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Sunset Overdrive

Score: 100%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Insomniac Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Free-Roaming/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Ever get the sense that some releases are iterative and only made to satisfy the bottom line? Sure, some of these games can be well-made, but too many of them lack heart and soul. Veteran developer Insomniac Games submits for our approval one of the strongest counterarguments to ever be staged against that sentiment. Indeed, itís games like Sunset Overdrive that remind us that this particular industry was born of our desire to have fun. To play. To discover. To laugh. To escape. I don't think I've had this much fun with a game all year.

Sunset Overdrive is the video game equivalent of the most satisfying junk food youíve ever had. It is 100% sensory candy. It is the Xbox Oneís best-looking game as of this writing, and it is also one of the most unrealistic-looking ones. In the face of the yearly holiday onslaught of dark and grim shooters, Sunset Overdrive takes the artist's palette and drops a nuclear bomb on it. The artistry on display here is absolutely stunning. Between the variety of customization options for your character, the legions of diverse enemies, and the utter color-gasm (if thatís not a word, it needs to be invented to describe this game) that is the world of Sunset City, Sunset Overdrive establishes itself as a beacon of individuality, and in turn makes itself into the most confident and stylish punk rock odyssey ever conceived.

The carefree, grungy aesthetic is scribbled all over Sunset Overdrive, and where better to showcase that than in the sound? Regardless of what youíre doing, youíll often be treated to a shuffle of garage punk anthems, written exclusively for the game. Itís a great fit; since the game may very well be the most colorful and anarchic display of kinetic violence in history. Voice acting is also uniformly outrageous. From the preppy Oxfords to the reality-challenged Fargarthians to the player him/herself, all of the performances constitute the most gleefully vicious attack on the fourth wall since Deadpool. And if you consider yourself a fan of grunge, Sunset Overdrive features a cameo appearance that rivals Bill Murrayís role in Zombieland in sheer wtf-did-they-really-just-do-that?-ness.


Sunset Overdriveís story is utter lunacy, and not once does it pretend to be anything but utter lunacy. Consider the premise: with the launch of OverCharge Delirium XT, a bright orange energy drink, the megacorporation FizzCo is throwing a party to celebrate. You are a random loser who is stuck with janitorial duties while all the rich kids party up, chugging the stuff and bouncing trash off of your head. Turns out, FizzCoís R&D and QA departments are completely incompetent; so incompetent, in fact, that they are unable to foresee or prevent the partygoers' transformation into bloodthirsty mutants.

How do I describe the madness that is Sunset Overdrive without delving too deeply into what makes it work? Iíll give it my best shot: Sunset Overdrive is what you get when you take the high-flying open world antics of Crackdown, combine them with the trickery of the Tony Hawk games (the good ones) and that particular Insomniac flair for weapon design, smash the entire unholy mixture with a skateboard, drown it in Surge, and forge the resulting abomination into a hardcore garage band made up entirely of homicidal androids. And it is glorious.

You create a character entirely of your own design and style, and out you go into the madness of Sunset City. Overcharge Drinkers (OD) rampage through the streets, a violent gang of criminals called Scabs shoot on sight, and FizzCo sends their own security forces in to... ahem... "clean up the evidence." So youíll adventure around the city, helping strangers in need and assisting a number of factions, each with their own theme and unique cast of colorful characters. The quest-based Campaign structure is very similar to most other open world games, but mission design always plays to the gameplayís strengths Ė of which there are many.

Sunset Overdrive's multiplayer offering is called Chaos Squad, and it's pretty aptly named. You join a team of up to seven other people and between bouts of laughing at each other's ridiculous attire, you take on a series of missions. These missions feature standard and bonus objectives; by taking on missions that promise more Chaos, completing as many bonus objectives as you can, and contributing your share of carnage to the proceedings, you'll earn Amp upgrades (in fact, this is the only place where you can earn them), cash and OverCharge that carry back over into the single player Campaign. On top of being riotously fun, it's an excellent way to level your weapons up.


