Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem.
The list of exclusive Xbox One games is not long nor all that impressive, and yet somehow Sunset Overdrive still manages to get overlooked despite it being, in my opinion, one of the best Xbox exclusives ever. Coming from Insomniac Games, the people behind such awesomeness as Ratchet & Clank and the Resistance series, Sunset Overdrive looks, plays and feels like it came from the mind of someone who pounded 20 cans of energy drink and then went into some sort of trance while someone else hastily copied down every single insane word that came out of their mouth.
Here’s the setup to this madness: a company has launched a brand new energy drink, but things have gone a bit wrong and instead of giving people a burst of energy it’s giving people a burst of TURNING INTO A MUTANT! Got it? Good, let’s go.
The heart of soul of Sunset Overdrive is how amazingly fun it is to traverse the colourful world while murdering the shit out of monsters. Stuff like cars and bins can be used like trampolines to launch yourself into the air, you can slide and grind along railings and power lines and you can wall-run indefinitely before leaping off. The whole city is designed so that you never have to touch the ground and so that you can pull off awesome moves. I’d put moving around Sunset Overdrive up there with swinging through the streets in Marvel’s Spider-Man, which is fitting given it’s the same developers. Insomniac really know how to make movement feel amazing, and Sunset Overdrive is a masterclass. There’s a bit of a steep learning curve to it, mind you. You need to shift your mind out of the comfort zone it’s probably firmly entrenched in and start thinking a little differently.
Blasting around like a chimpanzee having a sugar rush feeds straight into the combat, too. By grinding, sliding and leaping you power up your special Amp abilities, letting you do all kinds of cool stuff. And while Sunset Overdrive is not a hard game, being much more inclined toward just letting you have fun, staying on the ground can lead to you getting swarmed by the OD, whereas staying up in the air let’s you rain down death and destruction.
And what joyous death and destruction it is. Insomniac carried the spirit of Ratchet & Clank’s amazing weapons and carried it into Sunset Overdrive, giving you a wealth of cool toys to play. There’s a sprinkler that sprays acid, teddy bear bomb launchers, an assault rifle that fires vinyl records and so much more. There’s a sort of loose, sloppiness to the way combat works, a feeling emphasised by the very generous hitboxes. In most games this would be a bad think, but in Sunset Overdrive is all designed to let you have as much fun as possible. The big hitboxes mean you don’t have to try to be pinpoint accuracy while your also busy trying to grind, bounce and wall-run at the same time. You can just aim in the general direction, pull the trigger and enjoy the carnage that ensues. When it all clicks together in whatever poor excuse you have for a brain, Sunset Overdrive becomes an elegant ballet, albeit one with a lot more melting flesh.
It ain’t just the gameplay that’s a hoot, though, because Sunset Overdrive has got some hilarious writing. It might be the apocalypse but that isn’t going to stop everyone having some fun. This is probably the coolest apocolypse ever, and your custom-created character (plenty of options to choose from) quickly realises they were practically born for this. Sunset Overdrive takes its goofball setup of a new energy drink accidentally creating an army of mutant monsters and sprints down the hallway with it, and then leaps out the window. Sure, for some people the humour might be a bit too crude or lack any subtlety, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but for me it was the perfect blend of absurdism and 4th-wall smashing. A good example is the first time I fell off a tall building during a mission – instead of falling to the ground, a portal opened up and dropped me off near where I had messed up, and my character thanked the devs for not making her climb all the way back up. It’s not often a game can consistently make me laugh out loud, yet Sunset Overdrive managed to do just that numerous times. I almost wish it had been made with a higher age rating because I could see the writers going full-on Deadpool at times.
Visually, it’s bloody gorgeous. Sure, as a 2014 title it doesn’t hold up as a technical showcase, but the art style and the heaps of little visual touches have let Sunset Overdrive stand the test of time. The world looks like a crazed mix of a Saturday morning kid’s gameshow and Tokyo, and is more colourful than a toddler’s nappies after it ate all the crayons. I love the little details, too, like how the Freeze Bomb unleashes a cloud of ice that spells out, “BRRRRRRR!”
Really, the biggest flaw the game has its repetitive mission design. It all tends to boil down to shooting stuff and maybe guarding things while shooting stuff, or collecting stuff while shooting stuff. Luckily, I think the core gameplay loop is fun enough to stop that repetition being much of an issue.
Sadly, it seems like Sunset Overdrive will never get the sequel it so richly deserves. While no official sales numbers were ever released to the public, VGChartz estimates the game only sold around 1.2-million copies. Perhaps it shifted a bit more when it came to PC in 2018, but overall the numbers were likely disappointing. And then, of course, Sony went and bought Insomniac Games outright, and with them the Sunset Overdrive rights. That means if a sequel does actually get made (fingers crossed) it’ll be a Playstation exclusive, unless Sony were willing to publish it elsewhere, too.
So, while I sit here and attempt to summon forth the Great Gaming God in order to plead for a sequel, go on to Game Pass and enjoy Xbox’s long forgotten exclusive because I think you’ll have a bloody good time in Sunset Overdrive.