Sunset Overdrive Review

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For such an original-looking game, Sunset Overdrive is anything but. Tried and tested formulas, gameplay we’ve seen a thousand times before and the kind of sandbox experience we’ve come to expect over the years. So if I’ve seen all before, why can’t I put it down!?

The answer is execution. This game does everything it’s trying to achieve, and it does it almost perfectly. The game feels balanced, fun and a pleasure to navigate. With the exception of some mini-games, every part of the experience felt empowering to control.

Before I even played this game, I knew it would live or die based on the way it handled. Traversal across the landscape is the single most important thing here, and I’m pleased to say that it’s one of the game’s biggest strengths. I’d go as far to say that this game handles better than any other game of its kind. Jet Set Radio is one of my favourite games, and I’ve played nearly every Assassin’s Creed instalment, but I know that there have been plenty of times that I’ve got frustrated when characters miss ledges or rails, awkwardly stopping due to a glitch or unfair collision detection. I have yet to experience this whilst bounding through Sunset City. Generous rail clipping and features – such as the air boost, means you always feel like you can go anywhere, and do anything. It’s an empowering game, which undoubtedly makes it a better one.

1-herker-heroI initially thought that the selection of weapons was a little sparse, as I was expecting an absolute mountain of weaponry that would make Borderlands jealous. But Insomniac knows exactly what they’re doing here. Each weapon is not only different and fairly balanced, but absolutely stunning. The Roman Candle firework launcher explodes with colour and noise, whilst bowling ball launcher ‘The Dude’ whirrs and clicks, launching a colourful sphere of death right into an opponent’s face.

In Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac has mastered the art of difficulty. The game isn’t hard, at all. But this is definitely a conscious design decision, and one that works brilliantly. They want you to play the entire game, but they know that these days, everything is competing for your attention. This has led to a game with a lot of content, but all achievable and attainable. If you see a collectable or a power-up, you’re able to get it. Games like Crackdown tried to make players stay by showing them content they’d have to work ages for to reach. For the most part, Sunset Overdrive gives you everything, right from the start. This instant gratification is clever, as the features that unlock over time are welcome additions, rather than visible barriers halting your progress.

sunset-overdrive-review-las-catrinasDepending on your perspective, the game’s post-modern style could verge on the heavy-handed, whilst some might find it downright annoying. I’m a big fan of games not taking themselves too seriously, and so whilst I enjoyed it, I can see that some people may get tired of this gimmick. It’s a great way of dealing with the stumbling block of game design though. It’s often questioned by the characters where the Narrator’s voice is coming from, and why quests are often convenient in making you fetch multiple items. I really enjoyed this approach, but again it may not be for everyone.

One of the most impressive aspects of Sunset Overdrive is its scope and size, something which is clearly taking advantage of the new hardware. I love the ability for everyone to play games like Destiny and Call of Duty on any console they have, but it’s great to finally see the AAA, current-gen-only games starting to come out, without being hampered by previous limitations. Here, it really shows. The play area is HUGE, I mean genuinely massive. I initially thought the majority of it was just set dressing, or some kind of graphical trickery. I was expecting a loading screen the closer I got to the further points of the map, or the textures to ‘pop’ in as the disguise was lifted. But nothing of the sort. It plays incredibly smoothly, and it’s all there waiting for you to explore it. Similarly, the amount of enemies on-screen at once is insane. They all behave different, all are unique and it leads to some genuine ‘wow’ moments as you play.

sunset-overdrive-mugger-odOverall, Sunset Overdrive is nothing new. But the game knows this, and in fact it plays upon it. It references everything from Breaking Bad to Portal, in a style that is basically Scott Pilgrim with guns. But by doing this so blatantly, it turns a sloppy homage into a brilliant, ‘how-did-they-get-away-with-this’ piece of gaming fun. There’s that old phrase, ‘Talent borrows. Genius steals.’ And Sunset Overdrive is stealing absolutely everything. I wouldn’t quite say it’s at genius level, but it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had so far with my Xbox One.

