The gaming industry is one where there’s always something going on. No matter the month of the year or whichever season it may be, there is also something available to play, and there’s always something being developed behind closed doors. With a constant flow of games coming and going, some, unfortunately, don’t get the attention they deserve despite being incredible and immaculate in just about every department. Now, it could be because of lousy marketing, or the lack of public interest in that particular genre, or something else entirely; it’s a fact that not every good game will get the proper interest and buzz surrounding it and will not top the sales charts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them. We can get the buzz going years after the initial release and maybe give the game a chance to shine once again, which will benefit not only the developers but also the players, as they may eventually get something good coming their way in the future.
The game we’ll be talking about today is one such underrated gem. It didn’t have bad marketing surrounding it. It didn’t have a new developer behind the wheel. In reality, this game had everything going for it, and yet it didn’t leave the mark that it should have. Why? Simply because it was announced and released during the infamous “dark days” of Xbox, and since the console itself was in a tough spot, all press surrounding it pretty much turned into bad press automatically. I am talking about “Sunset Overdrive,” Insomniac’s open-world action game, which despite being extremely original and phenomenal, is lost and forgotten over time. Let’s take a look at “Sunset Overdrive” once again all these years later and see what makes it worth playing. I know a lot of people haven’t played this game, and there’s no better time than now to get started if you ask me.
Much akin to the recent “High On Life,” “Sunset Overdrive” is a comedy game, and it refuses to take itself seriously. The craziest part? The game is incredibly self-aware and knows that it’s a video game, so as we delve into the plot, kindly expect and accept utter ridiculousness heading your way. You play as the “hero” here(seriously, the character has no name), who is fully customizable and works as a janitor at a soda company called Fizzco and is on duty during Fizzco’s launch party of their newest energy drink, Overcharge Delirium XT. There is music, dance, and mascots, and people are having a blast as the hero picks up trash and plays “Sunset Overdrive” on his phone(you read that right) when suddenly, people start turning into mutants. The hero escapes to his apartment with text floating on screen as he fights hordes of these monsters called the OD across Sunset City, locks himself in, and that pretty much sums up the opening of the game.
As it goes during any apocalypse, the city has fallen into chaos, people have turned into animals, and everything is bad. The only difference here is that said apocalypse is much more colorful and cheery than your traditional dark, gloomy, and morbid apocalyptic settings. The hero ventures out and meets a ton of colorful characters that include a charismatic feller named Floyd, an angry old man named Walter, and tons of other people from different factions like The Oxfords, The Fargarthians, Troop Bushido, and Las Catrinas. The characters are not limited to these, as you’ll come across a huge heap of people throughout your journey, each more cooky and memorable than the last. The game is full of humor(I know humor is subjective, but it’s really good here), which ranges from being satirical, potty, and self-aware with sharp writing and good delivery.
That’s Sunset Overdrive’s plot in a nutshell. An evil corporation turned everyone into mutated creatures called the OD, all thanks to their new energy drink Overcharge Delirium XT, and you play as the hero who goes on a crazy journey with some amazing characters and saves Sunset City (maybe, maybe not). Onto the gameplay.
Before we get into the gameplay, I have to mention the amount of customization that is available in this game. If you ask me, the game offers one of the simplest and best customization systems, with the ability to choose the gender and body type of your character and so many options when it comes to clothing and styles. The hipster/punk rock style and variety that the game offers will make you want to dress like a hipster in real life, as everything here is just plain incredible. Clothing and your character can be changed at any time you like, so feel free to experiment with the options that are at your disposal here.
If there is one word that can sum up Sunset Overdrive’s gameplay, then that word would be “fun.” It’s so hard to describe the gameplay structure of this game, and yet I’ll try my best to do so. The game gives you a giant, vibrant, cartoony, and beautiful open world to explore, but both the exploration and combat are not your standard fare of walking to a place, shooting a bunch of mutants, and so on. You don’t walk in this game; you grind on rails, jump on cars like a trampoline, run along walls, skid on water, and so much more. Traversal here is fast, with just about everything in your surrounding aiding you as the city literally becomes your playground. There’s an important rule in “Sunset Overdrive” that you must keep in your head while playing. Keep moving, or you’ll die. This game is not one for standing still and shooting. It’s about style and movement, where the more agile you are, the harder you are to kill. Speaking of getting killed, there will be a literal horde of hundreds of monsters with a ton of variety who’ll keep coming your way from every direction imaginable, and you’ll have to deal with them.
