The announcement of April’s Games with Gold has caused quite the flutter in the gaming world recently. While most everyone is happy to have services like Games with Gold and PS+ it’s hard to argue that the typical monthly serving of free games on either platform is anything other than mediocre at best. Usually gamers receive what amounts to a couple bargain bin titles or middle of the road indies. But this month Games with Gold is offering gamers 4 legitimately good titles – the two Xbox 360 games Saint’s Row IV and Dead Space should be played by anyone that hasn’t yet and the first Xbox One game The Wolf Among Us is a great Telltale adventure game in the vain of The Walking Dead.
But the crown jewel in the April Games with Gold haul is without a doubt Sunset Overdrive.
Released in 2014 as part of the second wave of Xbox One exclusives Sunset Overdrive was met with great reviews from critics and gamers alike. But with the Xbox One struggling to keep up with the PS4 in the sales department Sunset Overdrive didn’t reach the type of sales either Insomniac or Microsoft had hoped for, even among Xbox One owners. Which is a shame because Sunset Overdrive is one of the best games of this console generation and if you haven’t played it yet April’s Games with Gold is giving you no excuse not to.
Here is why everyone should be stoked to play Sunset Overdrive next month.
Movement, Momentum and Mayhem
Sunset Overdrive isn’t like most shooters, 3rd person or 1st person or whatever. It has more in common with games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater and even Jet Set Radio than it does with other shooters out there. You don’t spend a lot of time walking around, ducking behind cover and popping out to shoot bad guys. In fact spending time on the ground usually gets you killed. Think of the ground as lava in this game.
Instead players will be jumping, grinding, wall running and spinning across the map, building momentum and combos as they go. Momentum and speed are critical in this game, the greater your combo the more destruction you can cause. The core gameplay of Sunset Overdrive is so refreshing, such a departure from most games out there where you walk from point A to point B at a plodding pace (I’m looking at you The Division) it’s a joy to play and becomes increasingly addictive the better at it you get. It’s exhilarating to be working your way across the map, hoping from telephone wires to walls to bouncing off cars launching exploding teddy bears at the hordes of enemies below. Did I say exploding Teddy Bears?
If you’ve ever played any of Insomniacs other games you know they prides themselves on making unique and memorable weapons. Sunset Overdrive is no exception. Sure there is the requisite AK-47 and a Shotgun and a Magnum pistol but those pale in comparison to the likes of the TNTeddy, which launches exploding Teddy Bears, the Roman Candle (a personal favorite), which showers enemies with exploding fireworks or The High Fidelity, which launches vinyl records at enemies. And it’s not just the weapons you hold in your hands either. Your character can be upgraded with different powers, or Amps as they call them, that become activated when you’ve reached a high enough combo. There’s nothing like seeing fire rain down on your enemies while you grind an overhead powerline and rapid fire roman candles at them.
The World, The Characters, The Humor
Sunset Overdrive exists in a very very colorful world. Insomniac purposefully went out of their way to imbue the world with as much color and character as possible, a sharp contrast to most brown and grey shooters we get. And for as colorful as the world is the characters or even more colorful. Insomniac wanted gamers to be able to play as whoever they wanted to be. You can be a green mohawk, tutu wearing punk or dress up in a suit of armor or with a kangaroo codpiece or you can be a stick in the mud and wear a suit or a button up shirt and slacks. You can be whoever you want. Ohh and you aren’t stuck with it. You can change everything about your character whenever you feel like it, including skin tone, gender, height, weight whatever.
The supporting cast is just as colorful and out of whack, including an overzealous troupe of Boy Scouts, some dead serious Cosplayers, a bunch of whiny prep school kids and more. The story is equally zany and revolves around a popular energy drink turning most of the world into grotesque mutants. It’s silly, it’s irreverent and it’s totally awesome. Some may choose to cringe at the over the top, obviously on the nose and self referencing humor but if you choose not to take yourself too seriously as the game wants you too and give in to the crazy world you will have an amazing time.
A personal favorite of mine is the music. As an old punk rocker who could name every song from the original Tony Hawk games I loved Sunset Overdrive’s soundtrack of punk rock and rock and roll music. But what makes it even greater is the fact that the music was mostly custom made for the game and using a similar method as Killer Instinct the music builds and changes as you play, growing more frantic and upbeat with more layers as you build your combos and lay waste to your enemies. It really gives you the feel of being the ultimate bad ass, in complete control of the world, it’s your playground after all. I mean who hasn’t wanted to have their own personal soundtrack accompany their every move?
Sunset Overdrive was a great game when it launched and it’s still a great game, just writing about it has me itching to get back to Sunset City and grind over top of some OD’d Zombies. It’s a delirious, high octane experience that needs to be taken in and enjoyed. It’s the kind of game that you play and are left with the feeling that “wow, that’s what unadulterated fun feels like.” And now that it will be free to play with April’s Games with Gold no Xbox One owner has an excuse not to play it.