Sunset Overdrive is the jewel in Microsoft’s crown for 2014. It’s an exclusive, it’s utterly addictive and right now, there isn’t a game like it.
A third-person rail-based shooter, Overdrive finds you marooned in Sunset City following the catastrophic launch of a new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium X.
This soft drink has a fairly unfortunate side-effect, however, which is that it transforms the entire population into giant orange exploding mutants.
From that point onwards the plot is almost entirely irrelevant. It exists, sure, it definitely exists, but we’d challenge anyone to give a detailed account of the storyline other than, ‘I blew up some s**t with a giant teddybear canon’.
That is at its very core, what Sunset Overdrive is all about: leaving the player with nothing other than a feeling of dazed elation while blowing up stuff and moving around very fast.
The manner with which it does it can be grating however. Sunset Overdrive doesn’t so much break through the fourth wall, as grab each brick in turn, loudly scream into the chalky cement on its long edge and then promptly throw it through a window.
Every element of the game is a joke, whether it’s the giant booming narrator from the clouds that your character constantly questions. Or the fact that every death is promptly followed by hilarious resurrection animations taken from games throughout the years.
Weapons also deserve a mention. They’re not so much weapons, more a collection of ideas that have then been duck-taped together and then packed with C4.
The High-Fidelity deserves a special mention. It’s a vinyl record launcher that will launch bouncing vinyls at lethal speed towards your foes.
That in itself should bring back Shaun of the Dead memories but it gets even better. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the music from each vinyl as it ricochets around the environment.
Every weapon has been given the same attention to detail and all of them can be ‘amped’ with suitably silly upgrades.
It’s a playground museum to the games of the past, embracing stupidity and profanity with gleeful abandon.
The way you play is a perfect example of this. Rather than simply explore the city on foot, Sunset Overdrive turns your character into a bouncing, grinding superhero that can ‘Tony Hawk’ his way across the city.
It’s not without its hiccups though, Overdrive is so intent to drop you in at the deep end that the combination of the chaos and the control system can be completely overwhelming.
Have patience though and play in short bursts. It’ll help in two ways: firstly if you hate punk rock music it’ll alleviate the constant crunching that’s going on in the background and secondly it’ll let you get used to the control mechanics in your own time.
Once those things have been accomplished you can truly start to explore the world around you, and what a world it is.
Insomniac have lovingly poured their heart and soul into this game and the best way to see that is the city itself. Every building, every car and every telephone wire has been lovingly placed so that when you turn up you’ll see a myriad of different routes, all of which look as fun as the other.
There are some that may find Sunset Overdrive too much, indeed it took us a good three attempts to both get into the spirit and conquer the control mechanics. Once you do though, you won’t mind that the jokes are sometimes terrible, the colours and noise overwhelming because in short bursts, it’s pure fun.