Sunset Overdrive: Awesomepocalypse

It is 2027. It is the post-apocalypse. I mean, obviously, because in video games, the future is always the post-apocalypse. It’s the rules or something. Anyway, in this otherwise redundant future post apocalypse, the world is (or technically was, but also kind of still is) controlled by FizzCo,a food and beverage mega corporation whose latest must-have product, an energy drink called OverCharge Delirium XT that’s “guaranteed to unlock your wasted potential”, has turned everybody who drank it into mutant monsters, because of course it has. I’m sure that’s some sort of subtle metaphor about capitalism and consumerism and the subde constructivist paradigm of consensus or not but the point is, it’s now up to you, mega ultra heroic… janitor, to save the world. Or Sunset City, for now. The world can wait until the inevitable sequel.

Sunset Overdrive is a mad mashup of a bunch of things, perhaps most prominently including Tony Hawk’s Project 8, Saints Row, and a psychedelic hallucination made up almost entirely of brightly coloured-in Memebase gags, gratuitous swears, and self-referential parody. It’s zany, hilarious, brilliantly stupid or, maybe, stupidly brilliant and definitely some of the most fun I’ve had this whole year. This is the game I never knew I’d always wanted to play, and a razzle dazzle respite from the gritty, grimy, 50 shades of grey of previous future post apocalypses.

The single player campaign’s premise is simple enough get out of Sunset City alive. Easier said than done (by approximately 20 hours or so), but being dead isn’t exactly a major obstacle either because you’ll come back to life instantly with zero penalty, and the respawn animations comprising loads of pop culture references from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Terminator 2 to Star Trek, The Grudge, and even Portal make up some of the game’s coolest moments. Sunset Overdrive is not a hard game by any means, and relies instead on maintaining an increasingly absurd plot-loop of go here, do-this, with a supporting cast of appropriately eccentric weirdoes and a murderous balloon with lasers for eyes. This is real deal “sandbox gaming”, where you can shut out the tedious humdrum of grown up reality and pretend you’re a potty mouthed 10 year old with an infinite supply of grubby action figures, spraypaint, and antisocial tendencies. And your sandbox is laced with military grade narcotics.

Early on, you learn that slogging it on foot is an exceedingly bad idea and not just because grinding power lines, wall running, air dashing, and bouncing off industrial fans looks way more rad. Hanging around on the ground is an open invitation to the swarms of mutants already cramming Sunset City’s streets, and even a TNTeddy  blast at point-blank range isn’t much of a deterrent to the monsters stepping in what’s left of their former comrades. Instead, Sunset Overdrive swaps out standard, check-your-corners urban warfare for an open world game of “the floor is lava”, and just to keep things interesting, grinding and bouncing dials up your Style Meter to unlock temporary ability and gear boosts via slotted Amps. Amps? Amps! They’re these… things that you get by completing missions or cashing in collectibles, and can be equipped in several different slots for extra special effects. The “Burn, Baby” weapon Amp, for example, has a chance of igniting enemies around you, and the “Roid Rage” melee Amp causes enemies to explode when you hit them. Some of the more exotic Amps can only be purchased with specific collectibles, like toilet paper hey, toilet paper is useful even at the end of everything and picking up enough of this stuff to trade in can be a bit of a chore.

Doing pretty much anything in Sunset Overdrive  counts towards a multitude of XP tickers using a particular weapon a lot will rank it up, for example, and all weapons and traversal manoeuvres grinds, wall runs, air dashes, bounces, and everything else in between also feature unlockable modifiers, or “Badges”. These work a bit like Amps, in that you can choose to add Badges to six “Overdrive” slots for boosts and bonuses, but unlike Amps they’re always active. Your Badges can also level up, and Overdrive loadouts can be customised to create a character that plays according to your own unique preferences and/or contingent circumstances.

Next to the single player campaign, Sunset Overdrive also features some rather excellent multiplayer with Chaos Squad. Up to eight people can chum up and rock out in a randomised, grab bag series of objective based missions somewhat similar to the campaign missions, but with more enemies. Heaps more enemies. In fact, even attempting to play this mode with less than four players is basically suicide, sooner or later but almost definitely sooner because there’s no difficulty scaling according to the number of people in the game. Although this is somewhat mitigated by no significant forfeit for failure besides embarrassment, it does mean people with no friends are missing out. But then, they’d miss out in a real apocalypse, anyway, so maybe it’s like a public service announcement or something. Get friends, everybody, or you’re going to have a bad time.

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