Well, just in time for Christmas, here comes the absolute raving, punk antithesis of modern, narrative-driven action games exclusive to Xbox One. Sunset Overdrive with its color palate out of the inside of a bag of boiled candy, has the ironed-look of Japanese-style manga, but none of the matter-of-fact violence and definitely no bowing to anything that might tax the intellect vis-a-vis classic myth or literature. Yep, Sunset Overdrive, bring it on. A kind of breathless giggly grin of gaming that swipes aside what has heretofore always been a poker-faced (dare I say inscrutable?) stern, rule-bound genre.
How can this be, you ask? Well, it seems a brand-new energy drink, Overcharge Delireum XT, has turned the inhabitants of Sunset City into bloodthirsty mutants, and the responsible corporate entity, Fizz Co, wants to cover up the disaster, erecting vast walls around the area, trapping everyone inside. Consequently, the carefully dressed inhabitants of Sunset City, all of whom used to dress like members of Iron Maiden, have somehow been transformed into murdering zombies with the dress sense of Devo (“Are we not men?/We are Devo?/Are we not men?/D — E — V — O!). The codpieces look like they’re stiff and painful.
Set in a wide-open world of the ‘not-too-distant future’ with no comprehendible rules: Change only takes place via riots. Sunset Overdrive is an ever-changing open-world game you join after this (as yet) undefined catastrophe has left Sunset City overrun by mutants. While the majority perish or transform, you have to learn to cope or die. Your vocation, it turns out, is as a ‘mutant destruction consultant.’ Your arsenal of high-tech weapons overpower your enemies, but never make for anything ugly or bloody.
The missions are simple. You collect items and bring them back to headquarters. As you know your mission and have no concerns about combat, all you might stress on is death, But, hey, death? So what? You get killed, you ‘re-spawn.’ I think that means you have to spend a few weeks inside a test tube, but they’ve got mucho medication for that. And now that you’re calm, having taken that vow of non-violence, you can carry on in the image of the Buddha, J.C., Ghandi and Martin Luther King: Sunset Overdrive is adaptable that way! You don’t want to be mean to mutants? Just shoot them with the exploding teddy
Traveling from place to place is easy. You coast over rails, a sort of latter-day Tony Hawk, you tour the city, finding simple challenges everywhere. There’s even a multiplayer mode, so you can bring in your relatives and friends who don’t want to watch college football bowl games and the NFL at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Anyway, this is a gift for the light-hearted, whether it’s a gift for yourself or others. Comedy, in and of itself, is an acquired taste. The goofy comedy here—with its allusions to The Brady Bunch, Linda Lovelace, Jim McKay’s blazer, Bobby Riggs, or The Beverley Hillbillies gives the game a certain bizarre cachet of charm, as do its cartoon visuals. But it’s how you move and fight that makes Sunset Overdrive a joy. The controls are rendered easy to use, even for the most tech shy folks.
Insomniac is the studio that mastered a uniquely geeky mode of weaponry in the Ratchet and Clank series. They also pulled off the gritty, sci-fi fun of the Resistance series. So Sunset Overdrive’s eccentric buffet of idiosyncratic weapons and general daftness are not so strange if you played Chimera and Ratchet and Clank. For everybody else it’s all new.