Let's just get right to it and say that Sunset Overdrive is bonkers - and not always in a good way.
It is among the best looking games on the new-generation consoles and pulls off the tricky feat of both borrowing from older games, yet feeling fresh and new. But whether you'll like Sunset Overdrive or not entirely depends on your sense of humour. Ours, it must be said, was stretched at times.
Hipper than a half-shave
In gameplay terms, it is easy to see Insomniac Games' latest as the Xbox One's answer to the Sony PlayStation 4 exclusive Infamous: Second Son. It is open world. It mainly involves bouncing around rooftops and fighting within a large, enclosed city. And it features a youthful lead character. But comparing the themes of both is like comparing an episode of Heroes to someone laughing at their own farts in a lift.
Thankfully for Insomniac and Microsoft, Sunset Overdrive is arguably the better game overall. For starters, Sunset Overdrive allows you create your own character to play as rather than force you into the shabby shoes of a moody teenager. You get to choose body type, gender and clothing although, it must be warned, the only options immediately available essentially force you to create a hipster - the sort of societal trend follower who struts around in Shoreditch wearing a four-year-old's trousers.
It is a nice touch to offer customisation though, and makes the game feel more personal - even though the options are purely cosmetic. Weapons in the game, however, are able to be improved upon and adapted as you earn "amps" to, presumably, amplify them. That adds a reward system of sorts and gives a slight role-playing feel.
The weapons themselves are almost reward in themselves, and are central to the madcap nature of Sunset Overdrive. Including particular favourites such as the TNTeddy, which fires explosive teddy bears, and the Hair Spray Bomb, which shoots off four exploding hair spray canisters to devastating effect, the array is quite awesome and generally funny.
It's a shame that the first gun you're given is the Flaming Compensator - a shotgun that looks like a cock and balls, which goes back to our previous comment about some of the humour - but the rest are generally great fun to use.
But while the preamble and hype about the game prior to release was about the weaponry more than anything else, the star of Sunset Overdrive is most definitely its movement mechanics. Cleverly, rather than just produce another 3D platformer like Insomniac's most famous series of titles, Ratchet & Clank (which we love, by the way), the developer has thought about how to make travel an essential part of the game experience, rather than a necessity to get you from A to B.
The end result is a hybrid of Jet Set Radio, the Tony Hawk's skateboard games and the original Dead Rising. Sort of, as it arrives as something altogether different, and something that you won't master in a matter of seconds.
The entirety of Sunset City is smothered in things you can bounce off, grind on, and generally get about without even having to touch the ground. Indeed, the game punishes you greatly for simply running around at street level and sometimes you can't at all as it turns the ground to lava for certain missions.
Although the grind-and-jump mechanics certainly become intuitive, they add additional tactics and strategies to every element of the gameplay. Combat, for example, is fun when shooting flying vinyl discs at an enemy, but it's even more fun when you're zipping around their head on an electricity cable.
It's also a rare instance of a first open-world game that, while offering a fast-travel option to get around the map, you'll barely ever use it as the alternative is so much fun.
Like a boss
There's also a decent variety of enemies you'll encounter as you do. The missions will often finish in enormous boss battles, but even the general foes are interesting and a thrill to despatch. The most common opponent, the OD (OverCharge Drinkers), are mutated humans who have been transformed by a new energy drink that wasn't tested properly before release, but soon you'll just see them as fodder for some highly amusing frag effects.
Poppers are even more satisfying to eliminate as their expanding heads pop when you hit them enough times, spraying OverCharge as they do. There are also plenty of human opponents and robots come into the equation further down the line when Fizzco, the company behind the tragedy, attempts to cover up its involvement.
But the OD are definitely our favourites. That's partly because they are the most visually impressive in a game that looks absolutely stunning as it is. Insomniac might not have hit every note when it comes to the sometimes forced-feeling frat comedy, but in graphical terms it has created a masterpiece. The colours zing and there are so many small but important touches, such as the onomatopoeic words that appear in explosions, that make the game something unique for this generation of super consoles. The Xbox One, certainly, has never looked so good.
The soundtrack is great too, with the right musical notes to complement the theme. And voice-overs from the entire cast are perfectly performed.
In short, if it wasn't for sometimes misplaced humour we'd be all over Sunset Overdrive like an OD on a puddle of OverCharge. As it is, it just falls a little short of greatness for us - but that shouldn't stop you giving the game a chance though.
Sunset Overdrive is a game that we'll definitely revisit, especially for more multiplayer action, but we'll have to sometimes leave our brains at the door.
That said, while the narrative might be dumb in some instances, the combat is far from it and as the game progresses it gets very tough indeed, so there's longevity in its bones there. And if you get good at it you'll get more from it - the mark of a game made by gamers for gamers.
Sunset Overdrive is out at a time when the Xbox One is getting some of the titles it deserves - including Forza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection - which sees this new IP slightly overshadowed. However, it's a wholly different game and holds its own in many respects.
Hang on, we said "holds its own". Snigger. See, now they've got us doing it too.
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