The gaming world was completely surprised when Insomniac Studios announced they were teaming up with Microsoft for an exclusive new IP, Sony Pony’s lost it, Xbots rejoiced and Insomniac produced one of the best intro video’s to any game at E3 I have seen in quite a few years. Since then it has always been in the back of my mind that this game was coming out, the announcement of the white console edition to match the game release, and then one week before the reviews and walkthrough video’s start rolling out, giving the game 8’s and 9’s – a sign that things could finally turn about for the Xbox One after a slew of failures like the epically over-rated (and short lived!) TitanFall, Ryse Son Of Rome disappointed, and the PS4 nearly doubling its console sale numbers every month. Here we have in its entirety, the sole reason why you should buy an Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive. It is NOT a timed exclusive, it is a console only game, and I am throwing my hand’s down and saying that this is one of the best games I have played this year.
Join the city of Sunset, held hostage by Fizzco, a soda making company whose new drink Overcharge, turns the towns folk of Sunset into energy drink guzzling mutants. They overrun the town and are fenced off by Fizzco to contain the disaster and cut off communication from the outside world. You customise your character from an extensive range of options and then it’s off to explore the open world of Sunset and try to escape before you are killed. Over the story of the game you meet up with other survivors who you have to either help or do things to get them to help you get out of the city. All of the characters swear like a sailor, and it even outdoes South Park The Stick Of Truth in its vulgarity, but the best part is, it never feels out of place, it never goes too far and feels like it is just there for that factor. All of the voice actors do a phenomenal job of keeping it natural and play to the strengths of the game.
Sunset is a massive city, I was impressed at the scale of the map and just how many missions were crammed into this seemingly cartoony game. You travel around either by foot (I highly recommend that you do NOT do this!) or you can bounce around from car to car and zip along electricity and railway lines. It sounds tedious but you do move quite fast, and the move you “amp” up your character, the faster you go. The town is divided up into named areas and there are story missions, side missions and small fetch quests in each part.
The bosses in each part of the city are challenging, but always have a nifty little trick, that once you work out, make it easier to defeat them. That is if you can spare a few minutes to stop laughing from their completely hilarious and OTT dialogue. Each boss is a throwback to other games like Portal 2 and Saints Row IV, but they never quite cross that vulgarity line, it always seems to be kept in check enough to still be hilarious and entertaining without being too offensive. The boss fights are semi-challenging and enough to challenge gamers.
One thing that cannot be denied is the tone of this game, everything is splashed in colour across the screen and so much detail to the characters covered in neon and pop art design, it just splashes out of the screen at you. Everything is so well detailed and designed, it is by far the best looking game on the Xbox One so far. After a year of brown, drab and dreary games this is a complete breath of fresh air that Insomniac delivers flawlessly, One of the things you will notice if you attempt to stop and take it in, is also the building and town design. Every building and structure is carefully planned and intricately detailed, it was only in the rare moments that this game lets you breathe for a few minutes that I noticed just how well this was done. Another achievement was the amount of enemies that can appear on the screen at the same time with colours exploding and words flying through the air, with no drop in frame rate.
I found myself constantly stopping during the craziness of the gameplay to try and precision shot certain enemies and areas, and surprisingly this does not work. This is not the kind of game where you hide and shoot, then run for cover, you have to keep moving, and if you do stop you will die, there is no way around it, there is no stopping it, it sounds frustrating but it is so much fun, you won’t even care. I was surprised that when you get one of these “travel across town” missions, that on the way, you can grind along cables and you may pass a few mutants, but you can get there unscathed and untouched. This was the only part that really surprised me, if they do start surrounding you, you can jump up and slide along rails and they won’t follow you.
The weapons and wild and whacky, as yu would already expect from a game like this. From the first gun called “The Compensator” (complete in the shape of a shaft and two balls at the trigger) to a weapon that fires cats with TNT in their mouth that explode on impact, it all just screams Saints Row IV, but doesn’t have the same disappointing qualities as that game did. Their are no massive purple dildo’s here though, the weapons are strange and varied, enough to give you a wide range to figure out what works best on what enemy, human or mutant. This also goes hand in hand with enemy types, there are your OD’s who are just your general, run of the mill mutants, then there are the Poppers, who have drunk too much Overcharge and will explode when they get in your vicinity. In addition to this there are amps that you can add on to your weapons to make them powerful and there are overdrives which you can add to your character that can make you more powerful or change the rate you effectiveness of your enemies damage.
Online multiplayer – usually this feels tacked on in a game like this, or can easily just be a few maps tacked on with simple PVP like gameplay, the multiplayer in Overdrive is one of its shining features. It is not in a menu you can access, but rather spread out through the city as “Chaos Squad” access areas. You can find them on the map and connect you into 8 player multiplayer madness. You play with 7 other actual people in online co-op, you vote on what type of mission you want to do and all the goodies and loot go to upgrade your character and ranking in the Chaos Squad charts. It is really inventive and great to see this different approach to multiplayer and it really feels fresh.
Costumes and accessories for your character are littered throughout the game and the more you change, the more you realised just how over the top everything really is. I wanted a simple baseball cap to make my character look cooler, but it was so oversized and hilarious it looked ridiculous, and as I scrolled through everything else, I soon realised that everything else was exactly the same. Day One edition gives you some additional DLC costumes and accessories, with the rest available through grinding and unlocking or you can actually purchase them at the vendors through the Xbox Store with actual cash (yeah right!)
Overall Sunset Overdrive is what I love about games, it is intense, it is fun, it is outrageous, it is hilarious, it has a great story with some real heart added in that took me by surprise. Xbox One has been waiting for a system seller, and really this is IT! If you have been hanging out for a console to buy and you want a good game THIS IS IT! I cannot wait to sink many more hours into this game and the town of Sunset with its wide range of hilarious characters and bright colours, here is hoping for many more outings into this world from Insomniac for years to come.
Sunset Overdrive is out on the Xbox One exclusively now.
Review by Alaisdair Dewar