If you play Sunset Overdrive like a standard open world game, you will get absolutely thrashed. It was designed with a specific play style in mind, and if you stick to it, you wonít have much trouble. The writing is on the wall: all you have to do is read and heed. Enemies are fast and furious, and they donít care which angle they attack you from.

Even if you die, youíll rarely see it as a setback. If anything, you might be more entertained. Respawning in Sunset Overdrive is not a simple matter of fading in to the player character leaving the hospital or just standing around. In keeping with the established tone of the game, your character returns to the scene in one of many absolutely insane animations, most of which utilize some kind of nerd culture reference Ė to great effect.

Sunset Overdriveís meaty Campaign lasts upwards of twenty hours. But all open world games worth their salt feature a healthy number of collectibles and incentives for exploration. And much like FizzCoís energy drink, Sunset Overdrive is not only worth its salt, it is absolutely loaded with sodium. Between gameplay challenges and exploration-related rewards, there are tons of special objects scattered across Sunset City, each of which forces you to master the traversal mechanics. And these objects, as bizarre as they are (smelly shoes hanging from power lines, toilet paper snarled up on streetlights, security cameras, and neon signs) are actually used as currency to purchase special Amps. Combine all that with Insomniacís promise of more challenges to come, and Sunset Overdrive looks like a game that should have good reason to take up residence in your Xbox One for quite some time.

Game Mechanics:

Sunset Overdrive is built on a foundation with two intertwining pillars of gameplay: traversal and combat. It is a game that forces you to keep moving, and it is a game that forces you to keep shooting. Thereís a lot going on under the hood, and it is this depth that will keep hardcore players coming back.

So, of course, you will build a ridiculous arsenal of ridiculous weapons. Thatís a given; this is an Insomniac game, after all. But the weapons will only go so far in saving your skin when the action gets heavy. Your character renders most of the limitations imposed by basic physics moot. You can bounce off of cars and air vents as if they were trampolines. Iím putting that mildly; these normally rigid objects are capable of launching you several feet into the air. You can grind on anything that has a discernible edge without losing momentum; in fact, you can actually speed up while doing so regardless of incline. And if youíre grinding on suspended wires or power lines, you can whip out your trusty crowbar and treat them like your own personal zip-lines. You can run on walls and whip your body around 90-degree angles in a grotesque violation of Newton's laws of motion. If it protrudes or stands out in any way, shape, or form, chances are you can trick off of it.

And youíll want to chain as many of these traversal moves as you can, because as you do so, you earn Style. Earn enough Style, and your Amps begin to activate. You can equip up to five Amps, and each of them endows a certain ability with an effect. Melee and Dive Bomb Amps power up your hand-to-hand weapon with status effects and special powers; a swing of your baseball bat might create a tornado or an electric shockwave, and your dive bomb might send glass shards shooting off in all directions. Hero Amps alter your other combat abilities in increasingly bizarre ways: your dodge roll might become a bolt of energy, or you might gain a forcefield that knocks back attacking enemies. Epic Amps imbue you with some pretty wild natural forces. The ground you walk on might erupt with fiery geysers, and the rails you grind on might become electrified. And for good measure, you're given an extra slot for another Hero Amp. Amps can also be slotted into weapons, and effects that can be added are myriad. It's a joy to play around with the system and see what fits best.

As you play, you will earn Badges for performing well in certain aspects of gameplay. Earn enough kills while grinding, and you'll earn a Grind Badge. Earn enough kills with a particular type of weapon, and you'll get a Badge for that, too. From killing a certain number of a certain type of enemy to leveraging the parkour mechanics to your benefit, you will be showered with Badges before long. And they can be spent towards the unlocking and upgrading of Overdrives, special statistical boosts that can do anything from increasing your style generation with certain traversal moves, improving the damage output of your weapons, and everything in-between.

I could say so much more about the kaleidoscopic cornucopia of delights that Sunset Overdrive has to offer. But instead, all I will suggest is that you go out and buy a copy as soon as you can. I donít often get caught up in "Game of the Year" discussions, but if I find myself in one this year, Sunset Overdrive will be much more than just a passing mention.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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