Sunset Overdrive Review – Insomniac’s Jump to Microsoft Pays Off Big

What do you get when you cross mutated monsters, bright colors, vulgar language, and high-speed traversal shooting? You get Insomniac Games’ Xbox One-exclusive debut, Sunset Overdrive, an over-the-top and blindingly fast-paced thrill ride. Touting the catch phrase “Welcome to the Awesomepocalypse” it more than lives up to the billing.

It’s a good thing too because Microsoft is putting a lot of faith into Sunset Overdrive being a system seller for the green team. A stalwart of the Sony stable for many years, Insomniac brought the PlayStation brand some of its best games with franchises like Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, to name a few, so the jump to developing an Xbox One-exclusive took many by surprise. It looks like the move paid off because Sunset Overdrive is one of the best Xbox One games we’ve seen yet.

Sunset Overdrive

If you’ve yet to hear about Sunset Overdrive, allow me to fill you in on the basic premise. Set in the fictional metropolis of Sunset City in the year 2027, the story is based around the disastrous release of an energy drink called Overcharge Delerium XT. The company that produces the beverage, Fizzco, is having a massive pre-release party in Sunset City three weeks before Overcharge is to be released to the masses around the world. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the energy drink has been rushed to market and not properly tested or approved, there are certain side effects one might consider to be unfavourable… like turning into psychotic mutants. Following this mutant outbreak, the city is quarantined and when Fizzco comes in to cover up their mess, it’s up to you to take back the city and expose their wrongdoings.

Jumping into the game, it wastes no time throwing you to the wolves, or the OD (the short name for the Overcharge mutated monsters), more appropriately. A very short intro section loops you in on the most basic of the control mechanics (think Assassin’s Creed free running on meth) and you’re off. If there’s one thing I can say for certain it’s that the controls, while simple at their core, are painfully hard to master. The learning curve is a steep one but eventually you’ll find that it just clicks. The key to moving around Sunset City is traversal. You’ll want to grind down power wires, jump and bounce off a car on to a wall, and then leap over to a building all while spreading mayhem shooting explosive teddy bears. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Using the A button to jump, the X button to grind, switch from an over grind to an under grind and wall run, and the B button for melee attacks seems simple when you look at it, but it’s far more difficult in practice. The sheer speed at which you move combined with the movements of the enemy in a 360 degree battleground makes for some insane times.

Personally, I think it took me about four hours of solid play before I finally felt comfortable with the controls. Getting the movements down is really important in Sunset Overdrive because the better you navigate the map, the higher your style meter will rise. The style meter is your key to unleashing devastating Amps that can give your weapons boosted powers, open up special melee attacks, and allow you to use crazy Epic Amps. Epic Amps are the top dog OD killers ranging from the nuclear explosion mushroom cloud of Twist of Fate to a lighting tornado. They’re awesome to use but take work to unlock. If you stand still for even a moment, your combo meter will reset to zero and you’re style meter will begin to drain. Standing still in Sunset Overdrive is an easy way to get murdered, so the number one priority is to always keep moving.

Sunset Overdrive

Once you’ve really mastered traversal and the chaos of trying to gun down OD while on the run, then Sunset City is truly open for business. There is so much to do that you won’t even know what to do next half the time. From challenges to story missions to the Chaos Squad multiplayer, there’s never a dull moment. Not only that, there are collectibles for days out on the map that you’ll need to find in order to upgrade and create new Amps. The challenges are a fun aside and can have you completing tasks like smashing as many boxes as you can within a time limit to tricky traversal challenges. If you’re at all familiar with the Tony Hawk franchise and the infamous S-K-A-T-E challenges, you’ll feel right at home doing the traversal challenges. Completing challenges can net you customization gear, cash or cans of Overcharge, all which you’ll want in order to dress up your character with all the latest in vanity items and weapons.

While you’re busy completing missions and challenges, you’ll also earn badges for things that you’re busy doing anyways. You can earn grind badges, wall running badges, OD murderin’ badges, and more. These badges unlock Overdrives that you can use to boost weapon stats, up your damage against certain enemies, or increase the speed at which your style meter increase while traversing. As you can tell, there is a lot in Sunset Overdrive to unlock from abilities, Amps, weapons and more all to customize your character just how you like.

Sunset Overdrive

If it isn’t obvious by now, I’ll tell you that customization is a huge focus in Sunset Overdrive, as you’ll find out almost as soon as you pop in the game. More clothing options than you know what to do with and hundreds more unlockables in the game make for every player character being almost 100% unique. For a while, I had a cross-dressing goth gentleman who was the size of a bouncer rocking a pink miniskirt… because WHY NOT? The combinations are endless and often gut-bustingly funny. Not many things make me laugh more than a punk rocker in a unicorn hat sporting a kangaroo codpiece over his junk!

