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    Sunset Overdrive: Living in a paradise

    Welcome to the awesomepocalypse ! Do whatever you want and have a radical time doing it. That’s basically the message that Insomniac Games’ very first Xbox exclusive shoves down your throat from its first amplified power chord to its game closing sexual innuendo. Sunset Overdrive’s insanely vivid art style and hyper kinetic movement do wonders to portray Insomniac as a studio in a rebellious state of discontent to wards the entire games industry, but it too often struggles to carry that theme throughout the entirety of its ten hour campaign. Lackluster mission design, its teeth grinding irreverent tone, cast of deplorable characters and often mundane combat make Sunset Overdrive feel like nothing more than a poorly executed piece of concept art at times.


    It’s a shame, because Sunset Overdrive gets so many things right. Kicking off just hours into the rock and roll end times, Sunset Overdrive throws you into the role of disillusioned janitor turned wall running, gun toting anarchist, hell bent on using the city as a playground and having the greatest time in the apocalypse ever. Your character makes the transition as soon as we find Sunset City is in disarray. Its denizens have gone mental over the release of a new energy drink, Over Charge Delirium XT, and they’ve hit the streets, transformed by the sugary goodness into bloodthirsty mutants. It’s silly and it doesn't really make any sense but hey! This is videogames, it doesn't always have to make sense.
    “Sunset Overdrive becomes a punk-rock Jet Set Radio, and it’s wicked fun, fresh and satisfying”
    Sunset Overdrive takes great pleasure in prodding you with knowing videogame references, continuing to make self referential comments throughout and even make jokes at its own expense, even after the first one falls flat on its face. It’s all well and good being able to laugh at your faults in design, Insomniac, but not making any attempt to rectify or breath new life into tired tropes asa response is just baffling.

    Make no mistake, despite the circumstances, party in the apocalypse you will. This is the sort of anarchistic state of emergency that party punk outfit Municipal Waste has been preparing us for this entire time. While most games are content Dead Rising 3, we’re looking at you with having you trudge around the apocalypse being all depressed and struggling against a location to survive, Sunset Overdrive prefers to let you run riot. Like, literally run, and grind, and bounce and swing and move across pretty much any and every surface in Sunset City to your heart’s content, with little
    penalty if you mistime a transition. The city is vibrant, vertical and vicious in its encouragement for you to utilise it in any and every way you see fit.

    Starting a grind or a wall run is as easy as tapping X when you’re close enough, and the game will then continue to do most of the work for you if you’re expecting the skill  Tony Hawk’s  games demanded to be present here, prepare to be disappointed. Sunset Overdrive is all about moving around with style, it’s all about making you look good to anybody that might be watching. It takes three or four hours to really click, but once you unlock abilities such as the air and water dashes not to mention a few ways to deftly recover from mistakes you’ll find movement is the greatest part of  Sunset Overdrive.  A fast travel system is in place, but you’ll rarely use it: you’ll spend way too much time trying to link 100 plus traversal combos together, pushing movement to its very limits. By the time you get your head around the system and the design of the city, Sunset Overdrive becomes a punk rock Jet Set Radio, and it’s wicked fun, fresh and satisfying.

    It’s a shame, then, that the story does its best to work against the sense of fun and anarchy the movement system inspires. You’re the only person in the game that can utilise the city like their own personal roller coaster, and, despite the fourth wall breaking disembodied voices continuously telling us to have fun doing whatever we want to do, the game constantly falls back on traditional open world sandbox structure. You’ll become an errand boy for the entire city, treated like crap by some of the most annoying supporting characters to grace a game this generation, and spend your
    entire time trying to escape the only place that’s ever let you feel at home. As soon as you’re given all of the power, you’re handed all of the responsibility, and it only ever works against the tone and concept Insomniac has tried so hard to outline ahead of the game’s release. At times, Sunset Overdrive truly feels like the game Insomniac always wanted to make. It’s loud, it’s brash and boisterous but as soon as it begins to shout against the videogame conventions we’re growing so tired of, it tells you to go and do them with the same breath.
    “The further we progressed through the game, the more we gravitated towards conventional albeit amped up methods of warfare”
    Considering Insomniac’s legacy, you'd be forgiven for thinking that shooting would not only be the main attraction, but would also be wicked fun. Fans of Ratchet & Clank will immediately recognise the combat; though on this occasion it fails to engage.  Sunset Overdrive gleefully hands you plenty of comically oversized weapons, but many feel more interested in being zany than effective against the baying hordes of enemies. That is, partly at least, due to aiming being ripped
    out of your hands. You’re moving so quickly that gunplay is managed by a heavy handed lock on system, and after a few hours it becomes incredibly repetitious.

    Insomniac hinged the entire system on players utilising weapons in tandem with intricate traversal movements to fill your Style meter a glorified score and combo meter. Doing so activates different Amps, perks that can be unlocked and equipped through play to contribute and effect your movement and combat skills. For example, hitting a certain level of style might let you leave a trail of fire behind you while you grind, or give you a chance to freeze enemies after hitting them. At a certain style level, all of your Amps unlock at once, creating hectic scenes of destruction undercut by how boring it is to actually utilise the weapons.

    Truth be told, the further we progressed through the game, the more we gravitated towards conventional albeit amped up methods of warfare. A super charged revolver that summoned the grim reaper became our go to, a modified AK-47 that unleashed mini-nuclear blasts our fall back weapon, and a launcher that fired teddy bears instead of rockets was required to dispatch large groups of enemies. This meant that all manner of crazy guns were left unused, because they simply weren't fun to wield. In a perfect world, linking combo kills together would have unlocked bigger and
    more bodacious ways for you to traverse the city because right now it feels like a score attack game without any skill or consequence. You spend so much time trying to activate your amps, but the enemies fall just as quickly whether they are in play or not.

    When it was all said and done,  Sunset Overdrive just felt lost within itself. It wants to be a superhero game that purports to be about nothing more than straight up murdering folks, drinking a beer and blowing shit up. But it backs away from its grand vision with a startling frequency and often feels like it’s trying too hard to impress. It’s like reaching out to the new kid at school; you feel happy about how charitable you are by inviting them round your house, but you wish they’d just stop spending the entire time trying to convince you they’re cool.

    What’s worse is that it could have been great. The movement and parkour elements are fantastic, and a genuine breath of fresh air into the genre. The world is wonderfully designed, the art and sound direction is stunning, but its reliance on genre tropes not to mention its toothless attempts to poke fun at them and disappointing combat create an end experience that’s too disparate in its ideas and
    execution to be truly enjoyable for everybody.

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