BOOM GOES THE TEDDY BEAR
Not only is Sunset Overdrive my first re-introduction to Insomniac Games since Spyro the Dragon, but it is also my introduction to Xbox One titles. And what an introduction it turned out to be. Finding itself as an insane cross between inFAMOUS and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Sunset Overdrive delivers a high-octane, laugh-out-loud experience sure to delight any fan of video games.
After the great Sunset City is introduced to the newest and hottest energy drink, Overdrive Delirium XT, consumers begin transforming into horrific creatures, labeled the OD. As “Player,” you are tasked to leave the city with the help of an omnipotent voice, bumbling scientist, ivy-league nobody, team of ninja cheerleaders, and more.
To say that Sunset Overdrive breaks the fourth wall would be the understatement of the century. Besides the constant pokes at pop culture and gaming culture, the protagonist always has a quip for the person behind the controller about all of his interesting respawn animations. The omnipotent voice boomingly declares “Listen to this tutorial! Player focus groups determined this is the best way to give instruction!” There are simply too many of these experiences to list, and all of them are hysterical. Insomniac found a perfect level of cheesiness to prevent all the puns, references, and fourth wall shattering moments from going stale.
Playing Sunset Overdrive is jarring at first — never before in a third-person shooter has constant movement been so critical to staying alive. Grind rails, power lines, canopies, and the absurdly-bouncy cars will become your best friend soon enough. After (at most) a half-hour of fumbling with the controls, I was jumping from rooftop to rooftop, avoiding enemy fire and hordes of OD.
Unlike in other sandbox titles like Saints Row, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto, the city felt like a playground. Everywhere you turn, there are objects to jump on and enemies to take down. Not only that, but the hyper-stylized aesthetic fits Sunset Overdrive, presenting an (at times) overly bright and colorful landscape to play around in. I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of the console generation, Sunset Overdrive is still considered one of the best looking games artistically.
Insomniac did a terrific job at presenting unique and fun story and side missions to constantly keep me hooked; while many current-gen games like inFAMOUS: Second Son and Destiny suffer from stale mission structure, I would be hard pressed to find two levels in Sunset Overdrive that were similar. The game would have you go from defending a pirate ship made of trash, flying a plane to escape Sunset City, and taking down military-armed promotional balloons without batting an eye. This is partially why my 15 hour-long romp through Sunset Overdrive felt as short as it did.
While the gameplay is at first awkward, after an hour–or in my case, 30 hours–into the game, you will feel like a qualified badass. Racking up combos in the hundreds, exploding dozens of OD at a time, and being able to navigate across the entire city without touching the ground becomes second nature. Even better, it makes for a great show to onlookers, who will instantly think you are a pro at the game.
Despite Sunset Overdrive’s herculean efforts to draw the player out of the experience through fourth wall breaking jokes, it was nearly impossible to not be immersed by the game. Simply walking around the streets of New York, I often look up at the power lines imagining how I can go from rooftop to rooftop without touching the ground. Immersion like this is so impressive and hard to instill in the player–Insomniac deserves all of the recommendations and scores they have gotten thus far.
While Sunset Overdrive was able to capture my intention for long stretches of time, there was one noticeable bump in the road–the soundtrack. Blasting enemies and grinding on rails is normally accompanied by a mix of dubstep and grunge rock, adding to the playground/sandbox element. However, every so often, a song would end and there would be a minute or two pause until the next round of grunge rock played. That minute of silence felt overbearing in a world brimming with so much excitement and color, and was my only noticeable hinderance.
Last but not least, it is worth noting that Insomniac didn’t forget about post-game content. Besides the main missions and side missions, Sunset Overdrive has a whopping selection of leader-board based challenges, collect-athons, weekly challenges, and multiplayer to keep players coming back for hours after they have finished the game. While none of these features have the hook that the story did, I would be dishonest if I say I haven’t been going back to beat Courtney’s challenge records.
The Verdict: 9.6 out of 10
Sunset Overdrive is undoubtedly the first AAA rockstar for the Xbox One. More importantly, it is arguably the best current-gen release we have seen so far. Despite the game’s hilarious fourth wall breaking humor, Insomniac manages to trap players into hours and hours of immersive fun. While this game alone may not be enough to sell Xbox Ones, anyone without one is surely missing out.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Lou Contaldi is MONG’s Executive Editor. In his off time, he enjoys being aggressively mediocre at Hearthstone. You can follow his incoherent ramblings at Twitter.
This review is based on an individually purchased copy of Sunset Overdrive. The reviewer has spent over 30 hours with the game, massacring OD with no qualms that they were previously humans.