There is a signature style that can be found in a singular work by a game developer, a style that is carried over across many projects and lives on in many forms. Insomniac Games has been focused on a single style for some time, yes this style has vanished in one or two of their lesser games, but in the big ones the brilliance and wackiness shines. Insomniac Games is best known for their mostly family friendly Playstation exclusive Ratchet and Clank which cements the studios general style, and then in the inverse we now have Sunset Overdrive an exclusive for the Xbox One that features just about everything I love about their Ratchet and Clank games just reborn in an entirely new way.
Insomniac Games is all about the lifeblood of their worlds, and in the case of most of their games it is the protagonist, we play as the player, yes that’s right he doesn’t have a name as he points out when asked he actually mentions he doesn’t stating it appears above his head in multiplayer but he can’t see it. That’s the thing with these games they are full of humour which overall just adds to the core experience allowing to be constantly excited for the next time he or she opens their mouth. Then we can compare to Ratchet and Clank, our character is the unwilling hero, in some ways he can be considered an anti-hero as he follows a simple goal of doing what he needs to do to get what he wants, so you can see Ratchet and Clank in this game because this perfectly references Ratchet in the first game.
But apart from the humor the comparisons can stop here as Sunset Overdrive sets itself out as something truly unique in an industry that is quickly divulging into a series of sequels and remakes, I could even go as far as to say this is Insomniac’s finest work. As far as I can tell Sunset Overdrive knows it is a game, the references to re-spawns, or even other games all give into this belief and this doesn’t hurt the game at all, in fact for me personally this suspends my thoughts of disbelief, a lot of the ideas of Sunset Overdrive are things that are completely over the top and it needed this premise to fully understand and enjoy the game.
For lack of a better word Sunset Overdrive is completely insane, at every corner you can see the inner workings of this world and the core gameplay completely shows this much thought. Across the entire game you spend a good portion of your time with your feet off the ground, grinding on rails, bouncing off objects (some of which defy logic), and whatever other aerodynamic abilities you can think of, run along wall, check, float through the air, to some other degree check. Sunset Overdrive is fast paced and tasks you with using all your skills in order to overcome any foes, and to put it right the gameplay is simply insane.
The plot line really ties in with this thought, as it is just as messed and filled with insanity as the core game. I’ll be honest half the time I had no idea what was actually going on, my time with this game came down to a core plot of parkour, grinding on rails and listening to people talk about things I never quite understood. But the insane plot line is still a major point, this game is all about some soft drink that was not scientifically ready and turns the drinker into a mutant, among all this the company behind it all Fizzco is covering up what has happened and sealed all surviving residents of Sunset City inside to fend for themselves against the mutant apocalypse.
Honestly when it came to the plot of this game I don’t think it was anything more than a last minute thought, where one developer likely turned around and said, “We really need a plot, we have all these awesome ideas and a truly enjoyable game, but we need to tie this all together”. I could be wrong about this entirely but this is actually the feeling the game gives, and honestly in this instance the idea of a last minute plot creation works well as the very ideas match this thought and tie in wonderfully with an already messed up game.
The humor of this game really is one of the strongest points and was clearly something really important in this games conception, every second a new joke is spouted and almost every single conversation seems to have some bad joke chucked in which meant things never got dull. At many moments this game is particularly noteworthy for its humor especially when it looks at the world through our protagonists eyes, the game references politics, evil corporations, and even touches something you should not go near the death of a loved one, it even makes jokes on abandonment with a character shouting “I’m free” at the unfortunate news. It is also funny how this game made fun of other games or stables of the game industry itself, all of this culminating in many funny moments.
After a while most games grow stale particularly when they rely so heavily on humor as a big point, but I never found that with Sunset Overdrive. Unless I had to restart a mission for whatever reasons jokes were rarely ever repeated so most jokes were still new and exciting right up to the games certainly messed up conclusion. The jokes told by the player character throughout the game actually add to the absurdity of any situation, most combat sections actually feature a series of jokes told by the player which add to the sheer insanity of the gameplay, these jokes just make the proceedings better.
While humor certainly plays a huge part in what Sunset Overdrive is about the gameplay which really is the shining star of the whole experience. At its lowest form this is a game all about performing a series of stunts as you head about the city, at a higher form Sunset Overdrive is something greater, it goes beyond the silly stunts that make the game and instead is a wacky shooter.
Sunset Overdrive goes beyond most other games of the same kind, as the gameplay entails this is a bright and colorful game full of wonder and whimsy, and the general offerings match this. The weapons you have at your disposal are certainly exciting and match the general aesthetic of what this game is about, a weapon I found to be particularly notable is one acquired through the story that enabled me to shoot exploding teddy bears at my enemies, which was as awesome as it sounds and just as hilarious. But that is just one example there are so many interesting and amazing weapons that can be used to often change up the gameplay in a wide variety of ways.
