[Review] Sunset Overdrive

Posted by | November 13, 2014 | Reviews | 3 Comments

The apocalypse has arrived, but it’s not what you expected. There are no zombies, and no weird strain of the flu has killed off most of the population. No, the apocalypse in Sunset Overdrive is due to a poorly tested but heavily marketed energy drink. Right from the start, Sunset Overdrive is quirky and funny and the gameplay continues that feeling throughout. At the end of the day, this game is super fun to play, but the ESRB has rated it M, with pretty good reason.


The Story

Sunset Overdrive is set in a modern-day fictional city called Sunset City, where an apocalypse of sorts has occurred. Corporate giant Fizzco is getting ready to release a new energy drink called Overcharge, and they’re giving the residents of Sunset City a chance to taste the beverage before the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it turns out Fizzco has rushed the drink through testing and missed the fact that drinking it causes everyday people to turn into Overcharge-addicted mutants who attack humans on sight. The city has been walled in by Fizzco in an attempt to cover up their egregious error, and the main character (which players design themselves) must team up with other non-drinkers and try to escape the city. You must fight off the mutants, as well as other survivors who have turned hostile in the face of the disaster.

It's hard to believe these mutants used to be human.

It’s hard to believe these mutants used to be human.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Sunset Overdrive is third-person shooter/platformer. You use a variety of over-the-top weapons to dispatch a few different kinds of mutants and other humans who are trying to defend their turf. These weapons include things like the TNT Teddy, which launches an explosive teddy bear at enemies; the Acid Sprinkler, which shoots Fizzco mascots who spin and shoot acid out of their heads; and the properly named Roman Candle, which shoots fireworks at enemies that do area damage in addition to the damage done at the target. But the weapons make up only a small part of the gameplay. Your character can grind along pretty much any rail or wire-like surface, bounce off cars and air vents to soar to unthinkable heights, and run along walls with no fear of falling. There’s never any penalty for falling. The only way your character can “die” is by being shot by other humans or attacked by the mutants.

The more you can take advantage of the cool traversal options, the more you can unlock special abilities (called amps and overdrives). Amps and overdrives enhance your weapons or allow you to do massive damage by dropping onto the ground from a great distance.

The cast of characters and great writing will have you laughing out loud.

The cast of characters and great writing will have you laughing out loud.

Great Sense of Humor

The goofy premise in addition to some really great writing makes Sunset Overdrive really fun to play. It also constantly pokes fun at common gaming conventions by having the player talk to a “disembodied voice” that’s giving you tips on how to play and having the player character make comments like, “Thanks for not making me start all the way at the bottom” after missing a jump. When you use certain weapons or kill certain enemies, you’ll also see comic-book style words come across the screen, such as “POP” or “BLAM.” These little touches constantly remind you that you’re playing a game, which helps to keep the tone lighthearted even though a true mutant apocalypse wouldn’t be anything to laugh at. In addition, whenever your character dies, he or she will respawn in a variety of different ways that make references to pop culture. My favorite was when my character crawled out of a static-riddled TV a la “The Ring.”

Players can grind along surfaces while dispatching enemies.

Players can grind along surfaces while dispatching enemies.

The ESRB Rating

Sunset Overdrive is rated M with content descriptors for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language and Violence. Whenever humans take damage, you’ll see some blood, but most of the gore comes from the mutants who basically explode into orange gushes of the aforementioned energy drink. Some of the dialogue makes reference to drugs, and whenever your character fast travels from one place to another, he or she drinks what looks like a beer bottle and passes out. At the other location, he or she stumbles out of a portable toilet, acting very hungover before whipping back into shape. Sex is referenced throughout the dialogue and on some of the signage around the city, the most notable of which is a restaurant called Sexburger. The language is very  pervasive throughout the game and includes basically every profanity you can think of.

But here’s something interesting that Sunset Overdrive does to soften its hard content. There’s an option in the menu to turn off gore and language. If these are turned off, you won’t see any blood, and any profanities in the game are bleeped out. It’s great way to make the game a bit more palatable if you’re concerned about the content mentioned above.

The Takeaway

Sunset Overdrive is a fun and vastly humorous game that doesn’t take itself or gaming in general very seriously. Set within a city that feels very alive, with tons to explore and lots of collectibles along the way, it’s game that still has me hooked after hours of gameplay. There is a lot of language, but most of the violence feels cartoony and over-the-top. Out of all the M-rated games released recently, Sunset Overdrive is the one I’d be most comfortable giving to a tween or teen. The ability to turn off the language and blood only makes it better.

Nicole Tanner

About Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.