Sunset Overdrive – When Red Bull doesn’t give you wings

There are some games where you can see a clear lineage in their design inspirations and can fairly quickly decide if you think it will work. Then you have Sunset Overdrive which combines the traversal of Crackdown and Jet Set Radio Future with the weapons and number of baddies from Dead Rising topped off with a punk like attitude borrowed from Crazy Taxi and that about covers all you need to know.

Somehow this all works and what we have is a game that stand out from the pack not only due to its vibrant presentation but by its humour as your character is thrust into a crazy world where every corner seems to be asking you to grind, slide and jump from.

The apocalypse has never looked so bright and cheerful.

The apocalypse has never looked so bright and cheerful.

The game dives straight into a tutorial that gets you acquainted with the basic mechanics of running, diving, jumping, shooting and grinding. Combining them all effectively will take some time to learn but before the VERY short tutorial gets tedious it quickly winds back the clock to explain your situation.

The basic plot is your character is one of a few survivors from an epidemic caused by a suspicious energy drink that has turned everyone into mindless monsters. As you begin to take in your situation you find others have also been making their mark on the city too. Some will help you with your goals and others won’t. And those that don’t will end up being on the wrong end of one of the many wild and wacky weapons you accumulate throughout the game.

My initial impressions when playing were that the traversal mechanics weren’t as deep as I had expected. It just seemed too hard to chain moves together. However once you progress further into the game and begin to acquire additional moves it all begins to make sense. For me, I was told it all doesn’t click until you get the air dash skill (one of the last) and that assessment is spot on; from that point it is possible to begin chaining together some impressive moves and fly across the map.

These traversal skills become key during the boss fight scenarios that crop up during the campaign; being able to move effectively through the environment is usually the only way to score hits and complete these challenges. They are not especially difficult but almost function like tests to confirm you’ve got your skills at a level good enough to progress further.

Before you know it, you'll be grinding though the city like a pro.

Before you know it, you’ll be grinding though the city like a pro.

It’s just a shame that the developers thought there was a need to ration out the skills so slowly in the beginning because it might just put some players off due to frustration. However for those who are patient through the early sections, the rewards will come once you gain enough new skills and abilities to tailor your character closer to your own playing style.

Collectibles tie into traversal too. Items scattered through the game will usually require the player to use varied different skills to reach. As well as the expected achievements, these can also tie into the purchase of Amps which provide additional boosts for your player.

Amp creation ties into a sub game that involves defending a base against hordes of enemies within a set time. To assist, traps can be laid around the base to slow them down. This sub game also becomes a training ground for Chaos Squad, a co-op mode that allows up to eight players to team up and take on waves of enemies together.

The slow start and introduction to the game mechanics betray what is a genuinely unique and fun game on the Xbox One. It never takes itself too seriously and routinely breaks through the fourth wall by bringing the player in to most of the jokes.

That poor fourth wall continues to get a battering thanks to Sunset TV, an in-game feature where players can receive updates from Insomniac Games, Sunset Overdrive‘s developer. These cover the latest changes to the game as well as giving players a chance to vote on future updates. As an incentive, players who complete specific challenge have their votes count for more. It’s a clever and unique way to keep in touch with fans of the game a reward them for their loyalty.

For Xbox gamers looking for a big game that just feels different to everything else in the console’s library you cant really go wrong with Sunset Overdrive. It’s big, silly, and most of all, fun in spades. You just have to be willing to grind (pun intended) through those early stages to see it at its best.

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