaign and there’s an interconnection between the single-player and the multiplayer.

Sunset Overdrive’s fluid traversal system is the aspect that everyone will remember about the game because getting around the city is gleefully entertaining. It isn’t without its problems, such as the repetitive mission design, hit or miss humor or underwhelming multiplayer mode, but while Sunset Overdrive is a strong open-world game, it isn’t enough reason to purchase an Xbox One.