Sunset Overdrive Is Just Short Of Good Enough

Now that Sunset Overdrive is finally on PC, I finally had a chance to play it. It was one of a small number of reasons that I bought an Xbox One in the first place, but I actually did not buy it for some inexplicable reason before trading that Xbox One in for a huge discount on a Switch several months later. But, at last, I was finally able to get my hands on it and…I’m just not feeling it.

I’m about two hours in and everything about the game feels kind of negligible. It’s open-world, but you’re only going to be hunting for a few small items that are scattered throughout the city and Prototype-style challenges. There’s a story, but it feels fairly pointless and dripped in fifteen layers of irony about video game design. It’s a shooter, but it has auto-aim mechanics and really the only way to play is to shoot at things while you grind across rails, powerlines, etc. safely above all of the looming threats and passively collect health and ammo power-ups as you grind past them.

In theory, this should be fun. I should be enjoying sailing past enemies at high speeds, killing hordes of them with splash damage from a variety of weapons, but I’m just not. While there are a number of mechanics that try to make the process of grinding around the map while enemies helplessly flail their arms at you from below seem interesting, such as enemies that spit some sort of acid at various parts of whatever you’re currently grinding on and the ability for smaller enemies to climb onto whatever you’re grinding on, these, again, feel negligible. The projectiles are easy enough to dodge due to the fact that they are telegraphed far in advance and the smaller enemies can be removed with a simple tap of the B button, effectively bashing them off of the rail effortlessly with your melee weapon.

Perhaps I’m not giving it enough time. Perhaps it gets more challenging with more enemy variety that actually poses a threat later on. But, then again, perhaps not. I’m currently two of an approximate fifteen hours into the game and I’m not even seeing a way that the game could significantly increase in challenge anytime soon.

A perfect example of that is the Spawner. In theory, a gigantic monster that can hulk smash you across the map and spawn smaller monsters is a big deal. But, somehow, it isn’t. It does a minimal amount of damage when it hits you, instead essentially just throwing you a decent distance away, and can’t interact with you at all if you’re not at the same height as it is. The smaller enemies that it spawns are just basic enemies, as well, and they don’t spawn at a particularly significant rate—not to mention the fact that everything that it spawns despawns upon its death. Thus, fights against Spawners quickly devolve into finding the nearest phone line to grind and shooting your most powerful weapon at it until it—and everything that it spawns—dies, leaving you to move to the next objective completely unscathed.

Exempting that issue, despite the fact that I am usually a fan of comedy, Sunset Overdrive takes things to a whole new, off-putting level. Do we really need to comment on the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, there are three stages to the water facility draining process? Do we really need to comment on the weird announcer/narrator voice practically every time it shows up? Do we really need to insult the people playing Train Simulator because their choice of game “sounds boring?” Basically, if you encounter a reference to a video game stereotype at any point in the game, be it one that is about the game itself or about other games, there’s a snarky comment that comes along with it. There’s a fine balance to this sort of comedy, which is perhaps best exemplified by Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Sunset Overdrive pushed over the proverbial line within the first 20 minutes or so, only to continue pushing further over the line as it went. Personally, I just found it to be a bit too much.

Perhaps I will eventually return to Sunset Overdrive, but, for now, I can’t bring myself to complete it. Whereas all of the key elements for me to enjoy it are there—the open world; the brightly-colored locales; the charming, if edgy, visual design; the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously—but I’m just not having fun with it. It feels like I’m trudging through a game that doesn’t particularly like itself and is actually actively trying to convince me that there’s no reason that I should like it either, which I might be able to ignore if it weren’t for the fact that the gameplay itself isn’t particularly compelling either.

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