Sunset Overdrive, the Xbox One's whacky new open-world shooter, got its first batch of downloadable content this week. The most important part of the DLC is a weapon pack that adds four new guns to the game. They're all really good — so good that I wish they'd been in the original game.
The four new guns are great because they mesh well with the frenetic, hyperbolic energy of shooting at gross-looking monsters with brightly coloured, cartoonish projectiles — all while zipping around Sunset Overdrive's world with the game's unique form of skateboarding-like grinding movements. But just as importantly, they also build on the ideas that the game brought to the table with its original arsenal. They make combat more harried and frenzied, but also more tactically nuanced.
If you're a fan of Sunset Overdrive, I'd highly recommend picking up the weapon pack as a result. It's available as a standalone purchase for $US4.99, or as part of the season pass for the game. Also, in a nice touch, the guns are dropped straight into your inventory after you pick them up — you don't have to buy them again in the actual game from a weapons vendor.
In no particular order, the four new guns are: the plague bomb, rager, the shield buddy, and the multi-lock rocket launcher. The plague bomb and rager are both area-of-effect weapons that are most effective (in my experience so far) when fired into a dense swarm of enemies, though each has a different impact on bad guys. The rager is essentially a mind-control device that forces any enemies you hit to fight for your side for a little while. It's a useful tool to get tougher monsters off your back for a moment, particularly when you manage to get two or more with the same hit:
But it also works very well when you lob it into a thick, teeming mass of Sunset Overdrive's zombie-like OD. Here's a short clip of me testing that out at the beginning of a timed challenge in the game. Hitting a cluster of OD worked so well that they'd all but devoured themselves by the time I'd switched to another weapon:
The plague bomb, meanwhile, lobs a toxic ball of sludge at enemies — infecting them and dealing poison damage over a few seconds. Infected bad guys start vomiting profusely, which is a surprisingly funny thing to see when the target in question is a zombie who already has the nausea-inducing appearance of a gigantic, noxious-looking booger. As with the rager, enemies hit with the plague bomb will explode when killed. Plus, there's a chance that they will spread the infection to other targets in close proximity to them.
The other two weapons are a bit more on the generic side. But they're still good additions — despite the fact that, at face value, Sunset Overdrive already has more than enough rocket launchers to its name. The new rocket launcher feels like a niftier version of one of the game's original rocket launchers, the main difference being that its projectiles home towards bad guys. Given how quickly you zip around Sunset City while shooting, this makes it lot easier and much more fun to use.
The shield buddy generates a green forcefield around your character that deflects incoming attacks and also drops bombs every so often. It's particularly useful as a way to get out of tight scrapes if you, say, fall off a rail you're grinding on into a sea of infected below you. But the bomb-dropping feature also makes it useful as an augmentation to your offensive abilities in the event that you're not clumsy enough to get smacked off a rail by an enemy.
A big part of the fun of Sunset Overdrive's guns is using them in tandem with one another to produce bombastic, dizzying effects. I haven't had enough time to fully test out the four new guns in that regard. But speaking more generally, what I like about Sunset Overdrive's new weapons pack is that the four extra guns add a surprising amount of depth to the game's combat. And they do so by bringing unique types of gameplay to the table. I already enjoyed Sunset Overdrive's interesting blend of grinding (or bouncing, or flying) and shooting. But as I noted in my original review, I was also more than a little disappointed by how unimaginative its guns seemed to be. Except for the grating aesthetic flourishes of making joke-y weapons like a shotgun meant to look like a penis, the game's guns didn't embody the same inventive spirit I've long admired in developer Insomniac's other cartoonish shooter, Ratchet & Clank:
Sunset Overdrive has plenty of comically oversized killing contraptions you can acquire and modify with upgrades and additions. But these aren't truly weapons in the grand Ratchet & Clank tradition. Many of the guns that seem outlandish, such as one called "The Dude" that shoots giant bowling balls (get it?) or a freeze-ray-type cannon, don't transcend their status as intentionally zany gimmicks. As the game carried on towards its conclusion, I found that I gravitated more and more towards its traditional fare — a revolver, an AK-47, a grenade launcher that shoots explosive teddy bears instead of plain old grenades. The "weirdest" of my regular lineup were a gun that dropped acid-spewing turrets and another that popped out gun-wielding balloons. Like the teddy bear grenade launcher, these are little more than joke versions of many a shooter's bread-and-butter arsenal. And as the flaming compensator shows, these jokes aren't always very good.
I still don't think Sunset Overdrive is anywhere near Ratchet & Clank in terms of the quality of its guns. But the new weapon pack is a step in the right direction.