Score: 8.5/10

Broforce Preview

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Broforce is a side-scrolling 2D run n’ gun shooter that jerks might compare to Contra but honestly its’ got more in common with a demolition derby than any of its fellow shooter bro-thren. Along with its pixelated aesthetic and action movie loving personality, what makes Broforce unique is its entirely destructible terrain and dozens of playable bros that you’ll end up switching between constantly.  Also there’s a LOT of explosions.

A lot of you have probably been trained to roll your eyes at the phrase “entirely destructible terrain” as you’ve been lied to far too many times by games like Red Faction over the years, but Broforce can shout this claim to the heavens without being struck by lightning because it’s completely true. We’re talking Worms level of devastation here, you’re encouraged to blow through stages in less than a minute but if you feel so inclined you’re  free to reduce the place to ashes; and even when you are heading straight for the choppa you’ll probably do that by accident half the time anyway. The stages of Broforce, all of which are set in Vietnam (in the current build anyway), feel very reactive in this way. Things blow up, catch fire and bounce around a lot, it all feels very alive; take what happens in Super Mario BROs. when you hit a block and it kills an enemy sitting on top of it, imagine that happening around 1000 times a second and you’re getting pretty close to how the average Broforce stage usually plays out.

The constant switching of bros is interesting in the midst of all this madness as well. Just like in Metal Slug there are prisoners you can save, but unlike Metal Slug these prisoners are actually captured members of the Broforce and are playable characters all of which are based on popular action movies. In multiplayer saving a prisoner will revive a dead co-op partner as the prisoner, in single player (or if all players are alive in multiplayer) you will automatically change to this character, which also acts as an extra life; losing a life also means you change to another bro at random. Basically, don’t get too attached to any one of the bros because chances are you won’t be playing one for more than 20 seconds at a time.

This is a different design mentality to something like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros, or Contra which people might lazily compare a game like this to. Those games give the player a completely pre-determined challenge with multiple solutions and ways to play…but still are thoroughly linear experiences. Broforce however changes the rules on you constantly, hell even Broforce isn’t sure what’s going to happen next, maybe an enemy will shoot a propane tank and blow up a whole section of the stage forcing you to wall hop your way to another route, or maybe you’ll save a prisoner and turn into Indiana Brones and his useless whip and get immediately ripped to pieces. It leads to a constantly engaging action experience that you can’t ever coast through because there is always something of importance happening.

Broforce_May_Update_-_Screen_2Now at time of writing Broforce is still in its Early Access stage and is still receiving regular updates. The most recent of which is the announcement that a new bro is being put into the game that allows directional shooting, whereas so far the game only had Mega Man/Metal Slug style forward shooting, along with extra secondary abilities that vary completely from character to character. I bring it up because at this incomplete stage of its development it’s a great example of everything that is great as well as everything that kind of doesn’t work about Broforce. In most games of this style something like the decision to go for directional or straightforward shooting would be a crucial one made very early on in development for the sake of the level design, but Broforce’s  organic balls-out action nature allows the team to just sort of flop it in there.

This is really cool in the sense that it gives the game near unrivalled variety in its field in the sense that all the characters play differently and the levels themselves are constantly changing shapes. It’s fascinating for an action game with such tiny stages achieve this level of organic gameplay and replay ability without resorting to something such as randomly generated levels. There is level design here, but you will have to attack it differently not just on every playthrough but on every attempt.

The downside to all of this comes from the chaotic nature of Broforce, don’t be mistaken, when the game is flowing and the action is coming hard and heavy it is fantastic, but there is a frustration element that comes with it. Of the probable hundreds of deaths I experienced during my time with Broforce I think I could probably perform a successful post-mortem on what actually killed me maybe…a dozen of them? More often than not something explodes and you jump straight to your next bro or jump back to the start of the level if you’re fresh out of lives. The action always restarts within a couple of seconds, and within a few more seconds you’re probably back to where you were anyway so none of this is a deal breaker. It is also easy to accidentally rescue a prisoner bro and change character without necessarily realising it or meaning to; so you experience some gamer whiplash when you get suddenly get switched from Rambo machine gunning through the stage at ease to say, the jerk who tosses dynamite two feet in front of him that explode on a delay.

