In a world populated with Gears of War and the brooding of the Batman Arkham series, Sunset Overdrive is a bright and refreshing splash of color in the gray wasteland that has become the realm of the modern action game. Taking place in the fictional Sunset City, you play as an unnamed (but fully-customizable) former-bar-back-turned-badass-action-hero. The newest energy drink craze has turned the population of Sunset City into crazed mutant monsters, and it’s up to you and a band of survivors to get to the bottom of what caused this plague, and hopefully get out alive.
To survive, you’re given a multitude of weapons and moves to get the job done. Sunset Overdrive is big on mobility. You’ll be grinding on rails and telephone lines, bouncing off of car roofs and picnic umbrellas, even running on the walls as you make your way throughout the city. Keeping your momentum going is such a rush. Once you get going, it feels like ballet. All the while, crazy stuff is going off all around you – controlled chaos at its absolute best. When jumping and grinding from place to place, you’ll have an arsenal reflective of what Insomniac Games does best – and coming from the studio behind the Ratchet and Clank series, it’s no surprise. Roman candle miniguns, teddy bear grenade launchers, and tire iron boomerang guns are just the tip of the iceberg.
The game rewards how you like to play the game best. You earn experience points based on traversal moves and weapon types. So, what you find fun becomes more and more fun as the game progresses. You are rewarded for not only how long you can keep a combo going, but how cool you look doing it. Your style meter fills as you bounce around and dash and get more creative kills. As that meter fills, you’re allowed super powerful moves called “Amps” which are mostly passive, but tied to a specific move or action. For example, you can have bombs shoot out of anything you bounce on, or your melee attack shoot a fireball. There are also Amps you can attach to weapons that add elemental damage to your attacks. All of this adds to the frenetic feel of the game, but never becomes overwhelming. Instead it becomes a visual smorgasbord.
Sunset Overdrive has a style that looks like a comic book come to life. Vibrant colors and stylized characters fill Sunset City in a way you never get bored of. There are always new set pieces to explore, and unlocking new weapons always gives you an excuse to get back out and kill more mutants. One of my favorite touches is that, much like comics, the “BOOM”s and “SPLAT”s printed on the page, become real life when mutants explode, splayed in orange goo. Or “KRAK” written in busted pavement after a successful ground pound. The game has great dialog and missions, which admittedly get way better in the second half of the game.
Also included is a cooperative multiplayer mode called Chaos Squad. This puts you in a group of 6 or so people, and gives you a series of quick 2 or 3 minute objectives such as “Destroy the Thug’s Clubhouse” or “Clear a Path For the Train.” At the end of the missions, there is a “Defend the Base” mission, which is also found in the main game. Setting traps, defending barricades, that type of thing. Base defense isn’t everyone’s cup of gameplay tea, but I really enjoy it. Especially since in the multiplayer mode, you can really see the Crayola tornado that is Sunset Overdrive at its best. When everyone has their weapons firing and Amps going off and everything is exploding? It adds up to a really cool looking great time.
After a few hours, as fun as it is, the action does seem to get a bit repetitive. I found it much better to play in small bursts than try to marathon the game. It makes the richness and humor much more absorbable. The varied mission types in the latter part of the game seem to help this a lot as well. Overall though, it’s a fourth-wall-breaking-punk-rock-soundtrack-having-mutant-guts-everywhere fun time. These multiple layers of character add up to make Sunset Overdrive an amazingly rich world, and a damn fun game.
I give Sunset Overdrive 4 out of 5