Sunset Overdrive Reviews Are In: What’s the Verdict?

Reviews are in on Sunset Overdrive and critics are overwhelmingly amused and addicted to this bright and flashy explosion of style, self-awareness and just plain fun--but it's not without some issues. The loud, anarchist style isn't for everyone and some are left unimpressed with repetitive gameplay and one-sided story elements.
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As passionate gamer, so limited only to PlayStation consoles, there’s always a little part of me that hopes every new Microsoft exclusive isn’t painful to miss out on. There are rarely titles that stir up some tangible pain when I can’t experience them–but Sunset Overdrive is one of them.

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It shouldn’t be a surprise. Even the lesser Ratchet and Clank games have been aesthetically polished, laugh-out-loud, unadulteratedly fun romps for gamers of all types. Insomniac has always held firmly that not-coveted-enough title of being a developer that puts just a little more focus on the fun factor than almost anything else. With Sunset Overdrive’s irreverence for the fourth wall and insistence on putting humor and fun gameplay above realism or any standardized hardcore gamer tropes, it distinguishes itself as a game worth playing. With the vast majority of it’s Metacritic scores sitting at 80 or higher, it’s much harder to find negative criticisms of this game than it is to find reasons to play it.

“Almost every weapon is a joke, and using it is the punchline — from the explosive teddy bear gun to a weapon that deploys Fizzco mascot-shaped sprinklers full of acid.” -Arthur Gies, Polygon 

It sounds like the first game of this generation that I’m genuinely jealous I can’t be playing, and it’s great to see that Insomniac still has some creative tricks up their sleeve, outside nearly a decade of Ratchet and Clank–but a trick that still retains that comittment to fun. Arthur Gies, of Polygon, says

Insomniac has created something fiercely bright and alive and, more often than not, pretty funny. In a fall season full of self-serious interactive narratives, Sunset Overdrive is unabashedly a Game. 

It’s one thing to play a game that is cinematically engaging, or mechanically sound–but something else entirely to sink yourself into one that is just so brightly fun and self-aware. Games are games; they can delve into a variety of high-brow and more artful endeavors but at t their core, they’re played for fun and it’s always a joy to see any game, so successfully, embrace that. Another piece that almost every review has made note of is how fun and fluid the traversal is, but is that enough to carry weak story and characters?

“The feeling owes a large part to Ratchet’s own rail-grinding segments, but it’s much more developed in this open world. Once a waypoint is set, how you get there is entirely up to you. Improvising a perfect line feels more like a great run in a Tony Hawk game than an action platformer” – Steve Watts, Shacknews

The problem often encountered with that level of playfulness is a drop in technical details and while the reviews are mostly postive, even proponents of the game admit to it’s failings, be it repetition in gameplay or the flatness of it’s story and predictable humor. 

“The story and dialogue try awfully hard to achieve a tone of bold irreverence – bothlack the assured punch of open world rival Borderlands. The attempts to satirise video game tropes are weak and, again, better delivered in games such as Far Cry: Blood Dragon”-Simon Parkin, The Guardian

Ben Moore, of Gametrailers, points out that “The humor always seems to take the most predictable path, which gets more grating as time goes on. The game is so constantly in your face with its attitude that it often feels forced and insincere. Some conversations are little more than an assortment of strung-together bad jokes.”

He’s not the only one unimpressed with the game’s intent to satirize and rebel against gaming norms as Simon Parkin points out in The Guardian, “The story and dialogue try awfully hard to achieve a tone of bold irreverence – both lack the assured punch of open world rival Borderlands. The attempts to satirise video game tropes are weak and, again, better delivered in games such as Far Cry: Blood Dragon.

It seems like the matter of whether Sunset Overdrive is for you or not, depends a lot on just how much it’s brand of wacky chaos gets you all hot and bothered. Does the idea of zombies exploding into orange goo, spellig out the words “boom” and “pop”, and linking endless traversal combos of grinding, jumping and swinging into the craziest known game of “pretend the floor is lava” get you so excited that you could overlook repetition, some cheap laughs and forgettably archetypal characters?

Sunset Overdrive comes out on Xbox One, next Tuesday, October 28th. Whether you’re dying to get your hands on it, skeptical, or just plain not interested in the game, let us know in the comments below!


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Benjamski
I'm a shameless geek for anything comedy, gaming and coffee. I play most of my games on PlayStation and drink my coffee with butter. I have deep admiration for the works of Joseph Campbell, and as such, have a love for powerful stories and engaging narratives in games and beyond. I play anything story driven, mostly Action-Adventure games, RPGs and anything open-world. I've been writing about games for years and I'm now committing dangerously large chunks of time to that, occasionally streaming (twitch.tv/thebenjamski) and putting putting out Let's Play videos in the near future. Cool cool cool.