Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher:  Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: 

Sunset Overdrive Review: Style Over Substance

2 of 2

This game has been given a lot of comparisons due to its mixture of different types of games. Each resemblance features grinding, although sporting the urban traversal like Tony Hawk, supernatural ranged fighting like Infamous and the colorful world design of Jet Set Radio. The sad part is that Sunset Overdrive offers a lesser representation of the sum of its parts. The movement does not require much skill, yet is necessary to avoid taking damage (standing on the ground while getting shot at is a guaranteed hit, while grinding mostly protects you). The sense of growing more powerful throughout story progression does not exist, as most weapons that you get through early story missions will more than carry you to the end. Finally, as great as it is to see so many colors utilized in the art design, Sunset City itself doesn’t feel as unique to its setting as it should.

Sunset Overdrive offers a fair effort that comes up just short of its intentions.

To expand upon that last point, it is an open world that feels closed with filler. Those collectibles that can be traded for Amps? There are 150 each of the following hidden in the city to collect: Fizzi Balloons, Smelly Shoes, Camera Lenses, Neon Overdrive Signs and Toilet Papers. In addition to 40 graffiti tags and 40 backstory-related smartphones, that’s over 800 different collectibles to find! The design of the game’s world would arguably be more fleshed out, feeling like it belonged in a dystopian 2027 city if there wasn’t so much effort put into extending the shelf life of the gameplay.

Everything I may have said about Sunset Overdrive may lead you to believe that it is a terrible game, however there are a few aspects that redeem itself. Night Defense is the prime example of what the developers should have been striving to involve more throughout; a challenging encounter that tests your resource management, traversal skills and combat abilities under pressure. Your goal is to fend off incoming hordes of Overdrive Drinkers (OD) in a fort defense, while setting traps and shooting down foes as they try to impede your Amp-making progress. How you place your traps, which ones you pick and balancing defending sides between multiple attack points actually brings excitement and difficulty to an otherwise-laxadasical approach to gameplay advancement.

Gameplay challenges provide a much-needed boost to the mission and quest system in Sunset Overdrive. They compose of 80+ mini-games or quests, such as traversing in small areas to get points, killing enemies in a certain style or tests of specific abilities. What makes them special is their difficulty curves and their online component. Your final scores, when tabulated, are placed on an online leaderboard, allowing you to see how well you do against the community. It’s a great addition that will boost replayability for hours upon hours, should the challenges entice you.

Both of these offerings make up the key components of Chaos Squad, Sunset Overdrive’s online multiplayer mode. You and up to 7 other players join a lobby world, voting and competing in the collection of challenges that exist in the single player campaign. Depending on which challenges you choose to take, you can risk bonuses to player abilities that will be added to the mode’s final Night Defense challenge, or opt to add fewer Chaos points in order to make the end challenge easier. With up to 8 players at once, each setting up their own traps and shooting at enemies at once, there is truth to the name of Chaos Squad!

The more points you earn in each challenge, combined with the points risked in picking the challenges that determine the Night Defense difficulty, the better rewards you can earn for your single player campaign. Weapons, clothing items and Overcharge cans can be earned. What makes Chaos Squad much more enjoyable than the base game is its variety. Throwing competitive challenges together with a team-based interests provides excellent strategic opportunities, with a focus on the game’s most thoughtful and intriguing game mode. I just wish that the campaign experience could have been as multi-faceted in its design!

More from Reviews

Wrapping things up, I did appreciate the sound design of Sunset Overdrive. The soundtrack has a decidedly punk-rock sense to it which, to the credit of the creative team, does better fit the character’s individualism. Enemies have their own specific sounds, and truly bring each creation a life of its own. Furthermore, for the most part the framerate stayed consistent at 30 FPS. However, one gameplay challenge that saw me chaining a lightning attack amid dozens of OD on screen resulted in what appeared to be a single-digit framerate for two seconds after a divebomb attack. Besides that, the game ran fairly smoothly. As a final thought, although you can keep 4-5 types of weapons all game and stay relatively safe, the design of the game’s weapons did a great job of featuring different functions. The mix between area-of-effect guns, single-shot power attacks and rapid fire rifles gave as many different looks possible to different styles of the player’s choosing.


Sunset Overdrive offers a fair effort that comes up just short of its intentions. Its humor-based story and character development starts off well enough. That is, before relying too much on aiming to be meta or referring to every piece of pop culture from the past decade. The multiplayer, Night Defense and challenge modes would make up parts of a great standalone title, however they cannot overshadow the uninspired story quests, nor the oddly-designed, style-traversal-based combat system. At the core, there is the potential for a great game in Sunset Overdrive. It what makes the execution that much more disappointing.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)