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Sunset Overdrive [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Ready for the shortest "overall feeling" I've ever written? Sunset Overdrive is fun, pure and simple.

The Pros: 

+Addictive World Traversal Mechanics
+Fantastically Funny Story-line, Dialog, and Characters
+Awesome Character Creation and Customization
+So. Much. Fun.

The Cons: 

-The uh... logo screen is a bit busy-looking?
-People keep comparing it to Infamous, for some reason...
Seriously though, there are no complaints here!

ShogunGamer.com Rating : 
10

Before I received my copy of Sunset Overdrive for review, I had watched a developer introduction to the game at one of the conventions who was talking about the concept for the game. It’s stuck with me the whole way through; in particular one specific line.

I don’t remember the quote word-for-word, but the basic gist of it was: “We wanted everything about the game to be fun, even dying is fun.”

Sunset Overdrive is fun. It’s fun from top to bottom. It’s the distilment of fun. It is now my new standard for what a “fun” video game is.

BIG BADA BOOM!

The line that I borrowed, about even death being fun, stuck with me because at its core is the basis of everything that I’m going to talk about from here on out: This is the first time that I’ve played a game where I do not care about dying, in fact it’s almost rewarded.

Each time you die one of several different animations plays out: rising from the grave as a zombie, a coffin and a vampire-esque walk out, Bill and Ted’s time-traveling phone booth, the Terminator time-sphere, Portals (a la Portal), etc. etc. etc. The list just goes on and on. After many, many hours of play through in the game (and being particularly loose about how often I died) I’m still seeing new examples of resurrection in the game.

For those that tuned into our live-stream of the game’s first two hours you may recall the end of the play through which we were allowed to provide, according to the NDA.

It was an “escort mission” which is a phrase that just makes me want to stop playing whatever I’m doing… But true to the concept of “make everything fun” it ended up being probably one of my favourite missions within the game.

Why? Well because it’s not just walking alongside a robo-dog and taking it in the path defined… You guide its actions via a modified grenade launcher that shoots a stuffed kitty for it to chase, then once it gets there it DESTROYS EVERYTHING IN A DOMED RADIUS. And I do mean EVERYTHING. It was one-shotting Herkers (the game’s largest enemies outside of the bosses).

That’s one example, one that we were allowed to share during our weekend stream. But there are so, so many more. Boss fights feel like a rollercoaster rides filled with insanity and in one particular case a literal rollercoaster ride is actually involved.

FINISH HIM!

The characters are unique, interesting, over-the-top and hilarious in the style that Insomniac has made their brand of since they first started making video games. It has literal laugh-out-loud moments where you find yourself thinking (or sometimes flat out saying out loud): “Did they really just do that!?”

Along with the feeling of reward that the game (somehow) is able to give you when you die, another stroke of brilliance that the team at Insomniac put together is the way that your character navigates the city.

There is a fast-travel system, which will get you from one side of the expansive (though perhaps not the biggest) map to the other. However, I have FORGOT to use it on too many occasions, mentally writing it off because the way that you move through the game is SO MUCH DAMN FUN.

People who have witnessed the game have made comparisons to Infamous, Tony Hawk, Jet Set Radio, and plenty of others… but none seemed fair.

Sure it kind of looks like one game or another, I was even going to say that it felt a little like Jet Set Radio to me, but after extended periods with the game you find it moves in a way that is really like nothing else. It might “kind of, sort of” look like a few other games you’ve seen, but it plays in a way that’s entirely its own.

There is a kind of rhythm through-out the game that just feels fantastic once you get into it. You’ll be sailing across the city at break-neck speeds hopping between rail-grinds, bouncing atop cars, vaulting from light-posts and grinding (yes, grinding) across open water… and it will all just feel instinctive once you get it.

There’s no other way for me to put it. It just feels RIGHT.

WHEEEEE!

Along with the game’s addictive world traversal mechanic, and the idea of absolutely EVERYTHING being fun (kind of like a series of carnival rides but with a story behind why you’re moving between each), the game offers a larger-than-average amount of customization.

