“It’s not cool to skip school, unless you’re doing it to drink OVERCHARGE!”
Tired of your dead end job? Tired of being a nobody? If this sounds like you, do not try Fizzo’s new energy drink Overcharge. Instead, run like hell away from Sunset City, because zombie-mutants are coming for you. Get ready to grind, bounce, and smash your way to freedom. Sunset Overdrive not only delivers excitement that smashes through the fourth wall, but builds badass teddy-bear TNT guns out of the rubble.
The latest title from Insomniac Games pits you as a customizable persona, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal or Stephanie Lemelin, as you attempt to escape the hordes claiming Sunset City. It is a ridiculous tale about the evil corporation Fizzco that has created Overcharge, an energy drink that happens to turn consumers into mutants known as “Overcharge Drinkers,” or “OD.” You will battle through the horde, unfriendly human gangs, and Fizzco robots all the while encountering an amusing cast of characters. Survivors range from spoiled Oxford students to an expletive-yelling robot balloon.
The cast brings a slew of laughter, but most are utilized solely as the butt-end of jokes. However, this is the game’s style. Overdrive never takes itself seriously and commits fully to its blend of action and comedy that is reminiscent of the Borderlands series. It frequently breaks the fourth wall, providing commentary and jokes regarding the overly serious side of video gaming. No heartfelt moments to be found, because there is no time to cry when you’re being a badass superhero.
The player follows the main scenario through a series of quests, all the while unlocking numerous side quests, challenge, and base defense missions along the way. These are welcome distractions which offer some variety to the experience. Unfortunately, most of the side quests are reduced to repetitive fetch quests, but possess redeeming value via comedic payoff. You’ll be collecting five comics here or five refrigerator parts here all too often. There are also collectible cellular devices that give snippets of humorous insight into events prior to the game.
The challenges can be addicting, as they are a means to elevate your skill to a higher level in effort to achieve high scores and unlock new garb and currency to purchase new weapons. The base defense objectives can be found in the main story and as challenges. They entail protecting your safe haven from the hordes of OD while utilizing traps. Each trap has a specific power requirement that takes away from the base’s total power allowment. The game also has an online cooperative mode called Chaos Squad which allows you to explore the base defense with up to eight companions. Honorable mention goes to the game’s unique boss fights, which are some of the most creative and insane experiences the game has to offer.
The runaway highlight of Sunset Overdrive is without a doubt the polished gameplay. Taking hints from games like Jet Set Radio, the title makes quick, stylish traversal a main fixture. Players can grind, bounce, and wall-run on most objects and surfaces. Movement is never challenging, requiring only the press of a button to grind or bounce. However, there is room for skill growth, as you will quickly find yourself chaining a telephone wire grind to a car bounce before landing on the next building. This stylish traversal is rewarded in the form of combo and style points which allow you access to power-ups called amps. These amps are created by trading in components found throughout the city granting effects ranging from fiery melee attacks to hilarious personalized commentary. These amps can be equipped as effects for your character or for enhancements to your weaponry.
Overdrive’s real secret to success is its personalized upgrade system. Instead of going the RPG route of levels and experience points, the game rewards the player for playing in the style they choose. If you prefer to exclusively grind while shooting your Flaming Compensator weapon, you’ll earn Grind and Single-Shot badges which you can trade in for upgrades such as increased style points while grinding or increase in single-shot damage. Players never have to go out of their way to obtain badges. Stylish movement becomes second nature while guns are called to attention for specific scenarios.
Overall, the gameplay is intelligent, fluid, and always feels responsive. Insomniac nails achieving accessibility while leaving room for players to grow in skill and create increasingly chaotic and exciting scenarios.
Another standout feature of the game is its choice of loud, vibrant colors in a world of gloomier color schemes. Everything about Sunset Overdrive appears to make light of common design choices in modern gaming. The look of the title appears to be a direct response to the trend of grays and browns within modern shooters. Enemies explode into bright orange puddles of overcharge, and there is even a power up which causes enemies to burst into confetti.
Character styles border on the absurd, allowing you a range of customization options. Players can dress in regular street clothes, as a caped crusader, or is a green-haired woman if they so choose. The game boasts a punk rock, rebellious feel that discourages adherence to norms. Performance wise, the graphical fidelity of the game is consistent, allowing only rare examples of pop-in concerning character detail and a steady frame rate.
The music accompanies the visual atmosphere, blowing your ears off with punk rock and heavy electronic beats. While the soundtrack of the game certainly fits the mood, the tracks often become repetitive and can be distracting if you pay close attention. Overall, the music mostly fades into the background. The cast also delivers solid voiceovers, providing great delivery and enthusiasm. However, with a game so heavily reliant on humor, some of the jokes inevitably fall flat.
A completionist campaign of Sunset Overdrive will weigh in at about thirty hours of gameplay before factoring time spent in Chaos Squad. However, when you’ve heard all the jokes and know the punchlines, there is little reason to repeat the main scenario aside from becoming addicted to the stellar gameplay.
Sunset Overdrive achieves what many games unfortunately fall short of. That something is raw enjoyment. The self-deprecating atmosphere serves as a reminder that games are supposed to be lighthearted and fun. Sometimes a little insanity is welcome. The silly story won’t be enduring, but the laughs and experiences you have are permanent.