Reviews November 3, 2014

Sunset Overdrive

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Reviewed By: Ricardo Benitez
System: Xbox One
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Rated: M
Players: 1 (2-8 Online)
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 10/28/2014
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Insomniac Games

I can’t seem to stop chuckling. Even as I write this review, I’m trying my best not to erupt into a fit of laughter. Why am I laughing? Because after almost a week of playing Sunset Overdrive, I just noticed that my favorite gun in my new favorite video game has testicles!

This is Sunset Overdrive - full of irreverent, irrelevant, wacky, senseless fun that is hard to put down once you’ve started playing. Give the game five minutes and if you aren’t hooked by the wicked sense of humor and slick graphics/gameplay, then you just aren’t right in the head. Taking place in the fictional metropolis called Sunset City, you play the role of a janitor working at a mega-corporation named Fizzco. The company thought it would be cool to throw a rave in celebration of their newest energy drink: Overcharge Delirium XT. As you clean up the mess of other people, a stranger comes to you in desperate need of medical help. As you look on, he transforms into a bubbling, oozy mutant. Running away, you notice others at the party who had some Delirium are also turning into mutants. It isn’t long before the city is quarantined as the citizens continue to mutate at an absurd pace. The apocalypse was kick started by an energy drink?  Yeah, it’s safe to say that the story is ridiculous. That’s far from a bad thing mind you…

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The over-the-top story leads to a just as crazy gameplay experience. Sunset Overdrive feels like bits of Jet Set Radio and Dead Rising were thrown into Saints Row.  If you aren’t grinding on rails around the city you’re wall running between buildings and bouncing on cars, all while blasting hordes of monsters. Get from point A to B in a sandbox title has never been more fun. And though it takes a few hours to really get comfortable with the controls, once you’ve got them down you’ll never want to go back to the normal ways of travel. When it comes to weaponry, it wouldn’t be an insomniac title without insane weapons – I once wrecked a group of enemies with exploding teddy bears – which makes the running and gunning more fun. I laughed out loud when I blasted an enemy in the face with the “Flaming Compensator”, the aforementioned testicle gun. No, they aren’t really tentacles, the part that holds the fuel (for the flame) to ignite your bullets just happens to look like the family jewels!  

Aiming is extremely loose, but not to the point where you feel a loss of control. Also, you aren't forced to continue grinding and jumping, but if you stay on the ground it’s almost guaranteed that you will be overcome by bad guys. To encourage you to keep moving, besides death, is a style meter. Getting kills while grinding and jumping will build up this meter that will in turn give you tactical advantages or perks. For instance, normally bouncing on a car will just get you some air. Doing so while your style meter is high (and you have the bounce-splosion perk equipped) will cause the car you’re bouncing to explode, sending out a shock wave and flames in all directions. These sorts of perks are not only needed as the game becomes more difficult, but are also really fun to use against foes.

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If you are thinking this is going to be another drab, dark, post-apocalyptic shooter, then think again. Sunset Overdrive is so bright and vibrant; I’d be surprised if any color was left out during development. Add to that a cool, comic book like art style where an enemy’s entrails spell out the world “blam” after a hole is blown through them and you have an awesome looking game on your hands. The music is also amazing, featuring a very 90s punk rock vibe. The voice work is great thanks to the actors and the witty script that carries the story. That’s not to say that the humor always hits it mark. As a matter of fact, I would say that roughly a quarter of the jokes just felt odd. Still, there is a lot to like - whether it’s someone breaking the forth wall or funny cutscene, there’s enough to keep you coming back for more.

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Speaking of coming back for more, Sunset Overdrive does have a multiplayer mode. Called Chaos Squad, it allows you and seven friends to group up before taking on mini-challenges. Once done, a huge night defense mission will start. It’s a nice break from the single player mode as you get to hang with friends and wreak havoc (though it can be difficult in its own right). I read rumors that Insomniac will open up the world to allow for a free-for-all mode where friends can grind to their hearts content. We’ll have to see if that comes to fruition.  

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The attitude of Sunset Overdrive is so out there and apparent, you can’t help but give it your full and undivided attention. The sheer amount of content, story and side missions that haven’t felt repetitive after hours of play, punk soundtrack, and the most rich and colorful open world this side of the console war make Sunset Overdrive quite possibly the most original and best choice for the Xbox One!

Gameplay: 9
Some of the most original gameplay elements I’ve seen in a long time. That said, the controls can be tough to learn and the story’s jokes are hit or miss.

Graphics: 10
So smooth, seamless and colorful it just might make your eyes hurt…in a good way!

Sound: 10
With its punk rock soundtrack and superb voice acting for just about every character shown, I can’t think of any way for it to be better.

Replay Value: 10
I beat it and yet, I continue to play. Can't stop playing it really!

Final Score:

9.8