So what would you get if you combined the weapons of Ratchet and Clank, with the fast paced combo stringing movement of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and the visual style of Tank Girl with a bit of Scott Pilgrim? If your answer is anything other than Sunset Overdrive by Insomniac Games, you know, the game this article is talking about, kindly leave the room now. Your mother and I are very ashamed.
So in the fictional setting of Sunset City, a new energy drink called Overcharge is revealed to turn people into zombies called OD; the special type of zombie that has orange soda for blood too. Our unnamed hero is left to unite the misfit factions of the city against the hoard and find a way to escape, while avoiding the traditional crazed punks and the evil corporation who tries to cover the whole thing up…With Robots!
Gameplay is all about moving; you can grind on anything, bounce on anything, wall run and air dash in order to cross the map quickly, building a combo that amplifies how many points you get for kills, so you’re incentivised to keep moving. The OD will swarm you quickly if you stay in one place for too long, and you’re melee won’t keep them off for long. To aid you in combat you have a wide range of weapons, like a gun that fires turret copters, firework guns and buckshot shot gun with a suspiciously placed pair of balls named the over-compensator. You might be getting an idea of what kind of game you’re in for here.
You can also equip amps to give you additional abilities, like summoning tornados with your melee, grinding on lighting or an announcer that proclaims your awesomeness. These amps are activated by building up your style, which once again encourages you to keep grinding and moving. You can also equip overdrives, which increase damage against certain enemies or improve the effectiveness of certain weapons. However you can only have six active at a time, so you have to pick the ones that best suit your play style. These controls are the games main selling point; it’s so much fun to navigate this world, to the point that I neglected fast travel entirely in order to keep moving.
The game isn’t too hard; dying usually places you right back where you were, but minus some time or at the expense of the reward at the end of the level or challenge. This makes the game feel more about points than about challenge, which feels very Tony Hawk; that isn’t to say that combat isn’t hard or that boss battles aren’t epic, but it does make the game feel more about fun than about pushing your limits. As a result this low difficulty enhances the game, rather than hindering it.
There is also a tower defence mode, where you set up traps and use barricades to keep OD away from vats of Overcharge, while you grind around to deal with hot spots and relocate traps as needed. You unlock plenty of creative new traps throughout the campaign and challenges, so it’s constantly changing itself and feels like a part of the game, rather than the type of thing thrown in at the last second.
The characters are pretty fun, and the voice acting is decent for the most part, though the stand out is the main character, who carries the most personality and really helps sell the tone of the game. I played a female character, but I also tried out the male character; both voice actors do a fantastic job. Character creation is pretty varied with a massive variety of outfits and accessories, though I feel like the outfits are catered more towards the female character model, as a lot of the hairstyles and cropped shirts look strange on the bulkier characters. Just goes to show that girls can be bad ass too, but they look a lot better doing it.
Enemies are fairly varied, with close combat, shooters and bombers between the scabs and the robots feeling different from each other, with the most enemy types going to the OD. Special infected enemies include gunge launching gunners, leaping enemies that have a nasty habit of constantly moving and hiding from you, and the massive brutes that enjoy throwing large rocks at you. It’s worth noting that a lot of these enemies tend to prefer stopping you from grinding effectively, like ice enemies creating sharp blocks on the path or flying enemies which set fire to rails, though these are telegraphed by red indicators, giving you time to move to another rail and keeping the fast paced movement going. As such the enemies feel catered to the movement style, while also giving you an equal opportunity to keep your combo going.
The game’s tone leans far on the side of comedic, though a lot of the banter seems to rely on cultural references. Thankfully it also has it’s own jokes, often at the expense of the fourth wall, but I fear that it may cause the game to feel dated down the line. Some of the references are pretty specific, like a mission where you have to “control a wolf with your dreams”, to which the character quips about someone paying for basic cable. People probably know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t, then it kind of highlights my point. But how can you have a game about orange powered zombies and not reference Kenan and Kel?
Other jokes comes from how insane a lot of the set piece are, like a mission to forge a sword which involves a nuclear power plant and gaining height to smash the blade into shape, as well as multiple respawn animations which include rising from a coffin and doing a Dracula impression or falling through blue and orange portals; while these are references, they are the good type of references that people can get without knowing what they are referencing.
As you can probably tell this game is pretty juvenile, but it’s the good kind of juvenile like GTA V or South Park where it doesn’t feel too childish due to the smarter moments. This is also carried over into the profanity; there’s a lot of swearing in this, but it feels well written and works into the characters vocabulary so that it doesn’t feel too out of place. It’s used to enhance a statement, rather than being the statement itself. Swearing can be turned off in the options, replacing them with beeps. The same can be done with the blood, though I turned this off because it replaces blood with confetti when you smack open your enemies, which fits with the rest of the games humour. Even when turned on, the blood doesn’t feel overdone making this game a 16 rather than an 18, a rarity these days in gaming, which is good because that’s the kind of audience that will really love this game’s style.
The final aspect to look at is multiplayer; you are placed into a game with up to eight other players and compete in a variety of game modes, like defending a group of survivors or racing to collect points. Games are multiple challenges one after another, as opposed to doing a quick deathmatch, and are topped off by a tower defense match, which can get pretty hectic with everyone firing their rockets off at once. The servers feel somewhat under populated, which is a shame because it’ll make grinding the last few achievements a lot easier and more fun. You can even matchmake in the background while exploring the city, so you’re not wasting time in a menu waiting for a game.
The only criticism I can give the game is the bugs that snuck in, like missions not ending, causing you to have to restart, or the texture on flags glitching out, or a strange bug where I unlocked the rewards for the last few levels, along with the won the game achievement when replaying an earlier level, though it didn’t ruin much since I was only two levels away from the end anyway. Glitches are bound to happen in any game, but in this game they felt very noticeable and game breaking at times, so I have to mark it down.
+ Fun, fluid movement
+ Varied and well designed enemies
+ Funny and has lots of personality
– Issue with bugs
– Lots of customization