It’s common for apocalyptic themed games to have an association with a ‘doom and gloom’ vibe, complemented with a high level of seriousness and a single minded focus for survival. In the case of Sunset Overdrive however, it’s all in the name of good chaotic fun.
Published by Microsoft Studios, Sunset Overdrive is an open world, first person shooter developed by Insomniac Games (known for Spyro the Dragon and more recently, Fuse). The story is set in Sunset City, 2027: A new energy drink called OverCharge Delirium XT is released to the public by FizzCo, only to find that it turns humans into mutants and ultimately kicks off the apocalypse. Your character is left confused with the whole ordeal, but befriends a few survivors who are in positive spirits and continually refer to the recent events as the ‘awesomeocalypse’. Together, they all have the same goal of finding a way to escape Sunset City and its newly mutated inhabitants.
The first thing you notice when you start playing Sunset Overdrive is how freely you move and how your character can traverse any part of the cityscape. It is enforced throughout the entirety of the game to traverse to your destination, as the ground is full of enemies including mutants (referred to as OD), Scabs (who are effectively bandits) and FizzCo Bots. You’re shown all the different methods to traverse throughout the game and the most common method you start off with is by grinding power lines, rails and fence tops. This allows you to stay high and away from harm, as well as getting to your destination quickly. The controls are very user friendly and are easy to pick up. The early sections of the game which act as the tutorial also explains everything you need to know quite clearly.
The aim of the gameplay in Sunset Overdrive is to kill enemies in the most ‘stylish’ ways possible, and this is achieved through the Style Meter. There are four levels to the Style Meter and each one triggers an Amp, which is an enhancement to your character or weapon. Each level of the Style Meter is unlocked by continually chaining traversal moves together, such as a bounce onto a grind rail then wall running. In addition to the Style Meter, a Combo Counter appears below which measures how quickly your Style Meter is filling up. The longer you keep this combo going, the faster the meter increases. If you’re on the ground for a few seconds and you’re not killing anything, the Combo Counter resets to zero. The only thing I could compare it to would be if you were Tony Hawk and decided that Sunset City is your new American Wasteland. It can be insanely fun racking up a huge combo of awesome moves before unleashing it on your enemies.
To elaborate further on amps, there are six kinds:
• Hero Amps – Which are for your character and usually alters the way you traverse
• Hero Extra Amps – Just another slot for a Hero Amp
• Melee Swing Amps – Enhances your melee attack
• Dive Bomb Amps – Affect your ground pound move
• Epic Amps – Assist in fighting off enemies by producing insanely powerful elements
• Weapon Amps – Equipped to each of your weapons and alters its abilities
Amps are activated depending on what level your Style Meter is at. Level 1 activates your Hero Amp, Level Two activates your Melee and Weapon Amps, Level 3 activates your Epic Amp, and Level 4 effectively gives your character a massive sugar high as the effectiveness of all your amps skyrockets. There are many amps in the game and they can they can be purchased or obtained from doing missions and gathering collectibles from within the city. This kind of customisation that Sunset Overdrive offers is excellent and really allows players to personalise their experience with the game.
Sunset Overdrive features a range of weapons to choose from, with each weapon suited for killing the right type of enemy. Fire-based weapons are effective against the OD, energy-based weapons are effective against the FizzCo bots and anything that fires a bullet is always effective against Scabs. Traps are a standout form of weapon in this game and they are mainly used in Night Defense missions where you have to keep hordes of OD from coming in to your safe base. These types of missions offer quite the challenge as selecting the right trap and positioning it in the right position is the key to success.
In similar fashion to amps, the game offers passive upgrades to your character, called Overdrives. Each Overdrive alters the capabilities of your character, such as decreasing the amount of damage you take or increasing the damage dealt to an enemy. You’re only limited to having six Overdrives active, however there are heaps to collect so you’ll end up having a vast range to select from. Each Overdrive is earned from collecting badges, which are earned simply from doing various things in the game for an extended period of time. While the use of Overdrives are emphasised quite a lot in the game, it lacks in functionality and there is no noticeable difference when they are active.
Sunset Overdrive also has online multiplayer functionality through Chaos Squad, which is a 2-8 player team. Your team votes on whether to play through a mission that boosts the level of chaos in the city, ultimately making the final night defense round difficult or to select a different mission that makes the night defense round much easier. The key difference between the two outcomes is the rewards and the amount you get depending on difficulty. Your character’s progress is transferrable between single player and multiplayer, and does not affect the campaign.
The humour in Sunset Overdrive is amazing and is woven through the story incredibly well. It reinforces the intention of making an apocalyptic game fun and positive, and it’s seen through throughout the dialogue and especially in the weapons. There’s a gun called the ‘AKfuckyouup’ and one of the most effective weapons in the game fires teddy bears filled with TNT. Actions such as loud music or explosions in Sunset Overdrive occur with words such as ‘UNST’ or ‘POP’ visually appearing, akin to Scott Pilgrim. If you’re a fan of the Borderlands games and have decided that grinding on rails is your thing, you’ll feel right at home.
Sunset Overdrive has taken the apocalyptic theme and added an upbeat, positive spin to it. With user intuitive controls, excellent gameplay customisation and well integrated humour, it makes surviving an apocalypse
look ever so awesome.