Review: Sunset Overdrive – Grind, Shoot, Bounce

Sunset Overdrive lets players enable a curse filter, and for good reason. If players expect fart jokes and the same banter between Captain Qwark and Dr. Nefarious from Ratchet & Clank, then the punk rock aesthetic and free flowing cursing might jolt long time Insomniac Games fans. Sunset Overdrive both looks and sounds different from the decades of Ratchet games, but Insomniac still retains their signature weaponry and silly characters. Sunset Overdrive’s dozens of goofy weapons and extraordinary character mobility turns Sunset City into the Xbox One’s deadliest playground.

The Fizco Corporation initiates an apocalypse when their Overcharge energy drink starts turning Sunset City’s citizens into mutants. Fortunately for the player, the deadly orange drink eludes your lips, but now you must escape the quarantined Sunset City to survive.

Why run to safety when you can grind, bounce and air dash between objects in Sunset City. Constant movement to avoid ground combat gives players a reasonable chance to survive the onslaught of mutated Overcharge Drinkers. The variety of character actions makes mobility feel like a natural part of combat and not something difficult to execute. While carefully aiming your TNTeddy launcher, an explosive teddy bear, you will naturally bounce off a car, grind on a power line and air dash to a nearby roof to continue grinding on the rooftop’s edge. ¬†Mobility ensures the players survival, but it makes exploring Sunset City feel part of the game’s excitement, not just the space between quests.

Each questline sends the player to different sections of Sunset City to complete the strange requests of the remaining survivor groups. Each group plays on their own cultural stereotypes without mocking or insulting their members. One surviving group, the LARPers (live action role players), still maintain identities as characters in a 12th century medieval castle, yet they never feel out of place. Sunset Overdrive doesn’t ask for cheap laughs with meme jokes, it takes these ludicrous groups and replicates the same enthusiasm in its quests. When the quest giver asks you to recruit a band and hold a rock concert, you just do it.

The rock band recruitment quest fits with the punk rock theme just as Sunset Overdrive’s punk rock music fits the frantic combat. As players build their combo meter through stringing together bounces, grinds, wallruns and other actions, the guitars intensifies, drums echo and cymbals crash. Now in the middle of slaughtering some OD, a complete song plays in the background and makes the game pace feel like it doubled in speed. Not everyone may enjoy punk rock, especially considering the uninspired power chord heavy music made these days, but the music fits. When the music fits the situation, then music tastes won’t matter.

While punk rock blasts in the background, you still need to recall enemy weaknesses and each weapons widely different function. Sunset Overdrive includes dozens of weapons, but the weapon wheel only holds eight. The four enemy types means carrying weapons effective against each type, but also picking weapons to complement each other. To handle hoards of OD, using the Captain Ahab gun, a harpoon to draw in nearby OD, makes easy work for the Hairspray Bomb blow OD into pieces.

You can also modify weapons with amps to alter their behaviour or add random effects. Since I love to grind on power lines and spray from the High Fidelity, a vinyl record launcher that bounces, I slotted an amp to randomly set off a small nuclear explosion when an enemy dies. I could pick better amps to suit vinyl records bouncing between enemies, but I wanted cool, not practicality.

To unlock the amps they come at the cost of toilet paper, neon signs and other collectibles scattered throughout the Sunset City. Although I love to climb the tall skyscrapers and grind across entire city blocks in seconds, I wish Sunset Overdrive took better advantage of the city infrastructure instead of scattering hundreds of collectibles. No matter how monotonous, you need to gather the collectibles to purchase the amps, and the best ones often sell for high prices. Sunset Overdrive makes exploring a city a fun activity in itself, but collecting hundreds of ultimately meaningless objects gets boring after the first dozen.

If you want more from Sunset Overdrive, eight player co-op, Chaos Squad, sends players flying to different locations. Each match works similar to the single player challenges placed throughout Sunset City. Some challenges involve base defense and others involve point collecting. Winners of each round add their score to the final tally to determine a winner at the end of the session. Chaos Squad can lengthen your time with Sunset Overdrive, but the quest variety makes the base game the main draw.

Sunset Overdrive gives the player abilities to roam a large open world without ever touching the ground, and its goofy weapons turns Sunset City into the least depressing apocalypse available. Insomniac again delivers on their patented unordinary weapon designs while fusing them with swift mobility and the fast tempo of rock music. Everything seems so ridiculous without the context of Sunset City, but fuck is it fun.