Game ReviewsGamingXbox One

Sunset Overdrive, XboxOne review

Recently launched author Paul Kleynhans takes this crazy grind-fest for a spin for us.

Sunset Overdrive pack The apocalypse occurs with staggering regularity in video games, but it’s rarely as much fun as it is in Insomniac’s latest game, Sunset Overdrive. Far from the dark and depressing experience such a setting usually entails, it is colourful, upbeat and funny.

It takes place in an open world setting packed with stuff to do. My playtime was extended to over thirty hours simply by the pull of such activities, quite often in the opposite direction of where the mini-map was urging me to go. This was aided by the enjoyable traversal mechanics that made getting around such a blast.


It all starts with a ludicrous premise which sets the tone for the rest of the game. Fizzco, a large energy drink company, rushed their latest product to market foregoing any real product testing. It all goes horribly wrong at the launch party in Sunset City. Turns out that drinking the new beverage turns you into a mutant. Your character is at this launch party, but working as janitor. He narrowly escapes the ordeal, but Fizzco goes into full damage control, sealing off the city.

All that are left are Overcharge Drinkers (“OD”) – the mutants that infest the city – and opportunistic survivors, many of whom are keen on stealing your stuff. Fortunately there are a few people left to help you celebrate the apocalypse. This might not sound like a light-hearted experience, but rest assured that it is.

The humour hits more often than not. It relies heavily on pop-culture references, and does not shy away from making jokes about video game conceits. Sunset City is also ridiculously colourful. It’s as if a rainbow vomited onto every square centimetre of the place and somehow infused it with punk-rock sensibilities in the process. It’s such a unique and refreshing art style that really ties the world together, and which trickles down into the mechanics as well. OD’s die with comedic enthusiasm, resulting in a fountain of orange goop.

Most of the weapons (of which you can carry an armoury’s worth at any time) are just plain silly, but very fun to use. As an example, when you freeze an enemy it has “BRRRR” written above their heads. Anyone familiar with the Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series will have an idea of what they are in for. A gun that shoots records? Why not! It’s shooting mechanics are very similar to Ratchet as well, relying heavily on lock-on targeting.


While there is plenty to shoot at, it’s really not what Sunset Overdrive is about. If anything, it’s about traversing the environment which involves constant movement. There are a lot of mechanics at play here and I found it all a bit overwhelming at the start. The basics are easy enough to understand (hit “X” near pretty much anything to grind along rails, power lines, etc), but there are plenty of ways to move between grind points, switching direction, whether you are on top or below it… it is very frantic, and was all a bit much for me in the first couple of hours. When I got my head around it, though, I had an absolute blast.

When it comes down to it, Sunset City is one big ass playground inviting you to perform an endless number of death defying stunts to traverse all while blasting away at enemies. And damn it… they succeeded in making it so much fun that I generally avoided using fast-travel. If you ever find yourself standing still, you are doing it wrong. Even shooting is done while grinding up and down the elaborately vertical playground.


Shooting while on the move and performing various stunts builds up a combo meter. As the meter fills up it activates your Amps. Amps modify you movement and attacks. You gain these by purchasing them, or as you complete missions. As you fill up the meter, you gain access to various “levels” with ever increasing effects. The first Amp you get adds an electric punch to your dodge at level one. At level two it adds a fireball to your melee attack, and at level three bouncing on objects results in an explosion. Most of your weapons need to be levelled up to enable you to add Amps to them, but also makes them more powerful. I ended up with a set of levelled up weapons and Amps that really suited my play style.

While on the surface Sunset Overdrive appears to be a typical open-world game – traversing from point A to point B to speak to Character X, or to obtain some item they are too lazy to get themselves – it plays like nothing I have ever experienced before. The story is amusing enough, and the shooting serviceable, but the world is a playground built for you to enjoy. It is not a self-serious game. It has no bones about tossing reality by the wayside for the sake of fun. And fun it most certainly is.