Hands-On with Sunset Overdrive

The Awesomepocalypse is here!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get to attend Microsoft’s X14 event. Unfortunately, due to only having so much time to play so many games, I didn’t get to touch on nearly as much as I would have liked (sorry, Forza Horizon 2 and Fable Legends). But aside from a couple of rounds on Killer Instinct (now with Fulgore for the win– literally) and checking out Skylanders: Trap Team, I spent most of my time focusing on the game I wanted to see most: Sunset Overdrive.

Not only did I come away satisfied with what I had played, but it has left me hungry for more.


Note: This trailer is probably Not Safe For Work.

At first, things were a bit shaky. Part of this is due to my first experience actually being in the cooperative/competitive online multiplayer mode, where you and a group of others have to keep the oncoming waves of mutant hordes away from the batch of energy drink Overcharge Delirium XT that they so desperately crave.

Truth be told, it was sort of a case of running before I could walk, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. The biggest problem came from the fluke camera, which would constantly raise itself upward slowly– I figure someone was pressing the stick up when the machine was turned on, as that sort of thing tends to happen as a result. I was quickly swapped out after bringing it to a representative’s attention, though, and it largely went well after that.

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Soon after, I signed up for a chance to spend some time with the single-player mode, and that’s where the real fun began.

At the outset, you’re allowed to customize your character. Male or female, tall or short, facial features, hairstyle, those sorts of things. You’re limited to one set of clothes at the start, but following the intro where you escape back to your apartment for your life, you get to choose more options.

It’s during the race back to your place that the tutorial occurs, teaching you the basics of moving around. The key thing to remember is that you generally don’t want to be on the ground; bouncing off cars, grinding along wires and rails, and running up and alongside buildings parkour-style are the keys to keeping safe from the mutants on the street below.

The grinding is especially prominent, and reminds me a bit of how it’s done in Sonic titles, but with a greater degree of control and freedom. In addition to speeding up or slowing down, it’s easy to reverse course, and you can even switch from hanging and zipping beneath wires to grinding on them and back at the press of a button. Overall, it’s very well integrated.

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You’ll use a variety of weapons to fend off the mutants, as well as the predatory human “Scabbers,” who basically seem to be the anarchist element taking advantage of the downfall of society.

The big one is the different firearms you’ll get. From Dirty Harry-inspired pistols to fire shotguns to ice cannons to guns that can shoot bouncing vinyl records and more, there are some crazy options which may remind some people of developer Insomniac Studios’ prior work on the Ratchet & Clank series for the PlayStation systems. The shooting itself reminds me a bit of that found in the recent Transformers console games, such as Fall of Cybertron, albeit minus the cover mechanics and with a lot more moving around while shooting.

You’re also allowed to go hand-to-hand with the mutants and Scabbers with your trusty crowbar (the same item you use for hang-grinding). This style feels rather basic, and again, will probably be familiar to fans of the Ratchet & Clank games, right down to the jumping ground-pound attack to clear away foes in close proximity.

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A bit of collecting is going on as well, such as missions in which you have to travel around and pick up the parts required to progress. One such instance opens up the ability to use Amps, which allow bonus stats. One I received allowed me to generate an electric field while rolling, as another added a stun attribute to my record gun. However, in order to use these boosts, you have to maintain a certain level of “style” for it, which is done through how well you move around while grinding or killing foes.

There are a few small issues I found with performing missions, though. The primary one is that the compass is a little tough to read; I would follow it, yet sometimes end up moving further and further away from my objective, fumbling to find a way to make the distance shrink rather than grow.

This wouldn’t be quite an issue were it not for the fact that leaving the mission area results in a failure, and the boundaries don’t seem to be clearly marked. While on a mission, you’re pretty much confined to that particular area, which is kind of an iffy thing.

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I got to play for about an hour, and I have to say, I’m in love with this game. From the moment I laid eyes on Sunset Overdrive, I knew I was looking at something special.

It’s almost like the counterculture version of most big titles on the market right now: Colorful and cheerful, with tongue-in-cheek and irreverent humor spread throughout. One amusing part is where your character makes an offhand reference to “if this were a video game” before having a voiceover narration actually start speaking to him.

Some sound effects actually appear as an onomatopoeia, and while the game features a fair bit of cursing, I found it felt kind of real and genuine; that is, rather than cursing for cursing’s sake, it felt more natural, at least to me.

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In case it’s not clear, with only a few nitpicks aside, I had a lot of fun with this game. For one reason or another, I don’t tend to buy into the “system seller” philosophy, that of one game that a person would want a whole new system for, but while the Xbox One does have other titles that look interesting to me, Sunset Overdrive alone has me wanting the system just so I can play more.

It just feels good to play. I might be dating myself a bit here, but whereas playing Shovel Knight made me feel like a kid again, interestingly enough, playing Sunset Overdrive makes me feel like a teenager again. I can honestly say that’s not the kind of nostalgic sensation I experience often, but something about this title brings it out in me, and I kind of like it.

As I don’t own an Xbox One, I can’t say when or if I’ll get to review Sunset Overdrive upon its October 28th, 2014 release date. That said, I strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for this one, and if you get the chance, be sure to give it a go. You won’t be sorry.

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About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.