Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Forza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection… The Xbox One certainly has its fair share of exclusives. Add another one to that list, Sunset Overdrive. Developed by Insomniac Games, the wacky third-person game attempts to bring something unique to Microsoft’s console. Does it succeed? Kind of…
Game: Sunset Overdrive
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
(review code provided)
Sunset Overdrive’s brand of humour is evident right from the off, eager to show you that it’s not taking itself too seriously. At first, it’s kind of cool and funny, but quickly evolves into tiresome and annoying. There are way too many attempts to break the fourth wall, most of which just fall flat on their face. This is a game and I’m a gamer. I get it. Just stop already. It’s like someone trying too hard to be funny, forcing you to like their jokes. It just doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good laugh, but Insomniac has gone way over the top here. I love what the studio has done previously with the Ratchet and Clank series, so I came into this expecting better.
The overflow of forced humour hurts the story too, which isn’t exactly Shakespeare to begin with. A soft drink company turns inhabitants of Sunset City into monsters and you (along with other survivors) are tasked with sorting it out. Yeah, told you, it’s not going to win any awards, but it’s simple enough to kind of work. Again, it’s just a shame that the barrage of jokes and “dudebro” vibe holds it back.
Over-the-top jokes aside, Sunset Overdrive is quite fun. The gameplay is reminiscent of Jet Set Radio (one of my favourite Dreamcast games), with a focus on grinding or jumping around Sunset City and taking down enemies in creative ways. In other words, combos. You’re actually encouraged to do this, mixing up combat patterns and bring Amps into play. Essentially perks, Amps make up your style meter, activating when you are stylish enough with your attacks. It’s a neat little system, but needlessly overcomplicated in terms of the way it’s explained in the game. Still, play around a little and you’ll get the hang of it. As you’d expect, you can earn better, newer Amps by doing various different tasks as you progress through the game. Some will grant you the ability to electrocute enemies, whereas others will set them on fire. Of course, in true Insomniac fashion, the game features plenty of crazy weapons, including one that shoots teddy bears. These are all upgradeable, and you’ll need to do exactly that if you want a smooth passage through the game.
Sounds great, right? Wrong. Well, kind of. While the core gameplay is decent, the content splattered around is frustrating to say the least. Sunset Overdrive will probably take you around 9 hours to complete, and for most it of you’ll be doing what I can only describe as fetch quests. You’ll be told to go from point A to B, take enemies out and bring something or someone back. The game even makes a joke out of it at one point, only to continue giving you the same type of missions. It’s extremely frustrating, because when you’re given some freedom there’s a lot to admire and enjoy. Sadly, there are just not enough moments where that happens aside from a few missions towards the end and crazy boss battles. Oh and don’t get me started on the night time tower defense stuff. A needless inclusion, your tasked with keeping enemies away from an area for a period of time. It’s just tedious, much like the non-stop fetch quests.
One thing Sunset Overdrive definitely has going for it is the visuals. The game looks stunning. It’s not pushing millions of polygons or pushing the boundaries of technology, no, but the style is great. Colourful and vibrant, the visuals feel like they’re popping out of the screen. Everything is super sharp and moves along at a fast pace without any issue whatsoever. It’s just a slight shame that Sunset City feels a bit sparse and quiet at times, but that’s probably more down to there being no real music to keep thing ticking over. For a game that’s all about being loud and in-your-face, it’s a bit odd that there’s no background music to match.
As disappointing as the single player side of the game is, the multiplayer facet is surprisingly good. Supporting up to 8 players, you work against each other and together to complete various objectives. It all ends with waves of enemies coming at you, testing the skills you learned in single player to the max. Trust me, it’s tough. I died. A lot. It’s fun though, and an area Insomniac should look to focus on for a sequel (if there is one).
After promising so much early on and shaping up to be a potential system seller, Sunset Overdrive ends up being a missed opportunity for Insomniac and Microsoft. The core gameplay is fun, but the content surrounding it is average or simply okay at best. There’s something there, it just needs to be built upon and expanded if there is to be a sequel somewhere down the line.