Saturday, April 4, 2015

xBox One: Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive was the primary reason I wanted the xBox One first, first as opposed to the Playstation 4, other than the reasons outlined in the previous Far Cry 4 post. I love the idea of third-person, open world games with weird super powers. InFamous and Prototype are a pair of my favourite games. This one comes with a sense of humor and smacks of familiarity, harkening back to  Jet Set (Grind) Radio from the Dreamcast days. Bright, colourful and cheerfully irreverent, as a followup game, it was a nice change of pace from the grimdark nature of Far Cry 4.

Premise. You are a janitor pushing a garbage bin while some big corporation releases a new energy drink to a bunch of meathead frat kids. Suddenly, said energy drink turns them into mutants - big pulsating, orange pus-y mutants who try to kill you. The entire tutorial is you attempting to get home to your apartment while the city goes to hell; very fast. Oh and I should mention, a badass old man gives you a gun that looks like a blunderbuss with a pair of *cough* balls attached. Its called the Flaming Compensator. And thus, the irreverent, juvenile comedic tone for the game is set.

This game is all about its humor. You are constantly breaking the fourth wall. You are constantly being reminded that you are in a video game. No better example than when you respawn -- animations of aliens dropping your body, or you emerging from a grave like a zombie, or sliding in from left stage, like a boss, or ... oh, just go look for yourself. They always made me crack a grin. All of the dialogue, most of the missions are just plain silly and setup to make you giggle. The game never takes itself seriously, even when you transition from the Hero's Journey from self-important to selflessness.

And the play is just plain fun. Like these other games, InFamous in particular, you are able to move fast along rails, i.e. telephone wires, railings, edges of just about anything. You skate along on your sneakers, boots or whatever jumping up higher points of vantage or hanging from them via a crowbar. What self-referential video game would not have a crowbar. You also bounce like a platformer cartoon, off cafe umbrellas, awnings and off the hoods of cars. Boing boing boing, you can go just about anywhere. Initially its a bit troublesome as the camera swings about you all willy nilly, but once you get the hang of it, and add in the ability to woosh (dash) over air or water, you are speedily jumping from spot to spot. This is one of those games where fast travel is almost never used, because normal travel can be such fun.

As expected, the weapons are going to be Ratchet and Clank outrageous and fun. Not much to be said there.

But then there is character customization. Of course, race, gender and hair colour are there but the fact you can change these ANYTIME you want is hilarious. Yes, you can swamp gender and body shape any time you drop by the change room. I started as a shaved punk kid, swapped into a gaudily dressed, bearded hipster and finished the game as a lil punk girl with quite the attitude. There are hats, weapons, outfits, accessories and general clothing all focused on making you look outrageous. These are street alterna-kids, one moment gothy, one moment punk and finally, once in a few missions, nerdy -- yep, you can dress as a LARPer. I never got tired of swapping out clothes every few missions.

The base enemies are the ODs, the kids who morphed into squishy orange zombies. They attack you, they ooze and when they die, they explode into the energy drink that you can use to upgrade. Then there are the big versions of them, 20' massive ones that you keep a distance from and just lob exploding teddy bears at.  Later on, you fight flashy fascist robots or gun toting gang kids. There is enough variety to keep things fresh. And after a few comments about ever-spawn, it seems completely normal that these things keep on climbing out the sewers.

Yeah, I loved this game. There were a few elements that I actively avoided, mostly the multi-player and the annoying 100%-er ideas of collecting. Collecting stinky sneakers, toilet paper and floating mascots was useful to a certain degree but only really appeal to the collectors. That and the achievements. If they had more clothing unlocked, I would have never stopped collecting. I need more than bragging points in my games.

I realize that after a handful of video game reviews, I will have to stop relating the usual things I have trouble with in games. Achievements will never be my thing, and in the more serious games, the never ending amount of murder you commit will be a normal reference. In this game, there was no sense of murder as they are completely post-human. OK, there are those gang kids, but the level of the game makes it more cartoony than reality, so no guilt. Even cyber-guilt.

I am not sure if I will return to the game once the DLCs come out, but if they have some new duds for my girl, then maybe.