Insomniac Games is the team responsible for some of Sony’s most iconic flagship series like Spyro the Dragon (may he rest in peace), Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance. In an unexpected turn of events however, Insomniac has set its sights on Microsoft’s next-gen console to release their new IP, Sunset Overdrive. True to form, it contains all of Insomniac’s wacky humor and fun factor while letting players jump, grind, and swing across a city overrun with bright orange mutants who drank too energy drinks.
Sunset City is the launch site for Fizzco’s newest overhyped energy drink, OverCharge Delirium XT, and to celebrate they host a huge party for all to try their not-at-all flawed drink. But unfortunately for our partygoers the drink is contaminated and sends them into convulsing fits and mutates them in to grotesque mutants called ODs (OverCharge Drinkers). But an unlikely hero with an uncanny ability to parkour like nobody’s business makes it out and bands together with groups of survivors to stand against the OD and uncover if Fizzco plans to order a massive recall of OverCharge.
Now that normal life is for the birds in Sunset City, players can choose who they want to be in the awesomepocalypse. Mix, match, and customize your own personal hero who will save the day and dress them in whatever attire suits you. Once that’s done, get ready to jump right into the action. The tutorial will lay down the rudimentary skills necessary to survive, which is to keep grinding and jumping; not only are you faster off the ground, you are more agile and harder to hit. ,You’ll be doing this a lot in the game, and Insomniac made sure that this will be the most fun you will ever have.
Everything around you is traversable and going from a grind to bouncing off cars into a wall run is the kind crazy action that puts quick time events to shame since it is you that’s doing all of this instead of just button prompts. Pulling off these feats is actually easy to learn; once you get enough practice in, you’ll go place to place without touching the ground once. And even when I unlocked the fast travel option, I still wanted to grind my way to my next mission, and that is a true testament of gameplay done right.
But using the city as your own personal playground isn’t the only fun thing to do; blasting baddies is just as amusing, and it’s simply not an Insomniac Games without using some imaginative weaponry. Choose up to eight weapons to maximize destruction as each one have varying stats and is more or less effective depending on which enemies you use them on. The more you use a weapon the stronger it becomes, so choose your favorites and max out your arsenal to dominate the killing field.
If that’s not enough customization for you, then wait until you’re awarded some medals. Medals are awarded once you have reached a certain milestone with a particular skill, whether it’d be killing with a class of weapon, grinding, bouncing, or putting down some enemies. Once you have enough medals for any category, you can use them as a kind of currency to unlock passive abilities called Overdrives that can increase damage on a certain class of weapons or decreased the damage you take. Speaking of currency, there are three types to look out for in your journey to save the city: normal cash, OverCharge cans, and the collectibles around the city. Cash can buy you new clothes to wear, OverCharge can be exchanged for weapons and ammo, and the stinky shoes and toilet paper you pick up are used to create something called Amps.
The absent-minded scientist named Floyd may not be entirely there most of the time, but he’s a genius when it comes to making Amps. Amps are offensive passive abilities that are activated when players have enough Style. I’ll get to that in a bit, but to get amps, one must collect enough supplies to create them. Once you do, you will need to protect a couple of vats in a nighttime defense mode. Lay some traps strategically and stop the OD from getting to your precious vats to be rewarded with new Amps when time runs out.
You can get Amps for your weapons that grant greater offensive capabilities like summoning Death that kills more enemies for you, and then you can get Amps to equip to your character. The difference with these is that you can only use them when you have enough Style. Chain together kills and skills to build up Style (indicated by a lightning bolt on the top right of the screen) to unleash your Amps and the more style you have the more Amp abilities you can use at once.
It took me a good 15 hours to finish this chaotic romp, and that doesn’t include all of the collectibles and side-missions that are also available. There are tons of missions to take, challenges to test your skill, a colorful cast of characters to meet, and gaming clichés to make fun of, despite our hero being aware of indulging in a few his/herself. And while most mission are nothing more than either killing, collecting, or night-time tower defense segments, they toss in a bit of variety into each mission, stacked with the stellar gameplay mechanics, every single moment from beginning to end is pure unadulterated fun.
Wish you had friends to play with, yet you don’t have any? Chaos Squad is Sunset Overdrive’s version of cooperative multiplayer that sets you up with up to 7 people to take on various tasks across the city. Every session ends with the nighttime defense segment where even more OD than usual will overwhelm you and you posse. You must rack up the kills and points to unlock 1 to 5 rewards; the better you do, the more rewards you unlock at the end of your session, and any rewards you earn in Chaos Squad can be used in the single player portion of the game!
Sunset Overdrive is punk-centric in both its presentation and in its tunes of choice. The city is large and feels alive with bright, electrifying colors that really pop out. The punk soundtrack has you banging your head to catchy tunes that complements the fast pace of the game perfectly. There are instances of the music cutting off for no reason and some sounds were not audible when they should’ve been. It wasn’t too prevalent, but I noticed that the music sometimes remains quiet when mayhem is flooding the screen.
I don’t think people were expecting such an excellent Xbox One exclusive from a developer who has worked with Sony for a large portion of its existence. But now Xbox One owners get to play one of the finest games that they have made to date. Sunset Overdrive is full of high-flying action, crazy weapons, and self-aware jokes that takes the idea that next-gen is all about power and Old Yellers it. Even if there isn’t that much in terms of mission variety, the gameplay, fun, and stylized visuals make Sunset Overdrive one of the better, if not the best overall exclusive of 2014.