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Learn to survive your own awesomepocalypse in our Sunset Overdrive getting started guide

Welcome to Sunset City. You’re welcome to stay awhile, just mind the armies of slobbering mutants, killer robots, and mask-wearing, gun-toting bandits. They’re not friendly. But as post-apocalypses go, you could do a lot worse. Sunset Overdrive‘s end of the world trades the horror of mass death for a shattered urban playground built for a hero who can pull of Tony Hawk moves without a skateboard.

Related: Sunset Overdrive review: Fast, fun, and never serious

It’s a tricky game to master, but a hell of a lot of fun to play once you do. We can’t give you all the answers, but we’ve sunk enough time into the game now to give you some tips for getting the most out of Insomniac Games’ fun-ass apocalypse.

Walking is for suckers

There are no cars to help you get around in Sunset City. Fast-travel is possible from any location to one of a handful of “Portal Potties” scattered around the map (look for a brown icon consisting of two right-facing triangles), and it’s very handy for crossing wide stretches of territory once you’ve unlocked these locations, but fast-travel alone won’t get you through Sunset Overdrive. The enemy hordes are quick enough to chase you down on foot, and they turn into crack shots when you spend too much time standing in one spot. You’ve got to keep moving.

It’s a tricky game to master, but a hell of a lot of fun to play once you do.

So first, let’s look at your various moves and how they work. Pressing X while you’re in mid-air and close to a wire or rail causes you to grind. If your body is above the surface in question, you grind along on your feet; if you’re below it, your character will latch on using a crowbar, for an undergrind. It’s possible to swap between grinds and undergrinds by pressing X. If you’re transitioning out of an undergrind, you can immediately press A right after X to jump with boosted height. It’s also possible to “grind” on the surface of a body of water if you press X at the right moment.

The X button isn’t just for grinding. Press it as you jump toward some vertical surface, like a wall or building exterior, to perform a wall-run. No need to keep holding X to stay aloft, but you’ll have to press X again as you come to a corner if you want to keep the wall-run going. With both grinds and wall-runs, pressing and holding RB while you’re in motion triggers a speed boost.

You’re also able to bounce off of virtually any surface. There’s no trick to this; just jump on top of a thing and if it’s a bounce-friendly surface, you will bounce. As for how you can spot these bounce-friendly surfaces … really, there’s no clear marking system. You’ll have to experiment. More often than not, you’ll find that most any surface can be bounced off of, so long as it isn’t the ground.

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There are two more traversal mechanics that help you get around, but you need to progress a little into the story before you unlock them. We won’t spoil exactly when you unlock these, but it’s worth noting that you should probably push through the story until they’re both unlocked before you start to really explore the deeper game. First is an improved bounce. It’s simple, really; press A right as you land on a bounce-friendly surface to get an added boost to your jump height. There’s also an unlockable air dash; press RB when you’re in mid-air to dart forward a short distance. Simple, but very handy for getting around quickly.

Amps, Overdrives, and you

Before we can get into the nuances of combat, it’s important to understand what Amps and Overdrives are, and how they both work. Amps unlock an assortment of special abilities, with each one falling into several different categories. Hero Amps influence traversal and what happens as you move through the world (there’s also a Hero Extra Amp slot, which simply amounts to a second equippable Hero Amp); Melee Amps apply different effects to your melee strikes; Dive Bomb Amps determine what happens when you execute a “ground pound” attack (melee while in mid-air); Epic Amps unleash powerful abilities, like random electric strikes on nearby enemies, when you reach a certain Style level (more on that in a minute); and Weapon Amps modify the effects of whichever firearm they’re slotted into.

The more you use a particular firearm, the more experience it earns.

Amps unlock in a number of different ways. Some you’ll get simply for moving through the story and completing quests, and for surviving the “Night Defense” missions that also factor into the story. Others you can buy directly from the oven situated next to Floyd, one of the game’s supporting characters, at every base location. Amps can only be purchased using special currency: one of the several different collectibles scattered around the world. Icons in the purchase menu let you know which collectible you need, and how many. You can also use the story to buy upgrades for your amps, making them more potent (the same upgrades can also be unlocked in the cooperative Chaos Squad mode).

A quick note on weapons: The more you use a particular firearm, the more experience it earns. You’ve got to have a weapon up to at least level 2 before you can slot in any Weapon Amps. You can equip up to eight weapons at a time in your weapon wheel, but you can swap them out whenever you’d like from the pause menu’s Character screen. You can buy new weapons from Two-Hat Jack at any base (or gun icon on the map), but he only accepts Sunset Overdrive‘s Overcharge currency. Dollars earned in-game are specifically for cosmetic items.

