When the Xbox One was announced, Microsoft put a lot of weight into the marketing Sunset Overdrive, an over-the-top third person shooter where players are tasked with gunning down mutated humans during an apocalypse scenario, dubbed the “Awesomepocalypse”. Microsoft’s money was well-spent, because Sunset Overdrive is a non-stop ride of ridiculous gameplay, stupid jokes, insane weapons, and endless explosions.
In short, it’s amazing.
Fans of the Saints Row franchise will feel right at home in Sunset City, though I’m inclined to say that Sunset Overdrive is even more insane than recent Saints Row titles. Where Saints has a small degree of seriousness, Sunset Overdrive is batshit insane from the start. Character development even embodies hyperbole, with every single clothing option (there are more than 200, including collectibles) something that will make you smirk, giggle, scoff, or guffaw.
The “Awesomepocalypse” occurs thanks to FizzCo, the world’s most powerful company, releasing their new energy drink Overcharge, which accidentally turns the population into zombie-like mutants. Because of the PR-hit the company would take if the world found out about Sunset City’s plight, an “invisible wall” is erected to keep inhabitants in while FizzCo cleans up the mess. The “invisible wall” is a parody on other games that use it to prevent players from going out of bounds or exploring an area too early.
It’s that sort of humor that is rife within the rest of the game, where characters break the fourth wall or missions and conversations openly mock the world of video games as a whole. The reason it works so well is because of consistency. At no point during the campaign do you feel even a hint of seriousness start creeping in. From start to finish, Sunset Overdrive takes the ridiculousness and cranks it up to eleven.
The locomotion is even crazy, giving you the opportunity to grind on rails and telephone wires, run across walls, bounce on cars, trees, or other objects, or dash in mid-air to traverse the enormous cityscape. While doing so, you’ll be forced to battle mutants, called “OD,” evil humans (Scabs), and FizzCo’s own robot military. For the first half of the game it’s daunting, truth be told. Learning how to effectively move from area to area while trying to target and destroy dangerous enemies is almost too much to do at one time.
Thankfully it starts to come together the more you play. Soon you’ll find yourself stringing together insane parkour skills as you complete missions, all while changing weapons and laying waste to everything in your path en route to enormous combos and high scores.
The Amp and Overcharge systems are something you’re familiar with if you’ve had experience in even a short list of video games. Amps are added in two ways, as passive abilities or as active. Everything thing you do throughout Sunset City, from grinding and bouncing, to killing particular enemies with specific weapon classes will earn you XP that can be applied to passive abilities. These passives may increase certain weapon damage, damage against certain types of enemies, or how much ammo you can hold, among other bonuses.
For active skills, you have four tiers of Overcharge, which increases as you remain mobile and kill enemies. Each tier has a number of Amps that can be applied to add even more insanity to your experience. Bouncing on cars, here, now you shoot fireballs every time you land. Rocking a sweet grind? Now you shoot fire on either side of you as you go. Hell, you can even put one on that gives you your own personal announcer to broadcast all your sweet moves.
Sunset City is setup a lot like Liberty City is in GTA IV, with three islands connected via bridges. Each island is progressively more difficult, with additional enemies, collectibles, and side quests to complete. Each area is just as ridiculous as the last, with characters, both helpful and dangerous, acting as caricatures of what you’d expect real people to be.
If you walk into Sunset Overdrive expecting a serious looking action game, you’ll be drastically disappointed. If you want a parody of what today’s video gaming landscape looks like though, with no hard-hitting plotline, just massive explosions, insane weapons, crazy character abilities, and an array of dick jokes, this game is for you.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10