Neither of these issues by themselves are major problems as they both play to the ever-changing flow of action in Broforce, but together they create a strange little psychology problem that dangles over the fun parts of the game. Say what you want about how fun the chaotic nature of the game is when its working, but there’s something weird with a game when you start to think “I’m enjoying this character, so I don’t want to rescue a prisoner because I might get changed to someone who’s useless at the moment, but I’m probably going to get killed randomly soon so I need to do it for the sake of the extra life so…DAMNIT!” It’s times like these where the two side effects of the insanity of Broforce start to rub together in a way that makes the game less fun.

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Overall, Broforce is shaping up to be a tasty action game which provides organic high intensity gameplay in bite sized levels which are perfect for speed-running. The only issue is it might be a little too insane for its own good, but regardless that’s all part of its charm. Going it alone on this one might require some caution as the flaws become more obvious when you’re by yourself and thinking about it too much. Hopping online (or local) with friends blowing through Vietnam or the stages you create yourself in the level editor will surely be a blast when the network features have a little more polish to them. Broforce is rebrommended…brocommended….recombroded…just give it a try sometime okay?

broforce_may_update_-_key_artA group of writers from Frugal Gaming were lucky enough to spend some time with the multi together here’s their thoughts on BroForce.

Karlos Morale

TOTAL CARNAGE! I LOVE IT!

An eye-blistering hurricane of ultra-violence, BroForce is the videogame equivalent of a Starburst sweetie. Enjoy a rush of fruity armageddon on your screen for the time it takes you to chew up a tasty treat, then a brief pause to unwrap the next level before you get to savour it all over again. Currently single-player has the edge for me, as the multiplayer suffers from the decision to force all the players to stick to the same screen rather than allow you to follow your character directly. It’s a little too easy to lose your action hero amid the death and destruction. If they can solve this problem then this game receives my unequivocal recommendation and highly-coveted personal thumbs-up.

Bwortang
Set your nostalgia levels to 11, for the best action 80’s game that never was.
Still in early access this adrenaline fuelled action packed
Indie title allows up to 4 Bro’s to deal out aggressive liberation.  Each Bro has their own special weaponry which is instantly recognisable and set to overkill, as you battle terrorists, the destructible terrain an the urge not to release your trigger finger in the fight for freedom.
With scope for more Bro’s, new levels an greater explosions, this ticks all the action retro I’ve ever wanted. I purchased this for £5.99 an it’s without doubt my  purchase of this year.

PridedLlama

If you have ever made a mix tape, have a love for action films and still play video games chances are you are a child of the 80’s. BroForce is jam packed with a whole load of 80’s references, clichés and everything it does oozes machismo. The online multiplayer is a bombastic, if at the minute slightly sloppy whole heap of fist bumping fun, and the couple of hours we played together past by in the blink of an eye.

Sure it has it problems, it becomes so hard to track you on screen hero at times, if your screen centred on your character or even just had a permanent marker above its head would go a long way to fixing this problem. The netcode is as janky as BF4 at launch, but admittedly BroForce is in beta, and will remain that way until the end of the year so there is loads of time to sort that out before launch.

Deathmatch at the minute appears to be local only but I cant wait to check this out once an online version is sorted, and with custom levels and campaigns, race mode and a whole plethora of other bits and bobs to fiddle about with, the game sure won’t be light on content.

UglyGeezer
It’s early access, any problems that have been covered above will easily be ironed out.
When it’s finished I expect THIS GAME WILL BE FUCKING FANTASTIC!

Out Now on Early Access Steam.
Developed by: Free Lives
Published by: Devolver Digital