Review Price to be confirmed

Prepare for some energy drink-fuelled fun

Xbox One Exclusive
Sunset Overdrive release date: October 31

Post-E3 and GamesCom, we didn’t think we’d see much more of Sunset Overdrive ahead of its late October release date. But we managed to sample the opening hour of the colourful, energetic Xbox One exclusive and it’s shaping up nicely.

Developer Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank and Resistance) is putting a slightly different spin on the zombie apocalypse genre. There’s no virus sweeping the Earth and turning the majority of the world’s population into the undead, these zombies are fuelled by a toxic energy drink.

Well, they’re not called zombies in Sunset Overdrive, they’re bubbling orange mutants that often have items like forklifts welded to them to make them more of challenge to battle your way through.

All the attendees of FizzCo’s new energy drink launch, Overcharge Delirium XT, and those who have been sipping on it since, has been turned into an OD mutant.

You play as a fully customisable main character, who just so happened to be working as a FizzCo cleaner when the energy drink was launched, which means he missed out on the initial taste tests.

We initially dismissed Sunset Overdrive as a game that was less concerned about plot and more focused on the action. Well, our first lengthy play through totally changed our minds. The storyline is zany and full of references not only to other classic games and gameplay mechanics but popular culture too. There’s even a Breaking Bad reference in there.

From the outset it’s evident that Sunset Overdrive is a game made by gamers, for gamers. Some have accused the Xbox One title from stealing gameplay styles from other titles, but it feels more like a celebration of its peers and the TV shows and movies we enjoy.

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We felt the cut-scenes had strong elements of Brutal Legend, while the mid-battle celebrations had a touch of Peggle about them. It rejoices in its gaming heritage with its re-spawn animations too, with some giving the nod to Portal and others to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

What’s also great about Sunset Overdrive is its ability to make you laugh. As we’ve said, the storyline is littered with pop culture references, but it’s the characters themselves that will get you giggling. Each one has a strongly distinct personality and that’s down to Insomniac’s skill in game developing – just look at its catalogue of games like Spyro or Ratchet and Clank and the characters within them.

The fact that it is so self-aware is also a key part of Sunset Overdrive’s charm. It doesn’t mess about with patronising tutorials or unnecessary cut scenes. You’re addressed like an experienced gamer, who knows how to play but might need a hand getting to grips with Sunset Overdrive’s rather unique combat system.

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Sunset Overdrive

The aim of the game in Sunset Overdrive is to utilise the environment to your advantage, grinding, wall running, zip lining or leaping out of harm’s way while you pummel the enemies with your ammunition.

Sunset Overdrive’s opening portion does well to introduce you to the rather complex movement system in stages. First you’ll be asked to get to grips with the movement system without any weapons, bouncing on air vents and car bonnets (as you do) to get out of reach of the mutants in your quest to get back to your apartment.

From there you’ll be introduced to an ex-Fizzco security guard who is tasked with giving you a weapon tutorial, which sees you blend bouncing and grinding movement with shooting.

It definitely takes a bit of getting used to and we died multiple times by standing still or staying on the ground too long. The OD mutants are quick and smart and will swarm you if you don’t keep off the ground.

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Sunset Overdrive

One of our most favoured moves was switching between grinding on and underneath wires. This can be done by tapping X and is a useful tool when trying to evade the mutants that had leapt onto the wires. You can also melee smash enemies that fall into your grind paths too, which is not only useful but also really satisfying in a zombie putting Dead Island 2 kind of way.

The more kills you get while moving around the vibrant Sunset City landscape, the quicker your Style Meter will build – offering access to weapon and character-based perks that you’ll want to take advantage of as you progress through the game. The higher you keep your Style Meter the better, so watch out for dropping to the ground too often or missing traversal points.

Once you’ve got to grips with the combat, you’ll then need to take all the amps into consideration. There are amps for your character and for each of your weapons. Each amp kicks in at a different Style Meter level and that’s where the strategic qualities of Sunset Overdrive come into play.

You’ll need to work out what weapons have amps that engage at each level, so you can switch them out at the appropriate time to have the most impact on the oncoming mutant pack. There are myriad different categories for amps including Epic, DriveBomb, Melee Swing but they’ll depend on the weapon you’re looking at.

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Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive might look like a cartoonish, colourful, ditzy third person shooter, but there are various levels of strategic gameplay that will take time to get to grips with, let alone master.

Of course, these amps can be utilised in the eight player co-operative multiplayer Chaos Squad – something which we’ve yet to spend some time with.

Although we only got around an hour into the single-player campaign itself, the story mission we did sample suggests the full game will provide some variety. One of them had us defending the base against waves of mutants to test our weapon prowess and another had us scouring the city for machine parts, grinding into dense patches of enemies.

From our early look, it seems Sunset Overdrive will have a lot for gamers to explore, both in terms of square footage and story content.

Early Verdict

If you’re looking for a serious shooter with an emotion-driven storyline like The Last of Us, Sunset Overdrive isn’t it. Instead, Insomniac is offering a game with fun at its heart. The fast flowing combat requires skill and strategy to master, but when you’ve got it, it is so rewarding and you’ll be laughing as you whizz around Sunset City laying waste to the orange mutants.

We’re interested to see where the storyline goes as it explores the different factions that have cropped up around Sunset City (all gamer themed of course). It’s got so much potential to be a truly entertaining title that we can’t wait to play more.

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