Welcome to Sunset Overdrive, located in lovely Sunset City. Sunset Overdrive was released in October 2014 exclusively for the Xbox One. It was developed by Insomniac Games, the same people that brought you Racket & Clank and the Spyro series (along with some other crap I couldn’t care less about), and was published by Microsoft’s game studio. In the world of Sunset City, an evil megacorp called FizzCo creates a new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium XT. You play a FizzCo employee that fights the OD’d humans (called OD) who have mutated into monsters from drinking the energy drink.
Mindy’s Thoughts: This strange little game is unlike anything I’ve ever played before. It’s like a mash-up of Grand Theft Auto, Tony Hawk, and Dead Rising, with added cartoon feel. It’s very bright, humorous, and purposefully over the top in all regards, from the overall environment to the character conversations and all things in-between. Sunset Overdrive calls itself an open world, third person shooter game, but that only tells a portion of the whole story.
Let me be clear, Sunset Overdrive is not a complex game in terms of story or basic game-play. The most important aspect of the game is getting comfortable with the controls. While learning the control schema is part of every gaming experience, in Sunset Overdrive you need to become very well acquainted with not just the controls but with your on-screen movement. Essentially you should never stop moving, ever. You can pretend the ground is lava, but there is actually a quest where the ground is lava (and good fucking luck because that quest is HARD). It took me a few hours to really get a handle on flying around the city, but your mileage may vary. While there is a learning curve, it seemed pretty intuitive to me, and I only had a few rage moments early-on where I couldn’t coordinate my fingers quickly enough.
One of the more unique features of Sunset Overdrive is the character customization options, which are extremely rich. The game developer, Insomniac Games, purposefully made the character options to be both a bit cheeky (see the Kangaroo Codpiece, please) and representative of a wide variety of styles. They want you to feel like it’s really your individualized character moving and jumping around Sunset City, and not just a random person they generated. Without unlocking anything extra you can select from four body types, two types for each gender, about a dozen faces, different skin colors, and countless hair and clothing options. As you progress through the game you will get new customizations items; you can also buy more from the clothing vendor with money you collect from missions and killing enemies.
Continuing with the player individualism, the entire leveling system is customized for your play style. If you enjoy grinding on rails, you can level that up, if you enjoy shooting monsters with automatic weapons, you can level that up. I’m pretty garbage with aiming, so I leveled up melee abilities first and as a result I can stomp most things in the face near the end of the game. That being said, the Sunset Overdrive upgrade system is able to be changed on the fly, so if you want to switch up your abilities you can do so at any time.
In addition to the player style upgrades, there are also weapon and player upgrades called “Amps”. Amps are customizations to your character (Hero amps) and weapons (weapon amps) and you must defend your player fort successfully to receive new or upgraded amps. Your fort is kind of like a home base, inside of which you will find different vendors, amp cooking vats, and occasionally quests. You defend the fort, specifically your amp cooking vat(s) from several minutes of wave after wave of OD by shooting, stomping, and trap setting. Yes, that’s right, Sunset Overdrive has a built in tower defense game! You get a certain amount of electricity, which differs depending on which base you’re at, and you use the electricity to setup traps. The traps range in effectiveness from shitty to HOLY SHIT IS THAT A TESLA COIL? There are occasional other times where you utilize traps, and you can get new and upgraded traps as well. Collect them all, like a pokemans! Personally I find the fort defense quests to be kind of frustrating, but that might be because I’m not very good at it.
After playing most of Sunset Overdrive I only have one real complaint, which is with the alleged “open world” aspect of the game. Maybe this is just my pedantic nature showing itself, but to me “open world” means open world. It means getting quests from all over the world, not just your quest hub. It means being able to explore everywhere, and not being told to go back to the quest area. It means multiple quests being active at the same time, even if that is limited to 5 or 10 or 20. Sunset Overdrive is open world in little doses, but it is not truly open world. Sure, there are collectibles. Yes, there are quests throughout the city. But everything is really limited, especially for the first 5-10 hours of game-play which are almost completely forced linear storyline.
In regards to quests, there is not an ability to track more than one at a time. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but when you start a new quest, you can lose progress on your current quest (back to the last auto-save). This has resulted in me doing quests multiple times just because I wanted to do a side quest. Additionally, there is something screwy with the game intelligence, as it very regularly gives me speech prompts for Quest A while I’m in the middle of Quest B. This can be confusing if you aren’t sure what you are doing in the first place, or if you’re in various stages of intoxication. Again, these are not problems you typically encounter with open world games.
I’m not to the end quite yet, but even doing every side quest I’ve only managed to clock about 15 hours of game-play and I’m almost done. Why is this a problem? Because the game feels partially unfinished. It feels like they were waiting for DLC, which I’m not a fan of in this situation. DLC only works for me if it’s a true addition to a well rounded and fleshed out game. Compare Sunset Overdrive to Dead Rising 3, which was a spectacular game and had 35+ hours of game-play just to get to the point where I was ready for DLC. Realistically it’s just kind of disappointing; the world that Insomniac built with Sunset City is so immersive, weird, and awesome that I just want to keep playing it.
Length of content aside, Sunset Overdrive is a really fun game and I would highly recommend to anyone that is a fan of the third person shooter, open world, action genre. It fills a gap in the genre that Xbox One has sorely been missing.