But beyond weapons there really is something more here, something greater, it is the way this game is approached. Most shooters emphasize cover or strategy but here neither is an option, in fact usually we are told to stand our ground, but instead we are told to keep moving something I very much appreciated. This game is a juggling act of dodging enemy attacks while providing quick movement across the city landscape, the environment is your playground and in the long term is your only method of survival. This juggling act consists of grinding on rails, running on walls and using bouncy objects to get through any combat situation, this is all combined with well-placed gunning which you need to become particularly good at in order to deal with any situation. Trust me, not using our protagonists particular skill set can be costly and result in many deaths.
Performing stunts and tricks while going around Sunset City is really important, as you perform a variation of different things your style meter goes up, this ranks itself to many different forms and levels up as you keep moving and doing more things. This meter plays a huge part in the core game, on top of the much needed ability to move which this all helps, building your style meter reaps other rewards that assist quite heavily in combat. As the meter levels up you can use specific abilities which you have equipped known as Amps, most of their abilities are only usable with a specific level of style and this helps to make fights easier. Although it is never as simple as just grinding across the cities power lines, shooting enemies while performing tricks plays a huge part in how this all works and can lead to some excellent results such as utilizing special abilities you have placed on your guns.
Amps play a huge part in the game, these are pretty much upgrades to your character which can be unlocked and swapped as you progress through the game. The whole process here involves some messed up collectothons which task you with collecting random rubbish from around Sunset City (because why not), this means you have to collect a specific amount of a type of balloon, or smelly shoes draped over powerlines or even neon signs (I don’t get some of this stuff either). The collecting is more of a chore and for those who are doing this because they haven’t collected things this will really put a halt on the story.
Once completed you follow a further objective of brewing these Amps which makes you need to defend your base from the attack of the OD (the mutants in the game), during these times I could never say I was having fun especially when I was forced to do this more often then I wanted to but I couldn’t argue with results. Amps provide some excellent power ups which really help to change up the way I approached combat, I was able to shoot fireballs with my melee attacks, I could jump off things and release fireballs (I played with fire a lot), and there was so many other abilities. The options are there for players to chop and change and truly define their playstyle and character and this really added some moments of greater strategy, and decision which I liked.
The other major point is how weapons upgrade, like many other games as you use them they gain experience and level up increasing strength and ammo capacity, the thing I liked best though was giving them modifications to allow them to each have better effect. These are made in the same way as Amps and work in a similar way but the choice of additional perks helps make things more exciting and as I learned while I played can really make a difference in a fight. You need to get enough style to use your perks but this forces you to play into the best method of survival.
While Sunset Overdrive is a whole lot of fun and has many great features there is a point that did of course bother me, this of course is in direct relation to the making of Amps. As I have said in order to make these you need to collect a wide variety of rubbish from the city, and this is the big problem or at least one of the problems, this is never fun in fact these fetch quests are tiresome if you are trying to enjoy the story. But it isn’t only this moment as well, many side quests task you with similar missions, and even the odd story mission does the same, you travel around the city collecting things for people and after a while these missions just become draining. I came across many missions that tasked me with the same goal which was collect comic books for a nerd, but there is also points where I was collecting fridge parts and more. These rare moments whether they were part of the main story or just a side mission I was doing are just not fun and require more time than they are worth.
On the lighter side I did love traversing Sunset City, most missions have you traveling all around the city to complete a goal and ordinarily I get bored of doing such medial tasks which require traveling across an open world surprisingly I was never bored. The many traversal options that showered Sunset City made things constantly refreshing allowing many options of how I wanted to proceed, the game is constantly engaging and the city kept me excited to wander through. I’ll admit I have seen better open worlds but none quite match the level of style and capabilities that I have encountered within Sunset Overdrive.
Nearly every second of Sunset Overdrive is truly engaging, and most of the time there is something truly hilarious going on, or just overall fun. A particularly noteworthy moment for me was when I had to fight a giant robot, this was a truly great fight and also provided comedic gold when the robot insults you. I also really liked a similar mission that tasked you with helping a suddenly emotionally conscious robot rid himself from the world. These are just examples of some of my favorite moments, but there is so much more that really standout unfortunately if I listed more I would likely ruin the game because most things on offer are just brilliant.
If you ignore some of the games slight weaknesses which luckily there are few there is an amazing game here just waiting to grab your hand and pull you in. Sunset Overdrive really is an amazing game, this shows Insomniac Games style in so many ways and really reminisces to what they did with Ratchet and Clank and says they did a great job and here is the best game you could want from us. There are few games that I think justify owning an Xbox One but I think if any game say why you need this console it is Sunset Overdrive, this game is funny and so much fun.