Sunset Overdrive Review: Twilight Years

Sunset Overdrive is an early Xbox One exclusive game from Insomniac Games, famous for the Ratchet and Clank series. It’s been out for over a year now, but I’m late to the XB1 party. With so many people picking up Xbox Ones this Christmas, I figured it was time for a Sunset Overdrive review.

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Sunset Overdrive is an open world 3rd person shooter set in a somewhat futuristic city. The city has been overrun by soda-crazed mutants and militant scavengers. It’s up to you, “the Player,” along with a ragtag group of other survivors to beat back the plague and uncover the secrets of the mutation-inducing soda.

Sunset Overdrive was reviewed favorably upon release, but it’s been all but forgotten in the Xbox One’s catalog. That’s quite a shame, considering it’s one of few Xbox One exclusives that is really worth talking about.

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Sunset Overdrive is trying extremely hard to be unique – it’s very “punk rock” with Banksy style graffiti, bright neon colors, a punk-esque soundtrack, and so forth. The gameplay is a cross between SSX/Tony Hawk inspired traversal with Saints Row style silly combat. Meanwhile, the tone is self aware and sarcastic, featuring tons of pop culture nods and fourth wall breaking humor.

Not all of this works, honestly. I could summarize my opinion of Sunset Overdrive by saying it’s trying too hard, and it thinks its funnier than it really is. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but I did feel like I was rolling my eyes a lot.

Grinding, Bouncing, and Chewing Gum

The movement in Sunset Overdrive is probably my favorite aspect. There’s rails to grind on, tons of stuff to bounce on, wall running, water skimming, and even an air dash. Moving around the city just feels awesome. It’s fast and fluid without being frustrating to control.

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This movement is also central to the combat. Being on the ground is bad news – you’ll easily be swarmed or shot to death. Moving fast – usually by bouncing or grinding – will allow you to avoid most attacks. Most weapons feature rather generous aim assist, so once you’re used to compensating for your motion a bit you won’t have any problems taking down enemies.

I’d go so far as to say that Sunset Overdrive is a bit too easy. Death is never much of a penalty, and enemies tend to die by the dozens once your weapons have been properly powered up.

Speaking of weapons and power ups, Sunset Overdrive’s combat doesn’t feel nearly as balanced as Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank. In a R&C game, generally all the weapons have a chance to shine, and they can all be useful in various situations. In Sunset Overdrive, I really felt that there were a lot more “junk” weapons that quickly got relegated to the character screen due to the fact that they never seemed to do enough damage in combat.

Variety is the Overdrive of Life

While traversal and combat form the core of the Sunset Overdrive experience, there’s a bunch of activities that give them a varied structure. For instance, many challenges lock you to a specific weapon, or give you rotating goals to accomplish. Traversal-related challenges might have you exploring an environment with goals to destroy items or collect points, or just run through rings checkpoint-race style.

There’s also a co-op multiplayer mode, for what that’s worth. The activities in the co-op mode are pretty much the same as the main game, but there’s more of a focus on working together… kinda. There are individual objectives to complete as well, so it’s not unusual to be working both with and against the other members of your squad.

As you might imagine, the multiplayer isn’t bursting at the seams with players. I could find lobbies after a few minutes, generally, but often the game would time out or it would just be me and one or two other players. The real bummer here is that there are some multiplayer-only achievements, weapons, and powerups. They’re also randomly given at the end of a 15-20 minute session, so plan on playing a lot of this mode if you’re a completionist.

The co-op activities culminate in a tower defense segment, which is also available in the single player mode. Honestly, I found this to be somewhat weak. There’s never enough trap energy to do anything super interesting in this mode, so more often than not I found myself just relying on my shooter skills to get by. Trying to balance shooting stuff, moving fast, and having a coherent strategy usually just ended with me being frustrated.

Sunset Overdrive
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:10/28/2014
Price:$29.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

It’s easy to look at Sunset Overdrive and accuse it of trying too hard. That may be true (at times), but at least it’s trying. A lot of other games are content to ape the titles that came before them, and Sunset Overdrive is doing its best to stand out. It has issues, sure, but it’s also quite a bit of fun to play.

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