Why do we play games? Do we play for a gripping story, a competitive multiplayer, an engrossing atmosphere or do we just play to have fun? The latter is clearly what Insomniac Games had in mind when they made Sunset Overdrive and it's just as crazy, absurd and obscene as promised. But how much fun is it really? Does it take more than bright colors, vibrant explosions and foul-mouthed balloon mascots to make a game enjoyable? Sunset Overdrive is a game that is a bit of everything, that lets you be anything and tries to be only one thing: fun; and it succeeds with flying colors, lots of them.
Your adventure opens in Sunset City, an expansive and colorful paradise for all to enjoy. When an evil corporation unleashes an energy drink that turns the punk-rocking populace into murderous zombies you, the downtrodden janitor, must kick things into overdrive and escape the apocalypse. After a simple character creation session, you'll immediately understand what sets Sunset Overdrive apart: its sense of style. Its ridiculous main character, its even more ridiculous supporting cast, the colors, the monsters and the fast-paced, care-not tone all come together almost immediately to let you know what you're in for. Nothing is quite like Sunset City and its inhabitants. From LARP-ing RPG enthusiasts to post-apocalyptic boy scouts, the characters you meet on your journey are all equally insane and entertaining. The immaturity is cranked up to eleven as well, F-bombs are a near constant and the game is painfully aware of its attempts to remind you that it's a game in the first place. While not every joke and ridiculous curse hit their mark there's more than enough humor here to keep you entertained during its fifteen-plus hour campaign.
Just as quickly as you're introduced to Sunset Overdrive's whacky antics, you're introduced to its key ingredient: movement. The way you traverse this crazy reality is everything. Not only is it wildly entertaining it's the whole basis for your survival. Sit in cover and shoot something? Walk along street level? Nope. Doing either of these will quickly earn you a hilarious respawn animation. You need to move constantly to have any hope of survival here. This movement comes in the form of grinding, wall running and bouncing your way to victory and it's an absolute blast to do. While it may take a moment to get used to, you will quickly find yourself traversing the entire apocalypse without ever touching the ground, all the while hurling explosive teddy bears and colorful insults at your enemies. Even as you cross the campaign's finish line, find your last collectible, and spend your free time grinding along telephone wires, this freedom of movement never gets old and is easily the game's strongest attribute. A humorous fast travel system is available, but with the ease of running across the world and all of the things to do along the way, it's likely you won't be using it often.
Graphically, this is also one of the best looking games on the Xbox One. With colors that pop right off the screen and the glossy and entertaining way that enemies explode, you'll be spending as much time soaking in the sights as you do destroying them. A cleverly laid out city with thousands of enemies offers plenty of opportunity to unleash beautiful mayhem all while maintaining a solid framerate. While the game has its fair share of silly bugs, it plays exceptionally well throughout and encourages you to see how many enemies and explosions you can cram into one place at one time.
Those explosions? Delivered by a plethora of well thought out and entertaining weapons used to bring doom to an already doomed city. A phallic shotgun that shoots fire, a cluster missile bazooka, a gun that shoots acid traps or an automatic boomerang rifle are just a few options to deliver colorful carnage. Almost all of the weapons are incredibly useful and it would be easy to play through the entire game just using your favorite, but a constant lack of ammunition cleverly makes you continuously switch between these entertaining devices to succeed. The game knows all too well how to stay fun without making things pointless. Using these weapons to their fullest levels them up and opens up options to modify them even further with amps that add various abilities. These amps, along with various unlockable character upgrades, allow you to maximize a character to a certain playstyle and push the carnage as far as it can go.
Throughout the campaign of insanity you're sent on missions that continuously shake up the gameplay to make things interesting. Boss battles are few in number but an absolute blast to play (and replay) and missions often involve excellent set pieces to break up any possible monotony. These clever set pieces involve downing entire bottles of cough syrup and traversing a landscape that echoes of the childhood game "the floor is lava", to using a remote control dog to massacre zombies by the hundreds. These fun moments do tend to drag along well after they've worn out their welcome though, and too many of the missions end up breaking down into fetch quests. While Sunset Overdrive's story never amounts to much more than a parody of everything it could possibly get its hands on, there's still plenty to do when your main adventure concludes. Interesting side quests dot the landscape, along with tons of challenges to test your skill and reward you with more cash to buy even more crazy weapons. Chaos Mode brings the madness online where a group of six players set out to complete objectives and participate in a tower-defense style finale. This multiplayer option does have its fun but doesn't add a huge element to the experience and often serves as a reminder to emphasize the game's strange absence of any drop-in cooperative play.
For those needing more incentive to ride the rails, there's always the achievements to keep you busy, and Sunset Overdrive's list is solid. A good spread of completion and "kill this many this way" achievements as well as a few for multiplayer and side quests gives you a good reason to try out all corners of the game. There's also the collectible achievements... Oh the collectibles, hundreds and hundreds of them to be exact, and they will keep you hunting for hours. Cleverly, these collectibles are actually used as a currency to buy upgrades for your character. Given the enjoyment of moving about the city, many will find hunting these down to be pleasure rather than a chore. Overall this is a very doable list with only a few tricky entries to challenge you, such as beating the developer's QA score.
Sunset Overdrive is a blast to play; it looks great, it feels great, it pushes the limits of both the player and the console without straining either. It's why games were games in the first place, and is the best reason to date to upgrade to an Xbox One. It may not be much more than a wacky, immature and explosive adventure that tries too hard to poke fun at itself and dazzle its players with gimmicks, but Sunset Overdrive has it where it counts. It's plain and simple while over-the-top ridiculous, charming while offensive, exceptional while exceptionally tacky, in short, it knows what it is. Sunset Overdrive is fun.
The reviewer spent nearly 30 hours playing through the game's campaign and completing all side activity and multiplayer modes, earning 57 out of 64 achievements. This review is based off an Xbox One digital copy purchased by the reviewer.
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