Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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When fun goes ‘Overdrive’

Daniel Lim

The eighth generation of video game consoles are home to some of the most memorable and extravagant games, such as Batman: Arkham Knight, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Ghosts of Tsushima, to name a few.

But amid the long list of the best games on the last generations of consoles is a game that was hyped as a launch title but flew under the radar due to various issues and concerns, especially pertaining to the console that it was released on.

The initial announcement to the release of the Xbox One was surrounded by a myriad of controversies, such as requiring an always online connection to needing the Kinect sensor to be constantly plugged in.

One of the games that suffered as a result was Sunset Overdrive.

Developed by Insomniac Games of the Ratchet and Clank series, as well as Marvel’s Spider-Man, Sunset Overdrive was a game published exclusively by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox One, which has the hallmarks of being bombastic and over the top.

Having been released nearly a decade ago in November 2013, I recently revisited the obscure title with the PC port, which was released years later in 2018, to see how it holds up with the advancements made in the gaming space so far.

A screenshot of the ‘Sunset Overdrive’ game. PHOTO: INSOMNIAC GAMES/MICROSOFT STUDIOS

Sunset Overdrive places players in the shoes of their own custom character in Sunset City, where an introduction of a new energy drink goes horribly wrong; those drinking it turn into zombie-like creatures called OD’s. With the apocalypse looming around the corner, players are thrusted into surviving the zombie horde.

Despite the premise that one might assume can lead to another mundane third-person shooter, Sunset Overdrive stood out from the sea of bland brown and grey palettes of the many shooters of its time by providing a bright pastel of colours that permeate the environment, to the players and enemies.

This is further backed by the hyper-stylised and cartoony look that Sunset Overdrive proudly places front and centre as one of the main draws of the game, with many cutscenes giving off a comic book style vibe as sound effects or words are plastered across the screen seemingly straight out of a comic book.

This results in the game being not only fun to play but also to experience, as many scenes clearly subvert expectations and make fun of gaming cliches and tropes, going as far as to make fun of itself. Some of the highlights include characters clearly breaking the fourth wall, to referencing other game titles of its genre.

And while a colourful pastel and over-the-top cliches can help brighten up the game, what makes the game stand out from the rest of the third-person shooter titles is the traversal mechanic, which players are quickly introduced to in the first few seconds of the game as they run away from the enemies.

Unlike other games where traversal is an optional mechanic to get from point A to point B, the movement in Sunset Overdrive is ingrained into the heart of the gameplay, where players are incentivised to use their environment to the fullest as running along the ground is not only painfully slow, but can result in death very quickly.

Fortunately, the game starts players out with the basic tricks of being able to jump at heights, grind, bounce on objects and wall-run across the city, with more introduced as the player progressed through the story; enables players to stylishly traverse through an
area quickly.

On the style, what encourages players to make use of this traversal mechanic is the aptly named ‘Style Metre’, increased by chaining the tricks together. This fills a bar that provides additional benefits depending on the customisations applied; from spawning explosions when bouncing on objects to more absurd uses such as having an announcer hyping the player’s every move.

This customisation applies to all aspects of the gameplay, from changing how the player’s character or hero looks, to the equally absurd weapon selection ranging from the mundane but deadly machine gun and heavy pistol, to more MacGyver-style contraptions such as the high fidelity which fires off vinyl records that have the ability to ricochet off enemies, all of which can be further customised with various effects.

Together, these customisations and over-the-top quirkiness, with an intuitive control and movement scheme coupled with a hyper-stylised story and visual, makes Sunset Overdrive a game worth playing even today, despite having flown under the radar since its release.