Sunset Overdrive review (Xbox One)

>The apocalypse is a popular subject for games, as are zombies but, lets face it, even the most die-hard fan has to admit there is something rather, well, grim about the end of the world. Fighting for survival and trying to scrounge for supplies in the remnants of our modern world which isn't, well, fun. So enter Sunset Overdrive, an action filled, apocalypse themed, third person shooter from Insomniac games which aims to change all that.

Like most apocalyptic games, there is an event which starts events and in Sunset Overdrive, this is the launch of an energy drink. Yes, that's right, Fizzco, a soft drink company based in Sunset City, has decided to launch their latest creation, Overdrive Delirium XT, at free events all over the city and while working as a menial worker, clearing up the cans, your character notices that the drink has some rather nasty side effects. Shortly after drinking Overdrive Delirium XT, people start mutating into horribly mutated monsters, driven so crazy by their desire to get more of the drink, they attack anything that moves! Fizzco, having seen what their product does, seals off the city and, in attempt to resolve the problem, dispatch robotic security systems to eliminate the outbreak and anyone not infected who may be a witness! As well as the Fizzco bots and the mutants (known as the "Infected" or OD - Overdrive Drinkers), the remaining survivors band together into groups of looters, the Scabs, and smaller factions and then there's your character. Armed with an impressive array of make-shift weapons, your character must shoot, bounce and grind their way through the city in an attempt to find out what's happening and try to escape from the city. This is not your usual grey, post apocalyptic game!

Aside from the bright, colourful style, the most prominent feature of the game is the unique movement style. As well as running and jumping, your character is able to grind (sliding along railings, rails, building parapets and overhead wires), slide underneath overhead wires, bounce on items of street furniture and wall run to get around. The more that you chain these moves together and the more you dispatch enemies while doing so, the greater your combo counter rises and the greater your style meter rises. As your style meter rises, you are able to use more powerful amps, which provide powerful bonus effects to your movements and attacks, but stay still or on the ground for more than a short time, and the meter empties. This gives you a powerful incentive to keep moving and avoid the ground which is where your life expectancy is quite short!

Amps are boosts which provide extra effects when your style meter is charged, or can be applied to weapons and can be earned by either playing through the campaign, playing multi player matches or buying them with items which are littered around the city. This being Sunset Overdrive, these are items such as Fizzco balloons, toilet paper and smelly sneakers! Amps are a great way of adding some extra power to the chaos you unleash and have effects as varied as freezing enemies, making them fight for you, unleashing huge gouts of flame or causing large bunches of flowers to bloom!

As with everything in the game, the weapons are bright, colourful and crazy from an explosive teddy bear launcher to a gun which launches acid sprinklers. Each weapon damages enemies to a different degree, the Shocker, a lightning weapon, is great against Fizzco bots but terrible against Scabs, so you'll have to swap weapons to give you the best advantage against the enemies you're facing. You can have up to eight weapons ready for switching between mid-fight and are able to swap them out for others that you have collected. Each kill you make with a weapon adds to it's level with each level it gains, up to level five which is the maximum, adding additional ammunition capacity and damage. Lastly, it's possible to add weapon amps which add additional affects such as ammunition scavenging or causing enemies to explode and damage other enemies nearby.

Every time you successfully pull off a move or get a kill, you gain progression towards a badge for that action. Once you have enough you can exchange them for an Overdrive, which gives a bonus for performing that action in future. This means that if, for example, you like to melee enemies by pounding with an oversized hammer, you'll get rewarded for that, allowing you to customise the game to your play style.

Lastly, there are a mind boggling array of deployable traps. Each one covers a slightly different area, has a different effect while some are automatic and others have to be triggered by jumping on them. If you are feeing creating you can also chain the traps so an enemy stepping on a spring trap can be catapulted onto a flame trap, triggering it and cooking further enemies!

Of course, looking good during the apocalypse is of vital importance (!) and you can customise all aspects of your character from the hairstyle to their clothing. Some items can be bought from vendors in the game world while others are given as rewards for completing missions and quests. Although this doesn't have any effect on your character's ability to survive in the world, it certainly adds a bit of fun and style to the already bright and crazy world of Sunset Overdrive.

The single player campaign is surprisingly varied for a shooter and is made up of missions, the main events in the story, quests, option missions you can do to assist people in the city, Night Defence, a survival mission where you need to keep the OD away from vats where new amps are being created for you, and challenges. The story is well written, full of weird and wonderful tasks and characters, wise cracks, sarcasm and playful references to other games, the games industry and society! It is also quite long and should last an average gamer 30-40 hours.

Multi player, or Chaos Squad as it's called, can be accessed by finding a phone booth in the game world. Players work as a team with 2-8 players in each one to complete increasingly tough missions. Players vote for the mission and the risk level with tougher missions giving more rewards such as weapon amps, clothing and currency which can be used in both the campaign and multi player.

As with any large and complex game, a number of bugs and issues which are likely to crop up but Sunset Overdrive is refreshingly free of them. Some of the missions are rather tricky and having to repeat them several times, until you achieve the objectives, can be frustrating and with so much action happening on screen, sometimes your point of view camera can struggle to keep up but these are very minor points and, hopefully, they can be addressed in time.

When I first saw Sunset Overdrive at the Xbox One launch event I remember thinking that it looked cool but, as a fan of shooters, it probably wasn't a game for me. However, after just a few minutes I was a total covert to the game's unique play style with it's focus on simply being fun! Although it won't appeal to everyone, it's crazy, irreverent, sarcastic action is likely to please a wide range of gamers, making this, in my opinion, one of the finest shooters for the Xbox One. 

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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