Sun­set Over­drive

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The di­a­logue in Sun­set Over­drive may be pep­pered with pro­fan­ity, but there’s one word con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from its vo­cab­u­lary: re­straint. In­som­niac’s noisy, bois­ter­ous Xbox One ex­clu­sive turns ev­ery­thing up to 11, start­ing with its hy­per-sat­u­rated colours. Its gaudy sand­box is strewn with clut­ter – there are no fewer than seven col­lectible types, each of which func­tions as a dif­fer­ent form of cur­rency. In­deed, it’s so densely stuffed with things to do, see, shoot and pick up, its map pock­marked with icons and way­points, that Ubisoft will surely be tak­ing notes.

By genre stan­dards, it gets down to business in sat­is­fy­ingly brisk fash­ion. An en­ergy drink, Over­charge Delir­ium XT, has trans­formed Sun­set City’s pop­u­la­tion into pus­tu­lar mu­tants, and its maker, Fiz­zco, has locked down the city in a mas­sive cover-up, erect­ing en­ergy bar­ri­ers to pre­vent peo­ple from es­cap­ing. A clutch of sur­vivors re­main along­side a larger group of scav­engers and Fiz­zco’s own ro­botic ca­bal, which use elec­tric-blue blades and bul­lets to deal with trou­ble­mak­ers.

The reg­u­lar freaks, AKA OD, lol­lop after you, lung­ing for­ward and at­tack­ing with vi­cious melee swipes. Should they slurp down any more Over­charge, they’ll meta­mor­phose into Pop­pers, crea­tures cov­ered in tar­trazine growths. Th­ese must be burst from a safe dis­tance lest they get too close and ex­plode in your face. The gi­ant Herk­ers, mean­while, throw large ob­jects and smaller mu­tants from ex­ca­va­tor scoops em­bed­ded in their swollen arms. All will shear large chunks from your health gauge if you’re not care­ful, and given that your un­named avatar is in­ca­pable of break­ing into any­thing more than a gen­tle jog on foot, you’re strongly en­cour­aged to stay off the ground.

Ini­tially, at least, that’s quite the chal­lenge. From the out­set, you’re able to grind across just about any hor­i­zon­tal edge, whether it’s rail­ings, the side of a truck, or a rooftop, plus you can ride on over­head wires, or dan­gle be­neath them from a hook. Al­ter­na­tively, you can bounce upon cars, para­sols, awnings and bushes, though you’ll most of­ten use th­ese to reach a higher place from which to grind. Chang­ing di­rec­tion is a sim­ple mat­ter of push­ing the ana­logue stick and press­ing X; a tap alone enough to flip from over- to un­der­grinds and vice versa.

For the most part, then, you’ll be aim­ing down­ward while in con­stant mo­tion. Sniper ri­fles are ob­vi­ously out of the ques­tion, while area-of-ef­fect mu­ni­tions are in. You’d ex­pect an in­ven­tive arse­nal from a stu­dio that made its name craft­ing un­usual ord­nance for the Ratchet & Clank and Re­sis­tance games, and you’d be right to, though most are anal­o­gous to fa­mil­iar firearms. The TNTeddy, which fires ex­plo­sive soft toys, is a grenade launcher in all but name, while In­som­niac is care­ful to as­suage the fears of any Xbox own­ers un­ac­cus­tomed to such an out­landish arse­nal, amus­ingly liken­ing a weapon that shoots fire­works to an as­sault ri­fle.

Mean­while, suc­cess­ful tra­ver­sals be­tween grinds and bounces build a Style me­ter, which al­lows you to aug­ment your moves cour­tesy of equip­pable buffs, here termed Amps. Hit the first tier and your dodge-rolls will dam­age en­e­mies you col­lide with, or you might opt for a force­field that pre­vents mu­tant swipes from con­nect­ing. The sec­ond tier may see your melee at­tacks pro­duce a fire­ball or tor­nado, while the third could re­sult in a spray of shrap­nel from di­ve­bomb at­tacks. Some Amps are purely cos­metic, how­ever, with one caus­ing foes to ex­plode into glit­ter­ing con­fetti.

You could cut a de­cent trailer from the high­lights of the first few hours, but it would cre­ate a mis­lead­ing im­pres­sion of the awk­ward, messy open­ing. Chain­ing moves is straight­for­ward enough, but when you’re fac­ing a group of mu­tants ca­pa­ble of leap­ing to your level and as­sault­ing you from mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions, you’ll spend a lot of time wrestling desperately with the cam­era, of­ten grind­ing back and forth across the same edge or in a cir­cle while reg­u­larly pulling up the ra­dial weapon menu be­cause you’re out of ammo. Some would ar­gue lim­it­ing sup­plies en­cour­ages ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, but at times it’s dispir­it­ingly dis­em­pow­er­ing. It hardly helps that In­som­niac is so desperately keen to en­sure you’re not miss­ing any­thing that it as­sails you with in­for­ma­tion, all but over­whelm­ing you in the process. Then, of course, you’ve got all those col­lectibles to con­tend with: money for clothes, hats and ac­ces­sories; drinks cans for weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and maps that show you the lo­ca­tions of the other five ob­ject types. You’ll need the lat­ter, too: the pace is so re­lent­less and the aes­thetic so bright and busy that it’s easy to miss items. More of­ten than not, we col­lected them ac­ci­den­tally, glid­ing back­wards over a pair of shoes trail­ing from a wire while es­cap­ing a horde of OD.

Soon you’ll be told that cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties will earn you badges that con­vey ad­di­tional perks, and in case you’d for­got­ten about any of this, text over­lays will re­mind you that it’s been five min­utes since you last hit the menu but­ton. Oc­ca­sion­ally, your avatar will even chip in that you haven’t pur­chased a new gun for a while. About six hours in, we were pre­sented with a tu­to­rial for the wall-run me­chanic, ar­riv­ing at least three hours after we’d mas­tered it.

Still, the sim­ple joy of lo­co­mo­tion is enough to com­pen­sate for this ag­gres­sive hand­hold­ing. Move­ment is sharp and re­spon­sive, with a gen­er­ous de­gree of free­dom when air­borne and just the right amount of stick­i­ness for grind­ing. Once you’ve un­locked a high bounce and an air dash, which per­haps should be avail­able ear­lier, you’ll be rac­ing be­tween ob­jec­tives with­out ever touch­ing down. Sun­set City is quite the sprawl, but while a fast-travel op­tion be­tween key lo­ca­tions is avail­able, by hour seven you’ll never feel

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