I’ve established many times that I don’t like open world games very much. The GTA series doesn’t hold my interest. Red Dead Redemption was never on my radar. Fallout 4 was alright I suppose, but so full of fluff that I couldn’t engage much with it. Watch Dogs 2 was an exception due it not taking itself too seriously (mostly) and maintaining a sense of fun and variety for most of my time with it. Sunset Overdrive seems to manage this too somehow.
As a side note, I neglected to take any screenshots during my playthrough, so these are mostly promo ones.
On the surface, this should be a game I won’t touch. Open world, meaningless story, and humour that’s 90% references rather than something actually funny. Oh, and annoying characters too. And then there was the dreadful, dreadful marketing that tried so hard to be zany and “down with the kidz”. But thanks to it being included with Games with Gold I decided to give it a try. With its fun movement, varied combat, and a relentless pace it manages to overcome these things that would put me off and gave me around 10 hours of fun. Not bad for a free game. Well, a Games with Gold game.
You play you! Or at least as like you as you can get from the character creation system. Thankfully, the option of tall, ripped man fits me perfectly. You work in Sunset City where a new energy drink is launched. But oh no! Drinking it turns you into a slavering monster! Cue you trying to escape the city whilst shooting monsters and people with a variety of pretty interesting weapons.
The story is mostly meaningless and sends you around the various groups (from hipsters to LARPers) that have sprung up around the city completing missions to make your escape. The main issue with the story is that there’s no real antagonist. Your enemy is the faceless corporation that makes the drinks, so you never really see a true threat. Admittedly, the way they handle the final boss in this regard is somewhat intelligent, if a little silly. The characters that present the story are mostly annoying stereotypes, and I found the faster the cutscenes were over the better.
The story doesn’t matter though. You’ll be here for the gameplay, which is pretty fun. There’s a traversal system based on bouncing on nearly anything and grinding on everything else. There’s really no need to touch the ground, and you can kill most enemies whilst on the move thanks to an auto-aim system. Sometimes this can be a little tedious, as you can just ride around in a circle shooting enemies that can’t get to you. But getting around is great fun. This makes some of the traversal side missions very entertaining.
The weapons are varied and interesting, ranging from firework machine guns to explosive bowling ball launchers. There are weapons for most situations, but more often than not you’ll be focusing on weapons with splash damage to deal with large groups of enemies. Some opponents are weak to weapon combinations, such as setting them on fire before hitting them with high impact weapons, but mostly blowing everything up is the way to go. It’s a shame that most enemies aren’t that interesting. Most are zombies, bigger zombies, or faster zombies. There are human enemies too, but they’re no more interesting. The interesting weapons avoid the combat from coming stale if you’re willing to mix it up for yourself. This is one of those games in which fun mechanics make up for a weak story.
Now, this is almost a meme game at times, and that can become somewhat annoying. Every time you die, you respawn with a short clip that references something else. Maybe you’ll arrive in the DeLoreon from Back to the Future. Perhaps you’ll crawl out of a TV a la The Ring. I know this is a silly game, but I don’t understand why this was included other than to practically yell at the player “HEY! Remember this thing?! We remember this thing!”. There are a lot of 4th wall breaks in the game, which are mostly painful and have been done (and done far better) elsewhere. It comes across as trying too hard to be crazy all the time.
Having said all that, the game is fun as far as I’m concerned. The action is constantly fast-paced and there’s always something new and interesting to do. The tower defence style missions are a bit of a pain, but those are few and far between. The majority of the time I was having fun zipping around and accidentally finding a secret item, or a horde of enemies to blow up with explosive teddy bears. It didn’t outstay its welcome thanks to a fairly short campaign (compared to other open world games anyway) and I never felt I had to grind to get enough power to take on the next challenge.
Sunset Overdrive was developed by Insomniac and published by Microsoft. I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend giving it a try if you’re in the market for something fun and a bit silly. Just be prepared to enter the game with the mindset of someone less mature than you may be!