Sunset Overdrive Review

Colorful, sardonic, and all-around fun, Sunset Overdrive cranks up the insanity meter to 11 on the Xbox One.

Release Date: October 28, 2014Platform: Xbox OneDeveloper: Insomniac GamesPublisher: MicrosoftGenre: Action-adventure

If we’re trying to make comparisons here, then Sunset Overdrive from Insomniac Games is a colorful concoction that takes the best parts of Ratchet & Clank, Infamous, and Jet Set Radio, and splashes it all together like a Jackson Pollock painting. You play as a custom-created character that gets thrown into the middle of a mutant apocalypse at the hands of an evil soft drink corporation. Things only get more ridiculous from there, as you’re forced to take to the rooftops and blast every creature that gets in your way.

Where Sunset Overdrive really hits its stride is in the fluid traversal movements that make you wish Jet Set Radio had been even close to this good. You’ll grind on every railing you can find, launch off of cars or umbrellas to latch onto nearby power lines, then skid across the water to scale up the side of a building and continue on your exhilarating way. Not only this, but you’ll be landing headshots and blasting ugly mutants and robots the entire time. Moving in the game feels unbelievably slick, and the ease with which you can pull off lengthy and extended combos hits that sweet spot of speed and agility.

It’s also clear that Insomniac Games has taken what they’ve learned from developing Ratchet & Clank over the years and applied that winning formula to the open world landscape. The weapons are just as wacky and wild as ever, from a gun that launches explosive teddy bears, to the aptly named “Flaming Compensator.” Upgrading each weapon by continuous usage is just as addicting as it was in Ratchet & Clank, and adding to the game’s depth are the Amps and Overdrives, unlockable modifiers that can be attached to your weapons and character to pack an even more explosive punch.

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The ridiculous, over-the-top blend of Insomniac humor is back in full force as well, and now that it’s brandishing an “M” rating, the developers are given the freedom to unleash their sickest and most twisted thoughts like never before. A lot of the humor has to do with mocking traditional tropes in video games, like a random voiceover that starts giving you instructions, or how that one NPC on her way to the base disappears as soon as the cut scene is over. It’s all incredibly self-aware, and video game fans will have a whole lot to love and identify with here.

A lot of the humor is in the aesthetics, too, like the dozens of different respawn animations that show your character being dropped off by a UFO or rising up from the ground after each death. And as if you couldn’t tell from those screenshots up there, Sunset Overdrive is absolutely bursting with bright and beautiful visuals that make you feel like you’re playing a Saturday morning cartoon. Well, a very deranged Saturday morning cartoon with a whole bunch of expletives.

All of the wonderful laugh-out-loud moments in Sunset Overdrive do help to gloss over the fact that there isn’t much of a story to be found here, outside of the typical “must escape quarantined city in this crazy apocalypse.” The mission structure can be very hit or miss at times, though. Expect your fair share of fetch quests to be offset by the breathtaking task of scaling a massive building, or battling a giant inflatable mascot. There are also the very calculated tower defense-esque missions that have you protecting your base while new Amps are being created. These moments are typical fare, and find you placing wacky traps and protecting various barricades for several minutes at a time.

But underneath all of those shiny bells and whistles, however, it’s easy to forget that Sunset Overdrive is really just your typical open world adventure game, and not all that different from something like Infamous: Second Son. There’s hundreds of collectables to find and dozens of optional challenges to complete, which range from destroying things to pulling off perfect move traversals in the quickest amount of time.

Adding to the replayability a bit is the online 8-player co-op mode called Chaos Squad, which lets you team up with other players to complete a variety of missions and challenges that are sprinkled throughout the various districts of the game world. It’s a nice and oftentimes relaxed way to extend the playing experience, but it certainly isn’t purchase-warranting content here. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep playing Sunset Overdrive after hitting 100%, but for now, the game is still keeping me more than entertained.

And I guess, in the end, that’s really all that matters for me. Right now, in this moment, Sunset Overdrive is an absolute blast. The game’s bright and sunny environment are like little else on the market today, and the speedy movements and zany weapons will keep you killing mutants until the early morning hours. Throw in some unrivaled humor at the funny expense of video games themselves, and you’ve got one colorful love letter from one gamer enthusiast to another.

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4 out of 5