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Open world-style games are some of my favorites. The Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row series in particular produced some of my best experiences in the genre. Now Insomniac Games is bringing their take on the open world mayhem theme with Sunset Overdrive. Does it have a bright future, or is it the sun setting early on this newcomer?

Sunset Overdrive

I hate these blasted things and their acid spitting leaf blowers

The basic premise – evil energy drink conglomerate Fizzco has released a new beverage called Overcharge that turned almost everyone into monsters – is like something right out of a Saint’s Row game, and in fact is reminiscent of a mission in Saint’s Row 4 where you fought off walking energy drinks to save an ally. Actually, the entire experience of Sunset Overdrive feels like a Saints Row game, right down to what sounds like the same voice actors playing some of the roles. The style of humor is similar, the art style reminds me of Saint’s Row, and the cut scenes between missions hit all of the same notes. If you told me this was actually Saints Row 5, I would be tempted to believe you. This is not all a bad thing, since I enjoyed the Saints Row games, but keep in mind that if you did not like that series – particularly the super-powered Saints Row IV – you probably will not enjoy Sunset Overdrive.

The gameplay is keyed around mobility. Yes, you do an awful lot of shooting, and the weapons are rather inventive, but you are seriously vulnerable on foot. To counteract this, you are encouraged to grind any rails you can find, sliding down wires and across pipes, to keep yourself moving. You can slow down and speed up your grinds to dodge enemy attacks, which comes in very handy when dealing with baddies that spit acid at you, since they politely mark their targeted locations so you can avoid them. When you’re not skating on nearly everything in sight, you’re bouncing off of everything else. Cars, trash bins, awnings, and more have inexplicably become trampolines to launch you upwards. This sense of momentum and freedom of movement is the crux of the Sunset Overdrive experience, and the closest equivalent I can come up with is the old Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio, and that didn’t match the sense of velocity you can achieve here. Zipping around and picking off baddies with everything from a fire-shooting rifle to exploding teddy bears is a lot of fun, whereas shooting said baddies with the same weapons would have gotten tedious in a hurry without the constant movement.

Sunset Overdrive

Yes, the explosion says “boom”.

Visually Sunset Overdrive is a good looking game, not so much for its technical merits but for its art direction. The use of color, and the way the world is filled with particles and explosions during combat is a sight to behold. This is currently one of my favorite current gen games as far as graphics go because of how creatively the tech was used. The fact that it runs at a smoothly consistent framerate is another boon. The audio is pretty good as well with so-so music mixed with solid voice acting and a great compliment of sound effects during gameplay. The audio feedback during combat is very satisfying, ranging from booming explosions to the humorous banter your avatar spouts as they blow their enemies away.

Sunset Overdrive

This is about Sunset Overdrive in a nutshell

One thing the game is always cognizant of is that it is a video game. This manifests itself in several ways, some good, some annoying. The constant jokes about “hey, it’s just a video game” get old pretty quick, with the over-the-top narrator taking the cake here – I was tired of him after his introduction. However, the fact that Sunset Overdrive doesn’t overly punish the player for failure is a nice touch, acknowledging the fact that most people have lives that don’t revolve around playing a game and just want to enjoy themselves. One particular example sees you climbing a series of towers, grinding ropes between them to get to the top. Around the midway point I fell off of the tower, only to blink out of existence and get placed back midway up the tower. Mid-mission checkpoints like that are relatively common today – although still not as common as they should be – but the charm here was that my avatar chimed out loud “Hey, thanks for not making me start from the bottom again.” echoing my sentiments exactly.

Sunset Overdrive is a fun, flashy, somewhat gaudy experience. The visual near-overstimulation is quite a sight, and if you’re still looking for That Game to show off why you purchased an Xbox One, this could be the one. It can be obnoxiously overdone at times but it is also a whole lot of fun.

Final Score

8.5

Pluses:

Minuses:

+ Great visual direction, art style

+ Movement feels really good

+ Constant action

– Jokes start to wear thin

– Feels too familiar at times

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