Sunset Overdrive Just Isn’t Good, Period


My favorite games – Mass Effect, Uncharted, Hungry, Hungry Hippos – tend to have strong stories, lead by memorable characters (you go, Pink Hippo!). But I can appreciate and often enjoy the mindless action of a multiplayer shooter or a sports game, etc. So when Microsoft celebrated Xbox One’s first birthday with some giveaways, starting with their unforgivingly colorful Sunset Overdrive, I was thrilled. It was only free for 24 hours, but it was the full game, complete with achievements and carry over save points. So best cases, I love the game and finish it before time runs out, or love it and decide to go out and buy the disk. Worst case, it sucks, and I saved myself a £50 experimental purchase.

Unfortunately, I’m writing to you with a crinkled £50 still in my pocket, looking for something worth the investment.

Character Creation


Somewhat fun, but limited. I’m one of those chumps who makes my avatar look at least a little like myself, and it wasn’t really possible here. Whether the game or my face is to blame, we’ll call it a draw. Failing my usual route, I was left to make the stupidest looking guy I could, and ended up with some sort of Wreck It Ralph/Raggedy Ann mashup with sharp teeth in place of irises (unfortunately forgot to get a screenshot before my trial expired). I was actually keen to play as the charismatic hipster chap in the trailer, as he seemed like the funny, adventurous type with whom I’d enjoy dodging death. Instead, multiplayer is going to be full of guys with ponytails and girls in skimpy outfits. So basically how I imagine Miami.



I probably did cool stuff like this. But I can’t be sure.

To the game’s benefit, we’re thrown straight into the action, dodging boil-covered enemies after a ten-second cutscene. Within 3 minutes, we’re halfway across the city shooting giant mutants from above. It’s quick and colourful, but it’s not pretty.

I can best describe Sunset as a teenage fantasy. It’s like a group of high schoolers gathering in their pimply groups and decide to starting a band, only everyone in the band plays the drums. If I had sat down with my old college friends and proclaimed that we should make a video game putting in ‘only the coolest things’, this might have been the result. Crude jokes, insane guns, explosions and zombie/mutants craving energy drinks, it’s all in there. It sounds fun in theory, but I’m dead certain whatever game our drunken gang came up with would have been pretty horrible. This is proof enough of that.

Having so many ingredients in the mix makes the fun, animated aesthetic fade into the background. If my focus is on changing to the right gun, or grinding on the right rail, or shooting the right beast, or selecting the right special power, I’m quickly lost in a mess of uncoordinated button bashing. When such a seemingly simple idea is burdened by complex gameplay, we’re left with an inconsistent game that’s impossible to fully enjoy. I’m forced to either admire the smoothness of my aerial manoeuvres and fail my objectives, or focus on my assault and miss out on the impressive level design.

The Design (1)

As we knew from trailers, the game looks and feels cool. With practice, the smooth angles do allow for some joyful journeys as you grind and bounce your way around the city. And the new gen capabilities have been used well as countless enemies are thrown into the mix. Insomniac Studios, who spent their early days developing innocent games like Spyro and later the more mature Resistance and Fuse have done well to somewhat combine the styles into this kind of adult action.

Visuals aside, my favourite aspect of the game has to be the self-aware dialogue, which is almost enough to force a negative review to raise its thumb. The gameplay problems are addressed by a parodical voiceover, who basically runs out of breath explaining the extent of the special powers (of which you receive three or four at once). The clichés bounce and the pop culture references are a-plenty, and made me chuckle from time to time.


I don’t usually opt for star ratings, but if I was pressed, I’d be looking at something like 3 out of 10. 14 year old me with my brand new Xbox 360 may have loved it. I see high praise for the game around the internet, so I’d be keen to hear if I’ve missed something that would have made the experience more valuable. In the end, the best thing I can say is that it was worth the price I paid.

If you like the things I write about, we’d probably be good friends. You could find me in any random London cafe most days, or on Twitter if you prefer that kind of thing.

