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Sunset Overdrive: Move it or lose it

Oct 27, 2014

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Sunset OverdriveThe good about punk music is it is loud, in your face, unapologetic and is often a tempest of wildly unfocused energy and discord. The bad, for me at least, is when that rebellious energy is so displaced, so ill-defined, that it loses all power and inspiration.

Sunset Overdrive, the new release from those zany developers at Insomniac Games, is a bit like that. When it is on point, it excites and energizes. When it is not, it falls flat and confuses.

It is 2027 and it is not a foul despot who has Sunset City under their thumb but the loathsome drink company FizzCo. Quality control doesn't seem to be high on the corporation's priority list as their latest product, the energy drink Overcharge Delirium, has turned citizens into unruly mutants. These "OD'd" humans have overrun the city after a celebratory launch party and it is up to you, a lowly FizzCo employee and a host of other colourful survivors, to live to tell the tale and expose FizzCo's shenanigans to the rest of the world.

An eccentric tech geek. A survivalist who produces reality shows. A troop leader playing samurai. A fevered egghead scientist. These are just some of the fascinating off-kilter characters who populate Sunset City and are a large part of the game's edgy, outrageous charm.

Sunset OverdriveJust as Romero has done with his 'Dead' movies, Sunset heartlessly heckles consumerism and relentlessly obliterates the fourth wall. When you are respawned during an exceptionally troublesome tower climb, you character quips…"Thank you for not making me start at the bottom." A booming, disembodied voice instructs you on the finer points of the game, new assets and abilities. Respawning in itself is a rewarding experience too. You can hatch out of an egg, rise from a grave as a zombie, drop from a claw crane, etc. It is these unconventional details that make Sunset Overdrive unique.

Insomniac's strength has always been the hysterical off-beat sense of humour they inject into their work. Sunset Overdrive joins games like Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet and Clank in making carbonated beverages unexpectedly spew from our mouths or noses in very clever and amusing ways. With Sunset though, the script sometimes goes overboard with references and tries too hard at times to impress and be cool.

What is also distinct and most important to know about the game is the movement, combat system. It is what will pull you in or push you away. At first, it is just an optional way of getting from Point A to Point B but soon, it becomes clear it is the difference between cashing your ticket in early or surviving, of moving on or moving on out. Sunset Overdrive is all about constant movement and that movement builds up your attack power. Whether just traveling or in combat, you should be ceaselessly grinding on rails and cables, wall-running, leaping to bounce off car roofs and store awnings and dashing around. As you are reminded, staying still or grounded is simply suicidal. Move it or lose it, is the idea here. For some, targeting moving enemies while also being on the move will be so much of an uphill battle that they will gladly wave the white flag and move on. Others, will settle in comfortably to this Tony Hawk, Night of the Living Dead mash-up.

Sunset OverdriveEven players content with the system will have their moments as the demand for continual movement fouls up getting things done. Mistakenly grinding on a rail, running up a wall or bouncing off a car when you don't really mean to, especially when fighting in a confined space or engaged in a hit and run like hell type situation, can be a terrible nuisance and a definite Exit sign for some.

As you might expect from the makers of Ratchet and Clank, Sunset has an arsenal of unusual weapons that are a joy to burn, freeze, electrify or blow stuff up with. Where it differs from Ratchet and Clank is it has an overly complicated upgrade system that would make even members of the Order of Saint Benedict curse like high school students. There are just too many upgrades, overcharges, enhancements, improvements, augmentations, enrichments and their menus, sub-menus to keep things straight.

Insomniac does add a twist or turn to freshen things up but most of the missions are fetch this or get that. Leave your base of operations. Venture out into the city. Locate this person. Barter with them for this or that. Come home and let's do it all again tomorrow. At a certain point, the tasks all start to blend in with one another, except for oddball requests like destroying a giant, floating robot or such.

I appreciated the insubordinate spirit of Sunset Overdrive just as I much as I revere the Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Black Flag and The Velvet Underground. Match that with Insomniac's cheeky sense of humour and you have a game with attitude. Is it a game for everyone? That will depend entirely on your view of the movement, combat system. It is the deciding factor on whether you should stay in Sunset City or you should go.

Sunset Overdrive Sunset Overdrive
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Insomniac Games
ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Official Site:

Rating: 7 / 10

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