Now, let’s talk about Overdrives. Each one provides a small boost to some facet of the gameplay, and can be upgraded to level 4 for improved effects. You purchase new Overdrives by unlocking badges in one of 12 different categories. There are badges for individual traversal and combat mechanics like Grinding, Bouncing, and Melee, and others for specific types of enemies. As you do more of a particular thing — grinding, taking out Scabs, etc. — you earn badges. You then spend them in the Overdrive screens on whatever boost you choose.

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It’s best to slot in Overdrives that support your particular style of play. Some, such as health boosts, are universally helpful. But if you don’t grind all that often, then you might not want to spend your grind badges on unlocking an Overdrive that boosts your Style gains from grinding. Some of the more potent Overdrives can only be unlocked by spending several different types of badges on them. So there’s value in saving up your badges.

There isn’t any singular recipe for Overdrives that works for every player. Browse through the menu and zero in on the six boosts that suit you the best, then make sure to tailor your play so you’re earning the badges you need to get the Overdrives you want. As with Amps, the effectiveness of Overdrives really comes down to player preference.

Fighting with Style

The top-right corner of the screen is home to Sunset Overdrive‘s Style Meter. It’s a lightning bolt-shaped bar that is divided into four sections. Fill up a section and you unlock a Style level. At level one, the effects of any equipped Hero Amps become active. At level two, Melee and Weapon Amps go live. Level three brings in the effects of Epic Amps. And level four, which maxes out the meter, soups up the capabilities of all equipped Amps. It’s entirely possible to take on the enemies of Sunset Overdrive without paying any attention to the Style Meter, but you’re much more effective when Amps factor into your strategy.

There isn’t any singular recipe for Overdrives that works for every player.

You build up Style by peppering a variety of traversal moves in as you fight. It’s not really viable to play Sunset Overdrive like a standard third-person shooter. The more time you spend standing in one place, even when shooting, the more enemies that tend to be drawn in your direction. They’re also inherently faster than you, so running around on the ground isn’t the answer either. So you’re already encouraged to shoot while grinding or bouncing; Amps just provide a little extra incentive to get creative with the way you move and fight.

It’s best to start slow. Weapons come with a generous auto-aim; as long as you see a red targeting circle around an enemy, you’ll probably hit it when you fire. So getting the hang of aiming while in motion and feeling out how each weapon fires is worth your time. When learning to fight, it’s good to find a grind rail that loops you around again and again in a circle. Failing that, find a long stretch of straight-line grind, like a power wire, and reverse direction back and forth (press X while holding the left stick down) as you fight.

It’s a similar process for learning to bounce. Start out by bouncing between two closely spaced launchpads. You can generate Style very quickly in this way, actually. Try to draw a bead on a target as you reach the apex of your jump and fire just as you start to descend. It’s not really all that tricky, but there is a specific feel that you’ll need to get the hang of. Once you’ve got the hang of that, start mixing in combos, transitioning between grinds and bounces as you take on gangs of enemies.

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Also be sure to take note of each weapon’s different strengths and weakness. You learn very early on that fire is an effective tool for taking out OD — the mutant baddies in Sunset Overdrive — and humans, but it’s far less effective against the Fizzco robots that pop up later. For those, you’ll want electric-damage weapons. Most of this stuff is common sense if you understand how the weapon works, but you can also highlight each individual firearm on the Character page to see which enemies it’s strong or weak against.

Making a living in the post-apocalypse

If you want to survive in the post-apocalypse, you’ll need some cash! Well no, not really. In truth, the events of Sunset Overdrive‘s story provide the basic tools you’ll need to survive as the difficulty ratchets up over the course of the game. That said, there’s no harm in giving yourself a little bit of an extra edge. Or just making yourself look good.

You unlock articles of clothing and accessories for character customization (cosmetic only) by completing various optional missions and Challenges scattered throughout the city, but you can also buy new threads directly from Callista at any base (after she’s unlocked early on). She only accepts dollars, which most downed enemies drop. You can also get cash for destroying ATM machines and Fizzco vending machines.

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Cans of Overcharge, another form of currency, typically come from completing missions, but many of the tougher enemies drop them as well. This is by far the most useful currency in the game, since it’s the only one that Two-Hat Jack accepts in exchange for new firearms. Hoard it, grab powerful weapons whenever you can afford them, and don’t bother spending cans on ammo. Cruising around the city, you can easily find breakable boxes that drop ammo, health, and even straight-up cash.

It’s also important to keep an eye out for collectibles. Tennis shoes dangle from power lines, toilet paper is wrapped around street lights, Fizzie balloons float in the sky, often above some bounce-friendly surface, security cameras (adorned with a bright, red light) are often at the top of power poles or the corners of building exteriors, and neon FizzCo signs are easy to spot sticking out of walls. Collect these whenever you spot them and save them up. Amps are relatively cheap to purchase, but Amp upgrades aren’t. So it’s best to shore up your supply of collectible currency whenever possible.