The laughter only starts with the customization of course, as the game itself is one of the more humorous titles I’ve encountered in a long time. The cast of characters from the Amp vendor Floyd to weapon vendor Two Hat Jack are a colorful bunch full of even more colorful language. Nothing is off limits and everything is fair game, it seems. Everyone from hipsters to dude-bros are targets. If you pay attention, there are endless pop culture references to catch too. From the Gauntlet inspired cry of ‘Warrior needs food badly’ to an aside from an NPC saying ‘Damn, that is a tasty beverage’ (Pulp Fiction inspired if you’re too young to catch that one), there are a ton of genuinely amusing moments in the game. You might even get an 80’s music montage…


Aside from the single player campaign, you can also get your multiplayer fix with the Chaos Squad mode. Unfortunately, due to a lack of players online during the review phase, I only managed a few sessions, but I still got a feel for what was going on. Optimally built for six to eight players, you can play it with as few as two. I was able to get in a couple sessions with four of us, so while not optimal, still a ton of fun.

You can enter Chaos Squad at any time during the single player campaign by entering a photo booth. They’re scattered all over Sunset City so you’re never too far away from one. When you join the session, the team votes on two options to start the mission. One option increases the chaos in the city which is harder but nets you better rewards at the end. The other gives your a team boost that makes things a bit easier but the rewards aren’t as good. After a few rounds of this, you’re sent to Night Defense.

Night Defense, which is also part of your single player campaign, pits your team against an onslaught of OD while you try and protect your precious vats of Overcharge. This is also where you’re able to place various traps around your space to fend off the hordes. The traps are hilarious and effective! Some of them chop the OD to bits, some blast them away with mega-bass sound and some explode in a ball of napalm. Just like your Amps and other unlockables, they can be unlocked and purchased in-game.

Sunset Overdrive

I believe it almost goes without saying that the game is incredibly detailed in the graphics department. Everything pops with color and vibrancy and there isn’t a jaggy or framerate slowdown in sight. The cartoonish style perfectly suits the attitude the game is trying to convey and everything from the OD and Scabs you fight to the characters you meet along the way look amazing. Crazy graffiti and stylized set pieces are all over Sunset City and there are ways to traverse over all of them.

Speaking of the characters you meet, the voice work and sound in general is top of the line. Floyd is riotously funny at times as is Walter, a grumpy old fart you meet early into the campaign. The sound sets the atmosphere well, especially when things get crazy out in Sunset City. As the chaos increases and your style meter rises, the music will follow suit and ramp up at the same time. My only complaint — and this is so minor in the long run — is that most of the music sounded very alike to me. I know that the songs playing were different, but when the shit hits the fan, it all sounded the same to me. In fairness, that could have more to do with me focusing on monster shooting rather than anything else, mind you. Still, it is something I noticed.

4.5 / 5

So there you have it! That’s a lot to take in, but it really speaks to how there is literally more stuff to do in Sunset Overdrive than you can handle and that’s why it sports a whopping 70 achievements right out of the box. You’ll be busy dropping OD for a long time to come.

It really looks like the risk of recruiting Insomniac over to the guys in green paid off with Sunset Overdrive. The fast-paced action, on point humour, and never ending list of things to do make this game one of the best out there when it comes to bang for your buck. If you can stick with Sunset Overdrive through its tough learning curve, you’ll have a lot of fun with it. ‘Welcome to the Awesomepocalypse.’ They really couldn’t have said it any better.

This review was based on an early digital review copy of Sunset Overdrive for Xbox One, courtesy of Microsoft. Sunset Overdrive launches on Xbox One October 28.

Shawn Petraschuk
Writer - Editorials
Shawn is a freelance writer and associate editor at CanadianOnlineGamers who resides in beautiful Vancouver, BC. Often found with a controller in one hand and a comic book in the other, he has been gaming since the days of the Commodore64 and covers everything that is geek chic. He's also scribbled stuff for CG Magazine and now rambles right here on MP1st.
  • Austin Howell

    looks alright, but it feels like one of those games that will die quick

  • Merffy

    ” For a while, I had a cross-dressing goth gentleman who was the size of a bouncer rocking a pink miniskirt… because WHY NOT?”

    Haha, yeah, I think it’s mandatory to make the most ridiculous character you can think of. Can’t wait to pick this up Tuesday.

  • swipe_06

    The backstory sounds like the gaming industry lately.

  • Aria68

    It’s too childish for my blood.

    • TheMuskyPotato

      Of course you don’t like it. It’s on Xbox! (Source: Your comment history)

      • REKT

      • Aria68

        Bullshit, i like Forza:H , i don’t like QB cuz it’s nothing but QTE fest which is so annoying to me, how ever i like what ever comes out of Halo 5.

        • TheMuskyPotato


          • That guy you might know

            Straight rekt.

      • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)
        • That guy you might know

          I’m not seeing the fanboy part here. I’m not even an Xbox fan and I’m fully aware like the other PS fans that Aria is full fledged moronic fanboy..

        • TheMuskyPotato

          The difference is that I don’t bash the other console. I will admit that the Xbox One is my console of choice and I will freely express that, but I don’t call the ps4 a “shit console that no ones buy.” I’m tired of seeing people like Aria pollute comment sections with this kind of shit. I hope you can understand that.

      • Yevgenij Pekurovskyy

        Stop this console war. Both consoles are garbage.

    • That guy you might know

      That’s ridiculous.
      If anything the gaming industry needs more insane ideas like this, it looks like someone took buckets of paint and splattered it everywhere until this happened. Which is good.