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  1. I played a few hours during the free-try on Saturday. I agree with your points on character creation and gameplay. The biggest problem is the obligation to be gliding on rails at all times to fight enemies. This makes S.O. into a 3D platformer, not an open world shooter. The character creation is very limited. There are no sliders to make adjustments. You are stuck with a small selection of faces/bodies. Saints Row (3 & 4) had much better character creation. The developer said the design concept was “fun trumps realism”, and I think this was a mistake. Realism should always be a goal in any art, especially video games. S.O. does many good things, though. It’s polished and the graphics are very good. The plot is fun (despite the annoying premise that corporations are evil) and the characters are funny. But, in the end, the experience is ruined by forced rail grinding, and a city full of orange marshmallow-clones.

    1. Exactly. Compare this to games like Prototype and Infamous, which have similar mechanics with grinding, wall-running etc. but give you more options on how to approach any given assault. You also had somewhat interesting protagonists in those games, negating the need for sloppy character creation.

    2. I love Insomniac’s output & I was looking forward to this game, but as colorful as the world is, it felt very same-y in the trailers…is there much in the way of variety to the missions or environment? I rarely have much attachment to the open world genre because I get a bit tired of seeing the same thing through the whole campaign & missions typically end up repeating each other quite a bit…I’m more of a story driven single player, linear type of gamer so I really dug the Resistance series…is there more to this game than what’s been shown already visually & gameplaywise?

      1. The unprecedented free play on Saturday (not a trial, but access to the whole game for 24 hours), and the $10 price drop shows the game is not selling well. That should be an indication to avoid it.

  2. I got my son in on the free 24 hours play. I watched him play and I didn’t see anything that made me say wow I got to play that. For a minute I got caught up in the hype of how great this game is suppose to be. I do think however it’s on the correct system Xbox One because it’ll standout more. I think on PS4 it would’ve kind of washed away faster than it will on XB1 which I think Insomniac made a good decision to make it exclusive. I don’t think it was the worst game I’ve ever seen just not must have for me.

  3. 24 hrs with this game is not enough time to write a review and the fact that you used that time to do so shows highly…. You should be embarassed… this is not a review this is an opinion based on not liking or getting used to the control scheme… yes it is its own game… meaning some of the common first person shooter buttons are changed in order to be able to do the crazy traversals and parkour throughout… although its exaggerated its exactly what insomniac was going for…. What I believe from the tone in your writing is that you dont have enough funds to cover all the costs of games coming out so took the advantage of a free trial to make a review…. My first time to this site and the only advice i have is TRULY REVIEW a game… spend time with it… I have all the consoles numerous pcs, etc etc yada yada… I also bought all the games out this holiday season already on my own…. S.O. is one of the better games this holiday..amongst many others… you say you love aspects yet hate somethings… yet you says it sucks! IDK anybody else seem as if he didnt have enough free time with the game and rather then use his $50 on a game he couldnt get used to a controller scheme and decided to bash at times, love at times then gie it a review score… really… smh

    1. I agree that some of the developer’s choices were purposeful, and that the controller scheme has a right to be different to serve its unique purpose. But I don’t think it served it properly.

      Though I disagree with your other points. I don’t think coddling a game for weeks is going to change my opinion. It would simply give my negative review less relevant timing. I appreciated the witty dialogue and fun visuals, but I certainly didn’t love them, and they weren’t enough to make the gameplay more fun.

      I’m glad you liked it, and I’m keen to hear what stood out for you that didn’t work for me.

  4. The reason the controls are difficult is because traversing takes a little skill. You have to practice at it. Which becomes even more evident in the mp matches with friends. I won’t mark you down for not liking the game but maybe lacking a little bit of a sense of fun. I think people who take things too seriously should back away from this game. Maybe stick to playing more serious titles like RISK (tabletop board games) and solitaire. Seems more fitting.

  5. what I see here is a grown up complaining about how a kid game doesn’t satisfy his needs, even going as far to straight up admit that by stating that his 14 year old self would have probably loved it.
    do you honestly think Insomniac had primarily twenty-somethings in mind when they made this?… cause I sure don’t. I know exactly who it was made for.
    14 year olds!!
    It’s completely disingenuous to rag on a title when you readily accept the fact that the gameplay offered is no longer what you’re looking for.
    It’s not really my thing either but I’m certainly not going to dump on it simply because I’ve grown past the genre it belongs to.
    that’s called being fair.
    and if you can’t at least throw Insomniac some credit for their hard work that’s obvious to anyone watching or playing their game, it simply proves that while you’ve grown past kid games, you’re not yet the adult that deserves to be throwin’ around grown-up opinions.

