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.

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.

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!


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 ( and putting putting out Let's Play videos in the near future. Cool cool cool.

Published Oct. 28th 2014
  • Adam Koziol
    I got some hands on time with this game last month and it was really fun. The TNTeddy is definitely the best weapon.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Featured Correspondent
    These are times when I am glad I'm a self confessed Halo fanboy. I was always going to buy the Xbox One, so now I may just have an excuse beyond "oh yeah this one game, and another one a bit later."
    I've been lucky enough to be able to have gotten a Xbox 360 and PS3 before, so I didn't miss out on anything, along with my PC I can get every game.
    But when I owned my PS2, I hated the fact Halo was not on it, could only every play that round friends, or cousins houses. But of course Halo CE, and 2 were on PC too, so not all hope was lost (but at the time I didn't have a good enough PC to run them).
    But hey, games like this are what make the consoles worth buying, it's a shame the PS4 only has decent, not amazing (except The Last of Us, but that was a PS3 game I played to death, so probably not getting it again), games yet. But it has those coming soon! Can't wait to see what Sony bring out, and hope Naughty Dog, and Guerrilla Games bring out some new IP.
  • Benjamski
    Yeah I know the ups and downs of exclusives. Ive only had playstation consoles since 95 but it's not purely out of fandom. Sure, that's my choice, but only because I can only really afford supporting one console addiction--if It was up to me I'd have everything under the sun.

    I'd certainly like to play this game but I won't lose any sleep over it. Between the GTAV upgrade, Unity and Farcry 4 I've got games to play in my near futureI'm confident Sony will push some great exclusives in the coming year. I don't need a game that gives me the reasons to own a ps4 though, that's not why I got one.

    I'm sure there are some exciting exclusives on the way and even the ones we vaguely know about look promising!
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Featured Correspondent
    Exactly! You bought the PS4 out of fandom for Sony. Where I have a fandom towards the games, more than the platform owners. Both are relevant, and perfectly ok. As long as you then don't fanboy/girl over the console or game neglecting all it's faults.
  • Benjamski
    Oh of course and they all have their faults and their advantages. I imagine most gamers would have one of each gaming platform if they could, and if they turned that down it sounds like they care about the wrong things.

    I'll be looking forward to checking out some gameplay videos and Let's Plays of Sunset Overdrive so I can vicariosly play it :)

    Oh and Guerilla does have a new IP on the "Horizon" (see what I did there) but little is known about it so far. As amped up as I am for a new Uncharted game, which I'm excited to play, I would love to see Naughty Dog bust out something entirely different after their success with Uncharted and The Last of US.

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