After spending 15 hours with it I have to say Sunset Overdrive is not the bad game that people led me to believe. If anything it is just terribly lacking in energy. From its environments to the way the player moves everything feels uninspiring. By far the greater problem though is that its checkpoint system is incredibly bad, and with a game that featured the same recurring bug that I encountered, that’s a helluva thing.
The story is trash. The game goes to uninspiring and boring places with its characters. The Fargarthians aren’t that interesting and become a played out joke not long into their arc. The Oxfords are boring and yet one more played out joke. The dialogue in this game is horrendous to the point where every use of “fuck” fails to punctuate a moment because the moments are lacking in overall emotion and feeling. Nothing this game does works to evoke emotion in a player, aside from frustration. Its humor is really boring and lacking. Not because it’s offensive or anything, but because the game doesn’t try hard enough. It’s like a stunted neanderthal of humor rather than the fully realized homo sapien version one would expect from veteran writers. The story is by far the weakest part of the game and one that I feel free to pass on entirely because it’s so unimaginative.
I try not to judge things based on what I think they should be, but on what they are, but one thing that really irked me was that no one in the story ever points out the player is a superhero. No one else seems capable of the player’s feats and if anything I really enjoyed the apocalypse that came to sunset city. So why would I want to leave? The game never brings this up.
The gameplay is alright. The big problem with the gameplay is that it’s so lacking in energy. The explosions should be bigger, the amps more aggressively popping off, the whole thing should’ve been ratcheted up two or three times higher. In its current state SSO feels like a game that is a mess of raw ingredients rather than a complete meal. I’m not saying the game is half-finished, just that the gameplay feels like it’s still in a raw state. It felt like this game was trying to be bigger and more radical than it could be on current hardware.
The way the game is structured right now is really only conducive to using one gun for the whole game. I ended up using the explosive teddy gun more than anything else because it was good at wiping out hordes in one shot. The game rewards your playstyle with badges, but the real problem is that they didn’t make badges easy to get if you wanted to switch up styles or anything. So instead of being able to swap from one single shots to automatics with ease you’re pretty much locked into whatever gun type you’ve got the most badges with. Which really cuts down on the player options. Badges weren’t a bad idea, but the devs probably should’ve encouraged badge diversity by making the environments and the gameplay reflect those styles. Like there’s no reason to take a wall run badge when most of the areas are filled with only bounce and grind objects.
Amps, the upgrades you receive from missions and otherwise, are not all that good either. Most of them are lamely elemental affairs, things like “freezes enemies” or “burns enemies”. Rarely are they anything all that conducive to building a playstyle around or doing anything crazy with. This should’ve been a way for a player to feel more powerful and become more engaged, but like everything else in this game it’s a system that wasn’t put out in its fullest state.
One of the things that struck me with this game is how sterile everything feels for an apocalypse. This is the most clean, well-lit apocalypse I’ve ever seen. I don’t mind colorful and shiny, but it seems like the environments haven’t been lived in at all. Even the bandit camps feel too clean for the end of the world. Save for a few set piece areas there’s not a lot differentiating any of the major parts of the city from one another. This is one of those things that I feel points to a lack of energy in the game’s composition. Everything feels so lacking that it’s not enough to be bored by, but not enough to feel good about either.
I encountered one fairly major bug that caused me to give up on this game. AI followers getting stuck on parts of the landscape and endlessly running forward while not moving at all which in turn stops all progression on a given mission. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that checkpoints in this game are nonexistent and you can’t reload a checkpoint from before a fight. No, you have to relive the entire preceding parts of a mission over and over again in order to progress if so much as one AI follower gets stuck. I did that pigeon roast a dozen times, and every single time the confrontation with the bandits that followed would have an AI follower get stuck on a piece of terrain and cause me to be unable to progress. Without a proper checkpoint system there’s nothing a person can do but keep roasting pigeons over and over again. I hate that entire segment with a fiery passion.
All in all the game isn’t the worst thing ever. Neither is it the best thing ever. It occupies a middle ground between hate and happiness. There are some moments of joy, but only ones you’ll find if you’re into making your own fun beyond what the game is capable of offering. The game occupies a place of indifference in my heart.