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Game Review: Sunset Overdrive

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

When the Xbox One came out in 2013, I was blown away with the clear and higher definition graphics that Microsoft had showcased. Apart from their launch title, headed by Double Helix Studios, the revamped Killer Instinct (2013), another game made me want to rip my wallet and throw it at the screen. It was punk, it was loud, it was crazy with its visuals, and it had a title that burned into my mind like guitar solo from Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen; Sunset Overdrive.

Then, I forgot about it, already twisting with other gaming news and the lack of an Xbox One in my home did not do me any other favors. Fast forward a few years later, December 2018. I’ve got a PC and the wonderful and terrifying Winter Steam Sale is in full swing. The sound of keyboards typing credit card numbers and the feeling of Black Friday or Christmas morning is blasting through the veins of every gamer in the world as they are nabbing sales. Here I am, perusing through the store when I see the familiar smug face of a guy with a half mohawk and a firework cannon. Sunset Overdrive, now for PC. With a rush of anticipation, I bought it and immediately felt myself thrown into the “awesomepocalypse.”

Sunset Overdrive, developed by Insomniac Studios- known for Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon, the Resistance Franchise, and recently the PS4’s Marvel’s Spiderman (2018)- was the first instance that Insomniac worked directly with Microsoft Studios to produce a game for the Xbox One’s new library. It is a wonderfully wild game with responsive controls but held back by a less than perfect tongue in cheek story with jokes that make you laugh or groan.

The story of Sunset Overdrive is simple: An energy drink company, FizzCo, releases its newest drink to the masses; OverCharge Delirium XT. They host a massive release party in which you, the player, are forced to work since you work sanitation. Well, used to. As the party rages, people start to turn into monsters because of the drink, now called OD (Overcharge Drinkers). They chase after you blindly, to which you escape home while the city explodes around you as “Horror Night” rages on. FizzCo claims a viral outbreak has happened, causing Sunset City to fall under quarantine. After hiding in your apartment, you find yourself seeking a way out with the help of the newly formed factions of College Students, LARPers (Live Action Role Players), a Samurai wilderness scout troop, and cheerleaders in Día de Los Muertos makeup, along with making your mark as a hero of Sunset City for better or worse.

The gameplay itself is nuanced and experimental for combat and traversal; the best way to describe it is if you took the energy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the parkour/platforming of Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia, a little bit of Ratchet and Clank’s gun design, put it all in a Grindhouse Punk Blender, and mashed it up with a Zombie apocalypse through corporate greed and energy drinks. The highlight of the game is in its traversal. As the Steam page says, you can grind on rails, wall run on buildings, and jump on cars to increase your style bonuses to unlock latent abilities for your customizable character. In the open world of Sunset City, players can breeze through and travel the entire world with little or no need for a fast travel. Unfortunately, there is a fast travel system in the game which hinders the magic that it advertises. The guns and weapons that you acquire throughout the game are inventive- ranging from a Chinese Fireworks Launcher, a Turret Copter Launcher, a dynamite Teddy Bear launcher, and more. Plus, with the two DLC packs included in the PC version, there are six more weapons to use.

All throughout the world there are challenges and items for you to collect to learn more about the background story, gain new clothing pieces, or gain currency to purchase weapons or clothing pieces. All these items can help build up your high scores, which you can share if you have friends who are playing the game, though it is disheartening to see that the online mode from the Xbox One version has been taken out entirely.

Sunset Overdrive is a game that you must try out for yourself. The combination of speed, gameplay, and humor makes this a sleeper hit of 2018. Rock out to it!

-Johan Wyckoff

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