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Sunset Overdrive Review

By DOA hed

Anyone who has listened to our podcast knows that Sunset Overdrive was far and away my most anticipated game of 2014. I was blown away right from the first cinematic trailer at E3 2013, for which I caught plenty of hell from my co-hosts (apparently I’m not allowed to think a game looks amazing unless its all in game footage). So the game is finally here and did it live up to the hype I had placed upon it……

Welcome to Sunset City, where you the player (at one point when asked your name the reply is “it’s above my head in the multiplayer”) have just survived “horror night”. Horror night, as it has come to be known, is the night the Fizz Corporation (Fizzco) has just unveiled their new energy drink, Overcharge, at a concert where you happen to be working. All hell breaks loose when everyone (but you) begins consuming it and turning into hideous orange mutants bent on attacking and killing everyone they see. In no time they have taken over and Fizzco has quarantined the city and told everyone in the outside world that all inside are dead.

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Format: Xbox one
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Copy provided by publisher

Podcast Review: Direct Download (Right Click and Save As)

You, of course, are not dead. Having taken refuge in your apartment and after seventeen days are finally forced out in to the world where you begin to meet an ever expanding group of survivors led by Walter, a grumpy old timer who works a bit like the father figure you clearly never had. From that point on your goal is to escape the overrun city and expose Fizzco for the apocalypse-bringing bastards they really are.

Throughout the story you’ll meet colorful personalities to help you along your journey. Floyd runs the Vats, which are used to create amps for your weapons and character. Two Hat Jack sells guns, ammo, and collectible maps (which are very helpful for the completionist types like me). Calista is your source for the hundreds of clothing options, ranging from luchadore masks to kangaroo jock straps. Sam, the computer nerd, lays out most of the mission and plot points for you. And these are just a few of the friendly ones…

Sunset City is broken down into four sections (though you can go anywhere right from the start): the harbor, downtown, little Tokyo, and your starting positing the old factory district. Each of these areas has a faction that you will need to befriend to get their assistance in escaping Sunset. You’ll start with “The Oxfords” a group of preppy ivy leaguers that Sam is desperate to impress. They don’t seem very worried about what’s happening throughout the city as they spend all day texting to each other despite being in the same room. You’ll need to cater to each one of these selfish elitists to procure their help in fixing a vehicle to escape the city; and what an amazing city Sunset is.

If you've seen any of the many trailers for this game you already know it’s a bright, colorful, open world game that has you jumping, grinding, bouncing, and swinging throughout the city. Insomniac wasn't kidding when they said you can go from one side of Sunset to the other without ever touching the ground. It’s an amazing world they've built where virtually everything can be used to traverse Sunset City. It’s a joy to move through; even more so when you unlock super bounce and air dash. Some have complained in previews that the movement should be faster but keep in mind that you will be killing hordes of enemies while doing all your parkour moves so after playing though the game in its entirety it feels just right to this reviewer.

Sunset Overdrive does not want you on the ground, or standing still, and if you try it you will almost certainly die. There is only one difficulty, but enemies hit hard at all times, however they have terrible accuracy so if you stay on the move you’ll survive. The game gives you a high amount of aim assist for your weapons, but when you’re always on the run it becomes almost a necessity. Mixing up the types of moves and getting kills with flair build up your style meter, which triggers your amps.

Amps are bonuses that improve your weapons and character. They’re a lot of fun and really add to the craziness of the game. There is a lot of joy in sending out tornadoes from a melee swing, or setting off explosions under your feet with each bounce you make. Or one of my personal favorites, having lightning bolts storm down from everywhere stunning and killing anything near you. That last one is an epic amp and justly so.

From the main story there are many great missions to embark upon, for example, saving a ladies robotic dog that will rip enemies apart with the help of your kitty cannon. Yes you heard that right
k-i-t-t-y c-a-n-n-o-n. Basically you fire a kitty at a group of enemies and a dog goes after it, killing anyone in its attack radius. Then there’s grinding and bouncing atop a radio tower fighting a giant Fizzco mascot balloon, who’s firing lasers and trash talking you the whole time. It’s one of the amazing over the top boss fights from early in the game. The main story quests stay fun, fresh, and over the top all the way to end.

One of the real stars of the game is the humor. There is a lot of great ‘breaking the fourth wall’ comedy in the game. As an achievement junkie its great to hear my character say, ”what an amazing view, and more importantly one step closer to a pointless achievement!”; or when a NPC is concerned you may die you reply, “no big deal I’ll just re-spawn over there”. That’s obviously just a couple of quick one-liners but there are many wonderful conversations between characters and a good amount of situational comedy as well.

Of course with all the good comes some bad and that lies within the side quests. They’re just a boring bunch of fetch quests and killing random groups of baddies that are only there to pad out the length of the game, and not in a good way. There is nothing fun about going up to a NPC and being asked to retrieve five comic books, then returning and being asked to find five more, then returning yet again only be asked to get ten more to finish the task. It’s just tedious nonsense lacking imagination in a game otherwise full of it. That said, there are a decent amount of rewards you get for doing theses tasks such as money, weapons, and achievements.

The other two things that are there to pad the game are challenges; which are basically just mini games where you try to get a high score and include leaderboards. Then there’s the seemingly never ending groups of collectibles in the game. Normally I would hate this type of thing but I have a soft spot for games that actually have collectibles that serve a purpose. There are hundreds of shoes, signs, toilet paper, balloons, etc. that all work as currency in the game for buying amps from Floyd. I've never understood why more game don’t do this.

Lastly, this brings us to the eight player co-op multiplayer of the game known as ‘Chaos Squads’. It’s a surprisingly fun addition to the game where after choosing the area of the city you want to play in, you and your team engage in a series of mini games that culminate in a giant base defense. You are given a choice of two mini games to vote on each round. Two of which include delivering bombs to points on a highway, and returning fizzy mascot balloons to your base while the floor is covered in lava. Each mini game gives you points and adds chaos percentage to the base defense; the higher the chaos the more intense the defense is. So your voting does matter beyond just which mini game you prefer as one mini game may have more chaos than the other. The base defense is the best and craziest part as you and your cohorts hold the line against literally hundreds of enemies at once. With the amount of players, enemies and explosions going on in close proximity all around you, it’s a wonder that there is never any lag or frame drops. All in all, it’s a solid addition to the game though I doubt most people would spend more than about ten hours in it before they've had their fill.

So did it live up the hype? Over all I would say a resounding YES! With an amazingly crafted world and great laughs abounding in every scene my only reservation are the unimaginative side quests, but with them being only a small portion of the game its only a minor knock on Sunset Overdrive. I recommend everyone play this holiday gem as soon as possible and here’s hoping for an even better sequel.

+ Bright colorful world
+ Humor
+ Over the top boss fights
+ Unique traversal system
- Repetitive side quests

Score: 9/10

What I played: Completed the story, all side missions, all collectibles, and achieved a gold medal on all challenges.
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