I am all for a game that focuses on its main mechanics. Adding variety to a core idea and fleshing it out is much more engrossing than arbitrarily forcing in other aspects. Mixing combat and platforming is probably what I see to be the most problematic due to them being such disconnected genres, though there are titles that do this concept superbly, like the ones made by Insomniac! Yet, one of their projects that I rarely hear anything about is Sunset Overdrive. With how much of an adorable punk attitude it brings, I am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.
Comedy carrying the journey
After creating your visual avatar, you take on the role of “Player” who works as a cleaning operative under Fizzco. This company has just released their new energy drink known as OverCharge and gone so far as to set up a launch party for this. However, everyone who consumes it turns into violent pimpled mutants and thus an outbreak occurs! With the city in quarantine and you being caught in this apocalyptic scenario, it seems like a fitting time to escape it all.
Yet, this is far from a serious or dark take on a world in chaos and shambles. Sunset Overdrive acknowledges that it is a video game and simply wants to use this as an excuse to be silly, which I am all for. The fourth wall is constantly being broken, to the point that even invisible walls are being used as both a reference to a mechanic and the actual area that is blocked off by the corporation. With a colourful aesthetic and insane violence that is hidden by these monsters leaking soda instead of blood, it is quite an engaging ride to join in on.
It also helps that the cast works off the protagonist nicely with fun banters, such as how one of the storekeepers wants you to come back without seeing you awkwardly often or one emotional goal about fulfilling a kid’s dream to join a rock concert! It is all endearing, and while certain jokes can be underwhelming, they are all delivered well and never come off as forced or annoying. By having such an amount of various humour, the plot takes a big backseat for the better. It will revolve around gathering other factions in order to fight the evil enterprise and flee this town, but it is rather there as an excuse to be amusing.
Sadly, while the characters are not bad, they are rather traditional with barely any diversity to them. You got the nerdy sidekick, the old veteran looking out for you, the badass woman, etc. Despite that they come with some backstories, they are rather solid than deep. With that said, there is a lot of creativity to these groups of survivors! You got military units with code of samurai, hardcore LARPers, and spoiled geeks to name a few, which makes them delightful to interact with and assist. Furthermore, these are here for the different punchlines, making me laugh alongside this title’s ridiculous comedy. Not all land, but this is usually due to personal taste than an uneven tone. Even if the overall objective and citizens can be forgettable, I had too many chuckles to let it bother me.
Story Score: 7/10
Rarely have I enjoyed exploring an open world like in Sunset Overdrive and this can be relegated to how wonderfully it combines your platforming and combat abilities! I wish to start talking about the former, as it makes getting anywhere a blast. You mainly have two buttons for acrobatic purposes; A to jump high up, vault over obstacles, and bounce on specific furniture, while X makes you wall run, swing off poles, grind onto or beneath wires, and even slide on the water! More will be unlocked as you progress like air dash and water pulse, but it is incredible how many options you get from the start and it adds to how creative you can be with your traversals!
It becomes exhilarating to take on timed trials or merely look around using all of your moves! Going from grinding on telephone wires to wall running on nuclear pipes before hopping between towers, should be an indication of the rush you are in for. This is onwards supported by the excellent layouts of each location due to their set pieces, such as a park with plenty of toys to use or the tall buildings to scale, giving you various objects to use for getting from one place to another. In fact, because of how amusing it is to use the environments imaginatively in order to get around, I ended up even neglecting fast travels.
Not only is this helped by the missions testing you in how quickly you can get through different obstacles, but also by the collectables scattered around! You will find toilet papers on poles, shoes hanging from wires, neon signs stapled on walls, air balloons in midair, and cameras to destroy! All these are fun to search for and you can even buy maps for them at one of the stores using cans of energy drinks you gather from defeated mutants, opened chests, and beaten trucks, should you have a hard time.
Speaking of, the arsenal to acquire is quite the amazing one! You do have the B button for a three-hit combo and the ability to dodge roll, but since your health bar can easily go down when hundreds of foes are attacking you, it is better to keep a distance. Luckily, you can have a selection of eight weapons, which are effortlessly changeable through a firearm wheel and truly inventive. A bazooka shooting TNT teddies, a firework gun, and an electric needle rifle, are just some examples of how bizarre and diverse they can be! Each of them comes with stats, is effective against certain types of enemies, and has limited ammo, making you have to use them variedly.
Even better, you can upgrade them up to level five by simply killing fiends and using amps. The latter are basically enhancements that are initiated by getting enough styles, which is shown by a bar in the upper right corner. You fill it up by using your acrobatic skills and eliminating baddies simultaneously, with each rank activating specific amps you have equipped. The moment you stop using your movements, this meter will go down and become empty.
The first stage will trigger your two hero versions, which are general boosts such as making you do more damage while in the air. In the second phase, you unlock those for your firearms, melee attacks, and ground pound. While the last two are equipped to your character and give moves such as shooting projectiles upon swinging your bat or freezing adversaries around you when landing, the former types are directly put on your ranged weapons and are just as thrilling! Functionalities like randomly firing rockets and recovering rounds, add to make deciding what tools to take with you exciting and strategic.
Finally, there are the epic amps at rank three, which are the most insane ones and have powers such as making it rain fire while grinding! All of these are going to be worth taking into consideration, as the enemies will come in plenty and in different kinds. Bandits bombarding you with turrets, robots from Fizzco charging lasers, and mutants spawning other ones that can climb on surfaces are some solid examples of how you will become overwhelmed with the number of foes to take down!
However, this game is never too challenging. You will have to vary up your acrobatics and even the fiends will shoot in front of where you are going to take you off guard, which is a neat touch! It is just that you have a vast amount of abilities to use and as long as you remember that, no fight should be too much to handle. Besides, being able to melee attack and dodge roll on rails, boxes laying around containing health units and ammo that opponents can also spawn, and the world slowing down whenever you move and aim down your sight simultaneously, makes the hectic battles more than manageable.
What can be an issue is the lack of evolving difficulty. You will meet different adversaries, but how you take them down will not change much. It never becomes stale due to how you need to always run and jump around, but more alterations to these scenarios would have been welcoming. Not to mention, dying is nothing more than a slap on the wrist and simply respawns you nearby where you got killed. This will also neglect any desire to experiment with your setup since guns can be expensive to buy and even with the number of ingredients to find, I never replaced the gear I had from the beginning.
One could argue this helps to please anyone’s playstyle, but it also hinders the appeal of giving new ways a shot and seeing if they could also be worthwhile. Similarly happened with the overdrives, which are stat enhancements you can equip six off and are unlocked by gaining badges for doing stuff, like grinding or shooting with specific weapon types. While supportive, these just strengthen what you are already mainly using.