      If there isn’t creativity of this sort going around, we’d all be getting excited about being an assassin on a boat for the 5th time in a row or some shit.

      • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)

        What? What makes this game an “insane idea”? I could have played this game on the original Xbox. It’s called Jet Set Radio. This game is just Jet Set Radio with guns (oh, joy! You can’t have an Xbox exclusive without guns!). Or, a really good game by Insomniac, and is called, I don’t know, Ratchet and Clank?

        • That guy you might know

          Personal opinion to start, so please calm your tits.

          And second looking at all the games that are currently out for both systems there isn’t much that has the wackyness of Sunset Overdrive. That’s all.

          Damn fanboys will attack anything that has an opinion these days. I’m a PlayStation fan that enjoys some Xbox games, has that become a crime recently because I wasn’t informed at all.

    • S4mson

      The irony of that comment is staggering.

    • Mr Frags

      You’re honestly one of the biggest hypocritical fanboys on this site, and that’s saying a lot.


    There is a God

    • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)

      It just proves that the console fails.

      • Mr Frags

        Looks like you’ve never heard of a limited time offer before.

      • MattM1974

        So PS3 was a failure too then when it dropped from $600 to $399 within a year of launch?

  • Cell

    It looks like Plants vs Zombies. You’ll play it for sometime, and then you’ll leave it in your shelf.

  • That guy you might know

    Damn I didn’t realize the game was out already. I need to find a friend with an Xbox One so I can play it >____>

  • Mike

    It looks like a game you would play with your teen kids and it looks fun but thats about it.

    • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)

      Gameplay is repetitive, gets boring fast.

  • Guest

    It sure does, Sony can’t afford great games.

    • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)

      You don’t understand just how ignorant you are. The PS4 is more profitable to Sony than the Xbox One is to Microsoft. Hell, the Wii U (which has the best games so far) is more profitable.

      • Crusina .

        Microsoft spends more on R&D then Sony in its entirety is worth every single year. I don’t think they care as much as you think.

  • Brady the Defiled (sillibk)

    Seriously? I’ll just copy and paste what I said about the game on Gamespot:

    “Sunset Overdrive doesn’t know what it wants to be, the missions are boring and repetitive, the mechanics are clunky, and the narrative is fucking shit and a rip off of Resident Evil.”

  • Shawn Petraschuk

    Well that didn’t take long… here come the Sony Ponies!

    Can a console exclusive not be judged on the game alone without any of the console bickering? I suppose not… what a shame.

    • Ryan Schulze

      Shouldn’t that be something you’d let the childish posters in the comment section state, and not the “objective” reviewer?
      I liked your review, but that post with name calling makes me think that you wanted the game to be great and that it colored your review.
      Who isn’t tired of the console debate? Remaining objective and above board would seem to be the ideal way to keep that language off the site, especially if you’re working for the site.

      • Shawn Petraschuk

        You know what… that’s a fair statement! While I can promise you that the review is indeed as objective as possible I can also promise I’d be just as quick to call out the other side of the fence. Still… Nobody likes being called names!

        In all honesty I’m just a fan of games in general and the bickering is starting to grate on my nerves. I don’t champ consoles or PCs, I champion amazing gaming experiences.

        • Ryan Schulze

          Hey, I’ve certainly been guilty of fanning the flames of some platform wars. I think many of us can certainly be better in the way we comport ourselves on the internet. Always a chance to improve. The great news is that the game is good. That plus the announced “sale” should help push Xbox One’s off the shelf and should require a reaction from Sony dropping their price or offering better bundles in North America. Win-Win for console gamers. And a win for PC gamers too, because more new consoles sold leads to a larger audience for games that are more readily ported from one format to the other.

  • I guess Im either getting old, or have played too many games like this because quite honestly it got boring for me very quickly. It played too much like a conglomeration of other games.. I mean some of the mechanics and visuals, I honestly more than once felt like I was playing another game.. one of many that Ive played before. Perhaps my expectations were that I was getting something new and original so I felt let down, but in the end it still plays now as boring and that happened far too fast for me (Ive got my hands on a copy already, fyi). I mean I always have issues with Xbox, but if the game is fun who cares.. in this case the game felt stale too fast. Maybe I just play games too often and too many of them? Oh well, plenty will enjoy this Im sure. Now I have to go and finish the Evil Within and then on to the next game in line.. 🙂

    • Crusina .

      Wow! Were you critical without being a dick? What is this?

      • El_Guapo1976

        I got this game on a whim and wasn’t really expecting too much from it. Boy was I surprised. And In a very good way. This game friggin rocks! The graphics are nothing short of stunning and the wealth of different enemy types guns and activities means there’s always something fun to do. Once you get the air dash ability you’ll feel like a superhero as you leap and soar of a 100 foot tower to land on a the side of a building before wall running jumping off to grab a lamppost then hoisting up to a power line before blowing up a 50 foot mutant with an exploding teddy bear. For pure old school arcade adrenaline pumping fun it doesn’t get much better than this

  • Bliss Seeker

    Shouldn’t the title be the other way around?