    1. Considering the 17+ rating, if 14 year olds are the target audience, profits aren’t going to look good.

      Though of course they get credit for the hard work. Anyone who makes a game, or any kind of art or media has automatic credit. Though credit doesn’t make fun out of chaos.

    2. Actually man. The references in the game suggest it was geared towards 30 something’s. There are so many 80’s and 90’s refferences its ridiculous. I would have missed a lot of the jokes if I wasn’t old enough or versed in its pop culture. It has current stuff too but it definitely leans with its references. Regardless the author sounds like he needs to loosen his tie a bit.

    3. Not to mention the “M for Mature” rating would lead most if not all people to believe the audience this is supposed to be aimed at is someone that is 17+, because that’s what ratings are for.

  6. This game was a game that was and isbone of the most refreashing games ive played for a while.It sounds like you didnt understand what the developers vision was.It wasto make a game thats all about having fun and not trying to be soooo serious.Its a game that reminds us that games are still fun without having some complex story. ITS FUN!!!HAVE FUN!! You forgot that it seems….just like alot of peaple nowadays that a game has to be complex to be enjoyed. Find another job because you lost what it means to have fun.

    1. Hmm, I dunno, that sounds a lot like ‘Michael Bay makes big, fun movies, just go in and enjoy all that fun.’ Intent doesn’t have any bearing on quality. Wet and Bayonetta were similarly fun, simple games, and they were a blast.

  7. I actually bought the game day one and totally enjoyed it from the get go. The controls were difficult and I was pretty clumsy, but the beauty of the game and the humor kept it fun and interesting. Once I got around a third of the way through the game I finally started getting how to maneuver through the world. At that point I was bouncing, grinding, wall running and switching weapons, all while shooting whatever moved! I have finished the single player, which took way more than 24 hrs, and still running around trying to find all the secrets of the game. The point is that if I had stopped at 24 hrs then I might have not been so happy with the game, because at that point I didn’t have a grasp on the controls. But now that I do, I’m having a blast! But fortunately for me I bought it day one. And what I love the most about it, is that it’s not the same old tired freaking shooter! I have really laid off games in the last few years because the game companies keep pumping out shooters. I say the game industry needs to get back to the days when games were funny, interesting, witty, colorful, cartoonish and innovative. And I praise Insomniac for trying something new!

  8. Strange how the other sites really over rated this game. Always seems to be that way with Microsoft exclusives. I swear the reviewers let their 10 year old kids do the review.

  9. Too bad you brought $0N¥ into this, otherwise your article would have been a valid opinion. Now it’s just $0N¥ PauperStation desperation at its finest….clickbait.

    1. I don’t believe I mentioned Sony. If you’re referring to Uncharted, it’s a Naughty Dog production, and the fact that it’s PS exclusive has nothing to do with my enjoyment of Sunset.

      So if you can put that aside, I’m glad for the validation 🙂

  10. I think if you play the game as it was intended to play it’s a blast. I downloaded it played it and beat it during the 24 hr free trial for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.
    I think it brought fresh gameplay to a stale action/adventure interface. If your not grinding on rails, making big leaps and jumps of vehicles your going to be toast. It makes you get creative.
    If your try and beat this game hack N’ slash style or your average 3rd person shooter you will get killed quick. You can’t grind this game out on the ground. It forces you into it’s unique game play and I loved every minuet of it.
    If you missed out on the free trial I would recommend giving it a go whether that’s renting it or buying it. It’s unique, fresh and has INSANE weapons that brings blasts of mayhem to an already unique game.
    But, that’s just my humble opinion.

  11. Pretty sure the sales and critical praise say otherwise. But hey, at least five months later, Sony drones finally have something to play. Even though it’s just Dark Souls 3.0.

    1. Oh and also, “sales and critical praise”??? Im not sure what sales you may be referring to but the game sole like 3 copys and as far as praise the only places that gave it praise were xbox associated places so….. yeah, there goes that portion of your argument.

  12. It’s was just OK to me. The game is built around the grind mechanic to the point that you’re punished for being on foot. The humor was lost on me; guess either I’m too old to appreciate it, or it just wasn’t well done. The who “in your face” and “attitude” came across forced.

    Too much fetch questing. And you can’t just explore the city without a nonstop horde to worry about.

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