SUGAR THRILL GANG
Multiplayer mode Chaos Squad is accessed from any phone booth in Sunset City. Here, you and up to seven others engage in a series of collaborative and competitive challenges, voting between two options each time: you might assault a scavenger fort as a team, or jostle for supply drops to transport to a nearby boat. Completing bonus objectives boosts your combined score, and contributes to a more substantial buff for the concluding night defence sequence, in which it’s all but impossible to maintain composure amid the tumult. With a full complement, that’s eight times the explosives, fireworks and corrosive goop of the already hectic campaign. But it’s an entertaining mess, and a useful one: anything you earn or unlock can be taken back and used in singleplayer. a surreal remix of Super Mario Sunshine’s Mecha Bowser face-off, while another set-piece sees you attempting to keep up with a dragon as it snakes through the city. It might still have a weak point that requires three direct hits to bring the beast down, but it’s refreshing to face an enemy where you’re not simply having to dodge predictable attack patterns before clamping your trigger finger over the fire button.
And if the scattergun humour misses as often as it hits – typically, the harder it strains for the zeitgeist, the wider it is of the mark – the game’s irreverent treatment of death alleviates any frustration at repeated failures. After a short loading time, you’ll respawn in one of a number of different ways, emerging from a clay mould or a sarcophagus, or even climbing out of a TV like Sadako from Ring. The downside to this is that there’s little sense of peril when you’ve got so little to lose; indeed, with generous checkpointing that means you’ll emerge having lost seconds rather than minutes of progress, it’s often easier to just let yourself die when you’re low on health rather than struggle on with a flashing red distraction in the top left of the screen.
Such obvious eagerness to please is laudable in some respects, but the insistent fervour with which Insomniac bombards the player – with colours, with ideas, with pickups and powerups and buffs and bonuses – means Sunset Overdrive is best approached as you would any caffeinated energy drink. In small gulps, it offers an exhilarating sugar rush, but too much will leave you with a headache. As such, it’s best consumed in moderation.