It’s exactly a year ago since the launch of Dead Rising 3, a landmark open world next-gen title where the hero had to traverse a city that had been overcome by infected inhabitants. There was a huge array of over-the-top – and often humorous – weaponry at your disposal, special moves and abilities that could be upgraded, changeable costumes, as well as countless hidden collectibles. There were some friendly faces about the vast map who could help your quest too, while others were hellbent on doing whatever it took to stop you in your tracks.
Microsoft’s latest release, Sunset Overdrive, on the other hand… oh, wait. You can’t help but notice that the two games appear strangely similar in premise. But this is no simple rehash with shinier graphics. Look a little deeper and Insomniac’s debut on the Xbox One is really quite unique – and arguably the system seller we’ve been waiting for.
"Colourful, fast, frenetic and fun-filled, you’ll be absolutely buzzing after even a few minutes romping around the rooftops, grinding down rail tracks and swinging on power lines."
Colourful, fast, frenetic and fun-filled, you’ll be absolutely buzzing after even a few minutes romping around the rooftops, grinding down rail tracks and swinging on power lines. There can be so much happening at any one time – with countless enemies and explosions filling the screen – that you’re eyes will be positively aching after even a short gaming session. But you still won’t want to put the controller down.
Unlike last year’s zombie-based release, there’s a lighter feel to the proceedings; it manages to be funny – often in a self-deprecating way – and successfully manages to smash through that fourth wall. There seems to be a lot more freedom in Sunset as well, with few objectives needing to be completed against a countdown timer – which is always a good thing.
As is always the case with these types of capers, the opening scenes show how everyone’s living in peace and harmony, only for things to quickly go downhill. All is well until the unsuspecting public starts glugging the latest drink sensation, an energy drink called Overcharge Delerium XT. The manufacturer Fizzco is hosting a massive event in Sunset City to give the locals a taste of their new creation – when it all goes to hell and everyone who samples it mutates into crazed orange creatures, desperate to sink their teeth into both you and another carton of the drink.
"You can tweak your character’s appearance at any time during the game… just as you could in Dead Rising 3. Feel like a change of hairstyle – something mohawky, perhaps? Go for it."
It certainly looks like the game has been designed by people who may have had a few too many sugary drinks themselves. It’s a colourful beast alright. Everything is bright and bold, from the buildings and signage to the cars littering the streets, the explosions erupting into the air and the mutants scrambling for their liquid drug.
And the game certainly boasts a healthy mix of different enemy types to keep you on your toes, from the run-of-the-mill (and easily disposed of) minions to the aptly-named Blower (which has leafblower fused to his body that shoots out dangerous goo) and the massive Herker, which will eagerly pummel you into submission. Some of these guys are insanely big and pose a genuine threat unless you have a suitable weapon at your disposal.
One of Sunset Overdrive’s biggest highlights has to be the guns. Just like the aforementioned Dead Rising blastfest, the arsenal on offer in Sunset Overdrive is varied to say the least. There are too many guns to mention here but the Flaming Compensator (shotgun that sets enemies on fire), TNTeddy (cuddly toy strapped to explosives), High Fidelity (spews vinyl records at bad guys – just like the Shaun of the Dead movie) and the Acid Sprinkler (which, er, sprinkles acid) are examples of just how inventive Insomniac has been. New DLC adds more to the gun locker too, as well as new outfits.
You can tweak your character’s appearance at any time during the game… just as you could in Dead Rising 3. Feel like a change of hairstyle – something mohawky, perhaps? Go for it. Or what about dressing up as Fizzie the Fizzco mascot? None of it makes the blindest bit of difference to the gameplay but if you like customization, fill yer boots.
"The campaign is a blast, no doubt about it – but it isn’t the longest experience and it’s a little on the repetitive side with a fair amount of fetch quests when all is said and done. Fortunately, when you’ve had your fill bouncing around the city on your own, pop into a photobooth and get magically transported to the multiplayer mode."
Besides how you look, you’re also able to add Amp modifiers to increase your skills and abilities. These interchangeable goodies (there are over 50 of them!) allow you to power up your hero and add an extra dimension to the gameplay.
Staying still is certainly not the name of the game. Being stationary for too long makes you a sitting target for the crazed OD and will inevitably lead to your demise (the respawns are pretty funny, btw). Sunset Overdrive is all about freedom of movement and you’re actually encouraged to keep moving as you get more and more powerful if you do. By skidding, wall running and swinging around the city, you get significant power boosts that make it far easier to kill those infernal mutants. It’s fun and quirky but a little offputting at first; having to move constantly while aiming and navigating takes a bit of getting used to.
The campaign is a blast, no doubt about it – but it isn’t the longest experience and it’s a little on the repetitive side with a fair amount of fetch quests when all is said and done. Fortunately, when you’ve had your fill bouncing around the city on your own, pop into a photobooth and get magically transported to the multiplayer mode. It’s a pretty seamless – if somewhat obscure – way of accessing the co-op missions and lets you and up to seven friends take on the mutants in a series of progressively difficult challenges. These are absolutely mental sections with more enemies, more explosions and more rewards. This is probably where you’ll get most of your entertainment in the months to come.
Sunset Overdrive is an adrenaline-fuelled romp that oozes entertainment from every pore. There may be similarities between this and plenty of other games out there, but it’s also quite unique and has its very own personality. It well worth grabbing a copy as it’s a welcome return to form for Insomniac Games. Just think how mental the sequel could be!
Check out Gamingbolt’s review here.