XB1 Games with Gold Review: Sunset Overdrive
I’ve finally managed to catch up with one of the Games with Gold offerings released last month, yep I know it’s May now, so I had better get my skates on with the review, especially as the freebie runs out in just under a week! However if you are new to the Games with Gold program I would say for sure that Sunset Overdrive is a game worth downloading; not to mention it’s one of the most prestigious titles released so far!
Sunset Overdrive (from developers Insomniac Games) is of course an Xbox One exclusive, released originally back in October of 2014. If I drift my mind back to this period I remember it was hyped to the max and to be honest - while critics gave it a positive reception - it was a game that didn't really float my boat so to speak and I would never have bought/played this game if it wasn't’ available for free.
On face value the jumping and traversal experience was the reason it did not appeal to me at first; when I sat through watching all the YouTube videos.
Similarly when I did finally install it a few weeks ago and played the game in the opening sections, it also left me contemplating if I would stick with it....
Thankfully I'm glad I did, as eventually everything just clicked and over the course of my 10 hours and 30 mins game completion time I pretty much had a blast playing this!
Why so serious?
Insomniac certainly injected a lot of humour into Sunset Overdrive (which elevates it above the norm) to the point that your lead character knows he is in a game, so a lot of the jibes are directed at the computer gaming genre in general.
Mixed with the colourful graphics and eye popping OTT weapons, the whole game is played at break neck speed and deaths are not punished by sending you back to the start of check points. Instead you are greeted with a fun re-spawn sequence that makes dying worthwhile!
Not that you will be killed that often due to the way the game mechanics work, as in Sunset Overdrive, a city plagued initially by OD (later joined by other factions such as human scabs), which is short for Overcharge Drinkers: humans that have turned into mutants after drinking FizzCo's energy drinks. You can pretty much fall from the top of skyscrapers, without gaining a scratch, use any platform i.e. Cars to launch off or grind onto any edged surface, to get to your destination.
Mind you, while travelling across the generous open world map is not that much of a bind, it’s here that the world can seem a little void of activity at times. For example during a mission there are key moments which involve you fighting hordes of OD, but during the quieter periods you can pretty much travel for ages without seeing anything! It’s almost as if the open world nature is being crippled by the linear mission structure. However you do have a fast travelling system to avoid a lot of the traversal elements and it's worth doing this a few times just to see how the humour aspect kicks in once more!
Getting to grips with things
I must admit I found coming to terms with the controls was fiddly at first, especially when grinding onto posts, jumping about and firing at the same time.
After a while it does become second nature and to be honest you will spend most of the time off the ground. Mainly because when the OD attack, they attack in numbers and you will get swamped if you stay put.
The types of OD are varied (from small to large size beasts) to make life interesting and the gore factor is ramped up when a mass of OD are there to be shot or melee attacked. Most of the gore is disguised in orange instead of blood, to reflect that when the OD get killed, a lot of them explode in colour (normally with added text effects thrown in to).
For the most part the game guides you in a set mission structure, with place markers counting down to your objective. The main aim of course is to escape the city, but along the way you will experience standard mission objective goals, such as finding parts in B and bringing them back to A. However because of the humorous nature you do get some bizarre objectives. Including jumping into ponds to get bit by leaches in order to cure a King who thinks he is in a role-playing fantasy land!
Other objectives involve giant cranes, flying make shift planes, pigeon shooting with a twist and then there’s the cough medicine infused sections which are just insane!
I think the variety is what keeps things interesting, but you can do plenty of side missions for the trapped citizens of Sunset Overdrive.
Weapons are equally as crazy as the rest of the game, with most being home-made killing variants, such as exploding teddies, cannon balls and even acid dripping watering cans. Selecting the weapons is quick and easy with a tap of the bumper butting bringing up the control wheel.
However you can also add AMPS to your weapons or to improve your skill set and this adds more incentive to do the side missions; so you can max out each weapon type. Likewise customising your characters appearance (which you can also do at the start) is boosted by exploring the landscape to earn more in-game currency, so you can choose different styles – similar to the Dead Rising series.
A lot of the early AMP’s are earned by protecting your base’s VATS from waves of OD. For some reason these sections are all set at night, I think for dramatic effect. However they are at last useful for teaching you the traversal techniques required to move through the levels and you also have fun laying traps for the unsuspecting OD.
Multiplayer is also on offer in the form of Chaos Squad 8 player co-op; which gains you rewards, such as gleaming better AMPS when you take on the single player style VAT night protection missions. In some ways the game tries to make the jump from single player more seamless with the introduction of magical phone booths that you will find scattered across the city.
Entering these or I should point out that going through the main menu will also work, will match you up with other players, before dropping you into the city. A voting system is also in place so if you drop-in mid game, after the mission finishes you can then vote as to what objective you want to complete next.
Missions can vary between the traversal side, to the brute force approach, for example destroying hordes of monsters. However you normally have a side challenge included, such as killing 5 OD with dive bomb kills for arguments sake or completing a mission without any of your team mates dying. You also have 'Cooking with Nuke' Mission which is sort of taken from the single player game i.e. you have to defend the giant VATS from the OD until the timer runs down.
The multiplayer is certainly a fun way to play the game with friends, but it’s a pity the single player campaign was not co-op as standard.
Sunset Overdrive’s control system and style of play takes a bit of time to get used to, but after an hour or so it will either make or break you in terms of making you want to continue with the game. For me though I got though the awkward stages and I found that I gleamed two digit hours of fun from this Games with Gold title, so with a few days left to grab it I certainly recommend doing so!