Review: Sunset Overdrive – Punk Rock Apocalypse
When Judgement Day comes, how will you dress? Sunset Overdrive takes a new approach to the end of the world with a colorful mess of jokes and fun outfits. Can style and a “devil may care” attitude be enough to save the day? A freeze bomb and a sword that shoots electricity also helps.
A new energy drink called Overcharge is hitting the market and the makers, FizzCo, decided to debut their new beverage with a raging launch party. Unfortunately, festivities turn sour when the folks consuming the drink all turn into hideous mutants with an unquenchable thirst for Overdrive.
You play the “The Player,” a garbage picker turned poorly dressed hero. The amount of customization options will make your character look like a bass player for your big brother’s favorite punk band. Expect to see lots of tight pants and half mohawks. Thankfully, my bearded white-eyed skinny jeans smart-ass look seemed to have fit right in a world where cheerleading ninjas run wild.
In order to escape the hordes of Overcharge infected mutants (or the OD), you’ll assist the survivors by fulfilling insane requests that range from getting a rich snob her robot dog to forging a magic sword with a nuclear reactor. The quest variety is refreshing and the humor holds up for most of the game. I say most of the time since the a lot of the comedy feels really forced in the early portion of the game, but eventually hits its stride with fantastic results.
All the story missions are uniquely ridiculous, like when I needed to cover my body in leeches in order to make medicine for a bunch of LARPERs by diving into shallow ponds. The tone is always light-hearted with a few endearing characters that are occasionally interrupted by a f-bomb. Sunset Overdrive never takes itself seriously, which I can always appreciate in an open world game.
I have to take a moment and give major props to the world design and gameplay mechanics. For an open-world game with no vehicles or flying of any kind you still manage to travel around a fairly brisk pace. Sunset City is filled with rich color and cool looking bad guys. The OD come in a bunch of horrifying shapes and sizes and they also explode into a very satisfying pool of orange paste when you take them out. The Scabs, meanwhile, look like a bunch of looters tha traded the costume closet for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
You’ll get around Sunset City by grinding and bouncing through the town’s over abundance of power lines, train tracks and parked cars. Early on, it’s tough to wrap your head around the traversal system; I spent a while figuring out why it seemed so weird for me and came to the conclusion that it’s because the hero isn’t actually using anything like roller blades or skateboards to grind. It seems your character can grind on rails and jump super high just because he is the main character and that’s it.
Thankfully you get an air dash ability in the early bits of the campaign that, for me, is when the movement system really clicked and started becoming ridiculously fun to get around, even if it’s never explained why I can defy physics.
My biggest concern with all this zipping around was if the shooting mechanic would be hindered by it all. Thankfully Sunset Overdrive’s very generous auto-aim makes moving and shooting less of a chore and more an experimentation with different weapon combinations. What will kill you the most is when the game start throwing enemy types that can target the rails, forcing you to jump to a new spot or leaving you out in the open. The trick is figuring out what weapon type work on which bad guy, so it’s wise to mix your weapon wheel with a variety of guns.
Not only is mastering this insane form of parkour necessary to moving your poorly awesomely dressed character around the map, it also helps accrue Style, which will activate Amps and weapons. Amps are perks that you can equip the player or his/her weapons for bonuses in combat. Getting Level 1 Style will open the abilities of Level 1 Amps and so on; it becomes crucial to always bounce, zip-line and generally avoid running in order to gain access to some amazing damage.
Personal Amps can add elemental damage to your attacks like having chain lighting sprout from your body when you grind on a rail or fire a wave of energy on a dive bomb attack. For example, I equipped the “Winter Is Coming” Amp on my Murderang (a machine gun that fires razor sharp boomerangs which return back to me), which freezes my opponents in place. This is an awesome set up for a dive bomb attack with my baseball bat that shatters the frozen fools. The weapon and Amp combinations is what keeps the combat from going stale.
Speaking of weapons, Sunset Overdrive has an almost obscene amount of goofy, off-the-wall weaponry that are basically household items duct-taped together in charming ways. It really does seem like Insomniac really went all out with the amount of creative guns and traps. The weapon types can range from a bowling bowling launcher (Called “The Dude”) to acid sprinklers that dance around as cute FizzCo mascots.
When you’re not running errands for legitimately crazy people you’ll be conducting night defenses at your home base in order to cook up more powerful Amps. This is a basically a tower defense mode where you have to set up traps and fend off hundreds of OD’d away from your Overcharge Vats in a certain time limit. The Night defenses are diversions from the main campaign and a good opportunity to gain some serious loot.
I also got a chance to check out the eight-player co-op called Chaos Mode. You and a group of players choice between a series of missions, each with its own unique rewards, which ends with a night defense mission that uses your previous mission bonuses for better defenses. Each Chaos Mode play-through scores a ton of cash and random loot like weapons or fancy clothing. I unlocked a propane missile launcher which saved me a ton of money since I didn’t have to buy it.
There is a competitive nature to it and you will be vying for the top spot among your friends since the higher you place, the better the rewards. I was, however, disappointed with the lack of co-op for the main story; a big let down considering how fun Sunset Overdrive is once things start blowing up.
Playing this game is just an absolute joy and felt like an Insomniac game during their creative and fun Rachet and Clank days, as opposed to the more serious FUSE and Resistance: Fall of Man days. Sunset Overdrive has this strange confidence about itself that I rarely see in a videogame, not to mention that every bit of it seems like it was crafted for maximum stupid fun.
If this is what the apocalypse has in store for us then count me in.
Jorge Note* Death is rewarded with a goofy respawn animation. Here’s a couple of my favorites: