Take me down to Sunset City.
Sunset Overdrive is the kick in the balls and childish titty twister this industry needs, and I really hope it’s given a lot of people sore nipples and aching plums.
There’s no filmic, melodramatic nonsense here. No subtext or cryptic logic to understand. Sunset Overdrive is fundamentally simple: you can do ridiculous things, in a totally bonkers universe, without a hint of condescension. And that, strangely enough, is a truly liberating experience.
I Love Orange Soda
Sunset Overdrive is everything I hoped it would be. It’s the guitar amp turned up to eleven; the old man who refuses to grow up; and the parent who picks a gas-guzzling sportscar over the fuel-efficient hybrid. It’s outrageous, inventive and overflowing with personality. And colour. Lots and lots of eye-searingly beautiful colour. Particularly orange.
Sunset Overdrive’s story provides the ideal springboard for the lunacy to unfold. A popular soft drink corporation called Fizzco decide to launch a new beverage called Overcharge Delirium XT. Unfortunately, Fizzco’s latest product has some horrific side effects such as being really addictive. Oh, and it also turns anybody who drinks it into a mindless mutant known as the OD. (Still, I’d take that over Cherry Coke any day.)
Sunset City quickly becomes overrun and – as you’d expect – the world goes to complete toffee. But not for everyone. For some people this is the start of something special. This isn’t an apocalypse – it’s an awesomepocalypse (which is totally a real word).
Bend Me, Shape Me, Anyway You Want Me
So who will save Sunset City? Well… that would be you. At the start of the game you’re presented with a slew of customisation options as you create your perfect hero (or should that be wierdo?) to conquer the freaks that now roam the city. You can dress your hero in all sorts of fashion atrocities and basically make the most bizarre, or reserved person possible. My hero’s style resembled that of a smelly street tramp who had an affliction for technology, which is quite the contrast come to think about it.
With your hero created, it’s time to tackle the madness of Sunset City, and it’s here where the game’s amazing traversal mechanics click into place.
It’s like watching the lovechild of Tony Hawk’s: Pro Skater and Jet Set Radio in full flight.
While other games give you cars and the ability to sprint endlessly like some sort of bionic commando, Sunset Overdrive does things a little differently. Tossing realism firmly out the window, your character can bounce 25 feet in the air, grind and zipline across almost anything, and wall run across buildings like Spiderman without the sticky webs. The game has a combo and style system woven into every action and you’re encouraged to stay mobile and off the ground as much as possible unless you’re looking for trouble. Racking up combos soon becomes second nature and developer Insomniac Games have done a remarkable job ensuring everything just works.
The traversal system can seem daunting at first, but once you’ve mastered the game’s movement there’s nothing quite like it; it’s like watching the lovechild of Tony Hawk’s: Pro Skater and Jet Set Radio in full flight – and that’s a beautiful sight indeed.
Moving around Sunset City is super cool, then, but the cherry on top of this funky looking cake has to be the weapons. Insomniac have a reputation for devising some of the most inventive weapons in gaming, and Sunset Overdrive’s absurd arsenal does not disappoint. There’s the shotgun with swinging steel balls called The Over-Compensator; the TNT Teddy Launcher, where cuddly toys and dynamite join forces to become a deadly tool of destruction; and my personal favourite: the Acid Sprinkler, which needs no explanation.
The combat is incredibly satisfying, too, and switching between weapons leads to some tactical, experimental and absolutely mental confrontations. The OD are the perfect enemy to unleash havoc on as well – a pleasing blend of stupidity and aggression, with enough variation to keep things fresh.
Don’t Hide What’s In Plain Sight
So we’ve got our distinct hero, a wheel of wacky weapons and the ability to move through the city like an ape in full swing… that can also grind, and wall run, and bounce. How could this situation get any better? Two words: self awareness.
Insomniac understand that so many games these days are in serious denial. They’ve lost focus of what they are in the pursuit of something they’ll never be. Sunset Overdrive constantly pokes fun at itself, at other video game tropes and does so with great success. Tutorials are hilariously honest, the plot holes in the story are openly mocked and there’s plenty of bang on pop culture references. Sure, not every joke hits the mark but it’s so refreshing to play a genuine video game that isn’t ashamed to be one.[yt_video id=”W5ddpEO1CK4″][/yt_video]
Thankfully the game’s story and missions keep the action exciting and interesting. The world feels massive, and the verticality on offer is dizzying at times. I’ve had some of the most memorable boss fights in a video game to date – battling a foul-mouthed inflatable Fizzy mascot that shoots lasers out of its eyes 1000 feet above the ground was a particular highlight.
However, the game does start rather slow, with one too many fetch quests setting a worrying precedent. But fear not, as soon you’ll be riding a flaming train of death, hovering in a glider and fuelling a boat using nothing but trash – intriguing, right? Stick with it, you get to do some crazy stuff.
Zipping through the open-world of Sunset City wearing nothing but a kangaroo codpiece can be unbelievably therapeutic.
The game also has a multiplayer mode for players to get to grips with called Chaos Squad. Eight players combine to fend off hordes of OD, setting traps and powering up their weapons with new amps. It isn’t an essential part of the experience, and it’s really just an expansion of the single-player missions where you have to defend Overcharge vats, but it’s a worthy distraction if running around on your own becomes tiresome. (Which is very, very unlikely.)
Sunset Overdrive proved to be a stark reminder that sometimes we just need to forget about our problems and put the world on hold. If you’ve had a rough day or feel like you’re not socially accepted, then zipping through the open-world of Sunset City wearing nothing but a kangaroo codpiece can be unbelievably therapeutic – trust me, it’s like stepping into some sort of distorted Zen garden.
But like the rebellious punk-rock era the game so brilliantly champions, Sunset Overdrive’s obnoxious attitude won’t sit well with everyone (prepare your ears for some serious F-bombs). Some will deem the story to be overly crass, the controls slightly flummoxing, or accuse Insomniac of “trying too hard”. To those I say: “Hey, it’s your loss, dude!”
A review copy of Sunset Overdrive was provided courtesy of Xbox.
Here’s To The Crazy Ones
I love Sunset Overdrive’s rebellious attitude, the surprisingly spot-on and self aware humour, and how Insomniac Games were happy to break the fourth-wall as a means to interact with the player. Slaying hordes of OD is the gift that keeps on giving, and traversal has never been so damn stylish. Deliriously good fun and lip-smackingly gorgeous to look at – Sunset Overdrive is a fantastic video game.