To help you with that, you’ll have so many guns to choose from, each very unique and extremely creative. For instance, you’ll get the Flaming Compensator as your first gun, which is a shotgun that pretty much shoots fire and is very risqué in the looks department. Then you have High Fidelity, which acts like a submachine gun and, I kid you not, shoots vinyls at your enemies. Care for a big boom? Try TnTeddy, which is a rocket/grenade launcher of sorts and lobs a teddy duct taped to a bunch of dynamite that detonates with a big boom (you will see the words “BOOM” on your screen as it does) and takes out everything in the area with it. If you are looking for something that will do AOE damage, then try the Acid Sprinkler, which, as the name suggests, plants acid sprinkles in the area. There are so many guns in this game, and each comes packed with so much personality and uniqueness that it’ll take an entire day to describe all of them. Here are a few more names, and I’ll let you figure out what they do just based on the name. Dirty Harry, AK-FU, ProPain Launcher, The Roman Candle, Feel the Burn—the list keeps going. Each gun also levels up as you use it, which adds additional functionality to it.
The traversal is fun, and the guns are great, but what about the enemies? Well, you are in luck as the game offers a good variety when it comes to the enemies, and you’ll never be short on killing something as the game won’t hesitate to throw a never-ending horde your way. You have the standard OD, which is your basic grunts, and then you have poppers that pop (explode; you’ll see the word “pop” as they go boom) once they get near you. Then you have the Herker(my personal favorite), which is a giant hulking behemoth that has fused the bucket of an excavator with his one arm and will lob things your way. Blowers have fused with leaf blowers and will spray green goo at you. Spawners, as the name suggests, will keep spawning more and more enemies that you’ll have to deal with. Wingers can fly and so much more. The game also has human and robot enemies that you’ll have to contend with, and as I mentioned in the beginning, the fighting never stops when you are playing “Sunset Overdrive.”
You have something called amps that unlock as you progress, add additional layers to your combat, or, dare I say, amplify it. These can be small things like your melee swing, which electrocutes enemies, to bigger things like dodge rolling around enemies, which will cause the area to explode. There are a heap ton of amps to choose from, and these truly evolve and change your gameplay and are a very welcome addition both to your arsenal and the game itself.
One more quick thing to mention is that every time you die, the respawn animation is unique and hilarious. You’ll get dropped back into the world from a UFO, get thrown out of a van, walk out of a sarcophagus like a mummy, and so much more. Seriously, it’s worth dying just to see these animations.
The game has loads more to offer, with incredibly designed and flashy boss fights(special shoutout to the Fizzie fight), a multiplayer horde mode called chaos squad where you and seven other players go ballistic in Sunset City, and loads of side content. It’d be borderline impossible to cover everything that this game has to offer in details but trust me when I say this, there is a lot to do, and all of it is incredibly fun. The game also has two DLC titled “Mystery Of The Mooil Rig” and “Dawn Of The Rise Of The Fallen Machines,” both of which are short, sweet, and equally chaotic.
I’ll keep this section short and may do a world tour later, but the world of “Sunset Overdrive,” aka Sunset City, is full of colors and personalities. As previously mentioned, the world plays a huge part in your traversal, so it’s already somewhat interactive, but it’s the aesthetics that is the star of the show for me. It’s futuristic with tons of verticality and yet very grounded at the same time. Everything here pops with so much personality, and this is once again a case of you having to see it to understand it. I commend Insomniac for creating such a unique play space and handling it so well. There are collectibles scattered about that you can find, and despite deadly monsters roaming the streets, Sunset City is a place you should definitely visit.
The Technical Stuff
I wish this game could get a resolution/frame rate bump, as it’s a relic from the past and, unfortunately, still runs at 900p on Xbox consoles. I don’t see that happening, as Sony now owns Insomniac Games, but I can still dream, no? Everything else is just plain fantastic. Rock-solid framerate, despite all the particle and alpha effects being thrown left, right, and center, and despite the game’s age and poor resolution, it’s still highly detailed and gorgeous. The voice action and music/sound design, in general, are also fantastic, and as I said, technically, this package is phenomenal.
“Sunset Overdrive” is underrated, and it’s a shame that that’s the case because the game is fantastic. Then again, most great games are always underrated, aren’t they? Now that Insomniac is owned by Sony, the franchise will be a PlayStation exclusive if it ever gets a sequel, which is a shame. This game is exclusive to the Xbox, which is also a shame, as these kinds of unique and interesting games deserve to be played by everyone, no matter the console platform. Games, in general, shouldn’t be exclusive to one platform or another, but that’s a subject for another day. I hope I have, at the very least, piqued your interest in checking this game out, so please do yourself a favor and play this game. It’s a solid recommendation from my end, and it’s a game unlike any you’ll ever play or see. There’s so much more that can be said about “Sunset Overdrive,” but I leave those things for you to discover. It’s funny to me how mainstream games, despite not evolving over the years, always make billions of dollars and get the unlimited spotlight, yet unique gems like this get left behind in the dust.