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20th December 2014

Mountain Dew Rising – Sunset Overdrive Review

Elliot Coen fires explosive teddy bears in his bombastic review of Sunset Overdrive

Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Doritos and Oreos; typical ‘gamer fuel’ staples. Admittedly, these goods are more Stateside prevalent than here in the UK, because who has time to make a halloumi salad when you are busy 360 no-scoping in CoD or searching out hundreds of collectible flags in Assassin’s Creed 12: My Dad Was A Ninja? Now, imagine if the consumption of such lovely refreshments turned you into a bulbous zombie, with the sole motive of seeking out more of that sweet, sweet, nectar. Enter Sunset Overdrive, Microsoft’s brand new Xbox One exclusive developed by Insomniac Games, the team that created my most stupendously favourite purple thing ever, Spyro the Dragon.

Set in the fictional Sunset City, you play as a nameless dude-hero who takes it upon himself to save the city from the OD, who are the aforementioned zombie drinkers of the evil corporation Fizzco’s Overcharge energy drink, a product clearly inspired by the infamous Mountain Dew. Along the way, you also face resistance from bandits who have taken advantage of the fizzpocalypse and the automatous legion of Fizzco robots.

“Nameless dude-hero?!”, I hear you worry. Another typical, nameless, generic, action hero? “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!” Fear not my fellow gamers, the lead protagonist is in fact one of the wittiest characters in the history of video games. And, yes, I have played all the games in existence so I can say this with authori-tay. Your guy/girl constantly breaks the figurative fourth wall and satirises traditional rote game design such as the ‘rule of three’ or invisible game world boundaries. Your character makes many swears when being funny, so if that’s not your bag, you can even turn on a censor bleep in the options menu .

The setting is nice and all, but what makes Sunset Overdrive my current game of the year, is the tight-knit game mechanics. Sunset City is one big open-world sandbox. Typically, these type of games have to rely on some sort of fast travel system to help players get around due to the vast size of the playable area. Sunset Overdrive does have a fast travel option, but I never used it once in my 30 or so hours with the game, which is a testament to just how good its traversal mechanics are. Almost every surface, save the ground itself, acts as a trampoline for you to bounce off. This includes every rail you can grind along and every wall you can wall-run across. Chaining these manoeuvres together builds up your combo multiplier , which caps out at x500, so go nuts! Whilst rewarding you with more of the game’s two currencies as you slay OD, bandits or robots. I can’t convey just how satisfying it feels bouncing off the hood of a car, grabbing onto a phone line overhead, switching from an undergrind to an overgrind and, at the touch of a button,  finishing off the move off by firing an explosive teddy bear at a group of sugar rushed zombies. Yeah, you read that right; an explosive teddy bear launcher and that’s just one of the tamer weapons in the game.

Utilising the game’s hilarious weapon set is just as much fun as all of the traversal mechanics. You begin the game with just one weapon and unlock more as you progress. You do this by using the Overcharge currency you get from completing missions and killing enemies. The starting gun in the game sets the tone for the rest of the armoury. One such weapon is called the ‘Flaming Compensator’. It’s a fiery and extremely potent shotgun in the shape of a cock and balls. Crude? Yes. Unnecessary? Probably. Awesome? Shit yeah! Another weapon you can unlock is a bowling ball launcher called ‘The Dude’. Although anything that references The Big Lebowski is a winner in my books, the gun is also heaps of fun to use . Swinging from a street lamp whilst firing at robots, with bowling balls that ricochet off every surface, is what video games were made for.

So, you buy and upgrade your weapons with Overcharge. What do you do with all of that dollar, the game’s other currency? Well, this is where the surprisingly extensive character customisation comes into play. To start, you can customise your character’s gender, face, build and all of that usual stuff. The fun part is when it comes to all of the clothing you can unlock. For a portion of the game, my guy went around completing quests in nothing but a thong and a wolf mask. I then decided to switch it up and wore a full suit of armour and an astronaut helmet. Later, I changed into a sweet cheerleading skirt/biker vest/top hat combo. Yeah, you get the idea.

If you cannot tell that I loved this game, then I’m clearly not very good at this. Sunset Overdrive was a big surprise for me. I had very low expectations going into the game, but they were smashed when I was only partially through the tutorial. For those game aficionados out there—and let’s face it, who else would be reading this—I would best describe Sunset Overdrive as a fiery concoction, inspired by the very best bits of Dead Rising, Jet Set Radio and Saints Row. It doesn’t aim to be a narrative masterpiece like The Last of Us. Insomniac Games clearly ground the game design down to its core mechanics and then built the game from there.

Forget about Halo or Forza. Sunset Overdrive is the reason you should be thinking about getting an Xbox One this holiday.

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