You’ll be able to customize your character through a couple of standard body-templates to start, then select the basic facial structure of your character, and then finally clothe it in a matter of bizarre attire choices (or do like I do and be boring about it, try to make your character look ‘cool’ or ‘bad-ass’).

My absolute favourite part though lies in the fact that all the pieces (clothing, hair, facial hair, etc.) are completely gender neutral.

That means your male character can be wearing a mini skirt, or your female character can rock a sweet ‘stash.

It’s not only funny to build out ridiculous-looking characters that then super-freerun their way through the city-scape, but it’s an exciting proposition for the video game industry which has been so hung up on gender of recent.

Do whatever, make whatever, mix and match to your heart’s content, and make yourself up however you want to; completely free of restriction.

Customization is not skin-deep either.

Your character becomes your own via a large array of zany weaponry, upgrades, amps, and overcharges, (modifications essentially) for your character, their weapons, and world traversal.

As you level up your weapons (through use) you’ll unlock an amp slot which enables you to modify how the gun functions. Add in random freeze damage, make it so that every once in a while a downed enemy is turned into an explosive teddy bear, electrical damage that stuns enemies for a short period, and on and on and on…

Go ahead punk... make my day.

All of this ties together in a sort of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ mechanic where certain gun types will fare better against specific enemy types. Stun beats mechanical enemies, assault weapons beat OD, single-shot for the Herkers, etc. etc.

This might have become a pain in the ass, if you couldn’t care eight distinct weapons at any given time. Oh, and did I mention you can switch easily between the assortment of weaponry that you’re carrying via a time-slowing wheel menu?

Honestly I don’t believe there’s a way for me to explain all the ways in which Insomniac has built themselves one hell of a fun new franchise here…

It feels to me as though once everyone cracks this open for themselves they’re going to dive down quickly and find all kinds of exciting gimmicks, jokes, mini-games, weapons, and references that I missed that will make them fall in love with the game just like I did thanks to its sense of humour, world traversal, and dedication to the concept of fun.

After all, that’s what we’re supposed to be striving for with video games right? At least originally…

Video Games as a media have worked their way up through society and become defined as ‘art’ but every once in a while it’s fantastic to have something that doesn’t take itself too serious, or indeed can make fun of its self, for the purpose of pure fun.

Speaking of the game knocking out-of-the-park the concepts that have gone into the creation of it, I should mention my time with the game’s multiplayer mode as well: Chaos Squad.

It absolutely could not be more aptly named.

Once you unlock the multi-player section of the game you’ll take part in 8-player unadulterated MADNESS.

Basically you and your ‘team-mates’ compete against each other for high-scores (while completing a unified ‘group objective’) in a series of quick-fire mini-game-esque challenges to build up your “Chaos Meter” which in turn fuels how insane your over-night amp-collection is going to be…

Let’s just say that while the game can, in single player, feel a little hectic and overwhelming in general… having 8 people on the screen contributing to the insanity is just nothing short of indescribable mayhem that I highly encourage everyone try (assuming they pick up the game, which the absolutely should).

I’ll end on another half-remembered quote that I overheard in another interview with one of the staff at Insomniac. They had said something to the effect of: “This is the game that we have been working towards for the last 20 years.”

Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!

That really says it all for fans of Insomniac, or people that are (at minimum) aware of the company’s past.

In my book, Insomniac is known for a couple of things, primarily having a fantastic sense of humour which shines through in Sunset Overdrive something to the effect of the guys pushing the knob past ten and on to a new, previously unutilized, eleven.

Sunset Overdrive is a joy to be played through. A statement goes first and foremost to its single-player story which is just a parade of ridiculous, over-the-top, humorous missions lined up one after another with a goofy plot, hilarious characters, and a bunch of fourth-wall breaking moments. But then also extends itself to the aptly named Chaos Squad.

Start to finish, top to bottom, this is one of the most fun video games that I have ever played… and I simply cannot say enough good things about what the teams at Insomniac Games and Microsoft Studios have done.

 

However, I will say this: Thanks.


Review is based on an Xbox One download code supplied by the Publisher

Sunset Overdrive
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: Xbox One (Exclusive)
Release Date: Oct 28th, 2014
Price: $59.99