One of the worst-kept secrets in gaming, the PC version of Insomniac’s excellent Sunset Overdrive finally released last week on both Steam and the Windows Store – and it’s a bargain at just £14.99/$19.99. Liberated from the 900p30 lock of the original Xbox One release, the game is vastly improved – but as good as the game can be, the quality of the port itself could have been better. A lot better.
Let’s begin with the positives – and there are many. Sunset Overdrive does indeed allow for rendering at a range of resolutions all the way up to 5K, while frame-rate options allow for 30fps and 60fps caps, in addition to running fully unlocked – so yes, it’s possible to play the game at 120fps if you have the GPU power to get you there. The game doesn’t seem to offer up any artwork improvements over the original Xbox One release, but that’s fine – simply operating at a higher resolution gives the game extra clarity, allowing the original assets to present at their very best.
The first Insomniac title of this gaming generation saw the developer beginning to deploy its post-heavy effects pipeline, and all of this loveliness – including the industry-best motion blur implementation – works beautifully on PC. The effects also scale well with resolution and frame-rate, and seeing how this game renders at either 4K or 120Hz is quite the feat: Sunset Overdrive really is treat that revels in the scalability PC offers. In short, this port is well-priced for a great experience overall, and the improvement over Xbox One is substantial.
But that’s not to say that the quality of the port itself is in any way exceptional – in fact, it’s actually rather disappointing. Developed by Blind Squirrel Studios (responsible for the lacklustre BioShock HD remasters), there isn’t much scalability in the game: the meagre options on offer amount to a clutch of on/off toggles (where disabling some can catastrophically impact the look of the game), while the SMAA anti-aliasing options appear to do very little.
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The anti-aliasing situation is a real disappointment, but thankfully the Reshade tool succeeds where the developer fell short, and I used a combination of FXAA, SMAA and a slight sharpening filter to produce some excellent results with only a minimal hit to performance.
Other issues with the game are not so easy to fix though: Sunset Overdrive PC is locked to borderless full-screen or windowed mode with no exclusive full-screen support, and there is zero support for any aspect ratio other than standard 16:9 – until the modding community gets its hands on the game, anyway. At the very least though, the internal resolution options operate independently of the display resolution, so I was able to play the game with ease at 5K30 on my ultra HD TV.
But there’s just the sense here that Blind Squirrel were given an Xbox One codebase that simply wasn’t designed to offer any kind of scalability in individual settings – and as frustrating as that it is, it makes sense. Insomniac originally developed the game for a fixed console platform, set their performance budgets accordingly and most likely didn’t integrate different quality levels for individual effects into the original code. In essence then, the best thing to do is to simply leave everything turned on, target a set a frame-rate and then adjust resolution accordingly until the game runs smoothly.
On my PC – which features a Titan Xp GPU – I could run the game at 4K60, though effects-heavy scenes and cutscenes could see dropped frames, especially with my reshade anti-aliasing settings in place. As you might expect, bearing in mind the resolution variance, 1440p ran well – but there is the sense here that we should have expected more in performance terms, especially bearing in mind that today’s PC graphics cards are so far ahead of the original Xbox One in terms of GPU power.
There are further issues to contend with as well for PC gamers. For example, it’s practically essential that you use a controller with Sunset Overdrive as the mouse controls for the game are fundamentally broken: incredibly twitchy and over-responsive with little appreciation for tracking the velocity of your movements. While I’m fine with sticking with the joypad – the input device the game was originally designed for – plenty of PC gamers prefer the granularity of mouse movement and there’s the sense that little care or attention went into a really important part of the game.
Overall, there’s a bitter-sweet feeling about this release. On the one hand, we have a version of Sunset Overdrive that’s capable of running faster and more smoothly than the original Xbox One release, and at its best, it’s a great experience. But it is a basic, barebones port: resolution and performance aside, there are no improvements over Xbox One (yes, the troublesome LOD popping is essentially the same), the options are highly limited and key aspects don’t work as they should. But the game itself is well worth playing, and at £14.99/$19.99, there is plenty of value here. There’s just the sense that Sunset Overdrive just deserved a little more care and attention.