Sunset Overdrive and Applying The Rules of Comedy

Sunset Overdrive and Applying The Rules of Comedy

Sunset Overdrive tries to be funny, but it just doesn't work in most cases because the game refuses to follow some basic rules of comedy.

Read Full Article

Think I suggested Saints Row 4 to people who wanted either GTA V, Infamous: Second Son and now for Sunset Overdrive.

Captcha: "somebody that i used to know" you're in on the joke of Saints Row 4 aren't you?!

People who get "sniffy" about a fart in the face joke are taking it the wrong way.

Saints Row IV was enough of a glorious mess to cover several grounds. To think I held off buying it for a few months still maddens me.

Hey GTA V. Want to be the mess you are and be good? Here's Saints Row IV.
Hey Tomb Raider 2013. Want to play your story straight while being consistent in tone and gameplay? Here's Saints Row IV.
Hey The Last of Us. Do you want characters to be bastards but still engaging? Here's Saints Row IV!

The list goes on.

Drawing out gags rarely works, something Seth MacFarlane will never understand. Re-referencing a gag quickly at a later unexpected time is the way to go.

Me, I found the dialogue to range from mildly amusing to worth a laugh. Which is all I was really expecting out of it. It doesn't detract from the rest of the game which aesthetically and mechanically, I kind of adore.

The whole "pointing out video game tropes" thing fell flat sometimes, but usually made me crack a smile at least.

And here's a gag from the game that I did enjoy because why not:
The clothing vendor will compliment you constantly when you're looking at things to purchase from her, but has nothing but insults for you when looking at clothes you already own. Complete with disaffected faux European accent. "This might be the apocalypse, but I can see that you're not starving." That bit I quite liked.

Agreed. SR4 has a well-done funny/stupid story and fun gameplay, now I want to replay it lol.

Still in my honest opinion it seems that Sunset Overdrive at least packs fun gameplay and it doesn't fails in that area which is the most important one. Too bad it is a Xbone exclusive.

Also unpopular opinion here but I liked SR3 more than 4. For me it goes 2>3>4>1 all the series was worth it and each game has a place in my heart. Respect.

I'll give you an example of one gag in Sunset Overdrive that almost worked. At one point, you rescue one of your entourage of support characters, and a third character, who's not physically present but doing the Otacon radio voice thing where we hear them through what we assume to be a concealed earpiece, talks about the next plot point. And when he's finished talking, the NPC who is physically present looks confused and asks, "How are we hearing your voice when neither of us is holding a phone?"

Now, this was leaning vaguely towards funny. It is then, as is Sunset Overdrive's pattern, driven straight into the fucking ground. The protagonist replies "Lol video games lol" (I'm paraphrasing here) and then they try to sustain the gag by talking about how the NPC will now walk off-screen and mysteriously vanish by the time control returns to the player.

I hear your point, Yahtzee, and agree with most of your feedback on the jokes in SO, but this gag made me laugh out loud (as in literally).

Most of the jokes in this game miss their marks IMHO, but there is occasionally gold hiding in the river.

As GLaDOS said in Portal 2, comedy equals tragedy plus time. Well, perhaps also multiplied by how likely you are to overcome that tragedy.

For example, Saints Row IV has missions in which you save your friends/Cabinet from their deepest, darkest fears. One of them is a giant can of soda, embodying the undesirable position of having to market that in a disingenuous way. You blow it up with a rocket launcher before going giant-monster-fight on it. Another is a disturbingly stable 1950s suburb controlled by a past villain who imprisoned your friend. You shatter it with the Dubstep Gun, however muffled the simulation makes it. These jokes stick because of such powerful comedy.

The best thing to come out of this is more appreciation for Saints Row IV, since I absolutely love that game. I loved the story and I loved the dialogue, and I think the characterisation was damn good too. I'd even say it was superior to Mass Effect 3 in that regard, which tended to rely too much on you knowing the characters and having already formed attachments to most of them.

I actually think that Sunset Overdrive may be another casualty of the prevalence of gritty realism in popular art these days.

We have all noted, and Yahtzee has often lamented, that games, movies, tv, etc. don't have any fun anymore. They are too focused on delivering a dramatic, "realistic" experience, and so convinced that this is best conveyed by grim despair and and deep gray morality. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it is overdone. Often it is a crutch rather than a legitimate artistic statement.

So here comes Sunset Overdrive to save the day, and blow the lid off our dark realism, right? Not really, no. Because if their game was meant to be a diametric opposite of the prevailing storytelling style, then it would be as Yahtzee describes the Monty Python song. It wouldn't be so insecure about winking at us and telling us that we should be enjoying the nutty and colorful world, it would just give us something screwy and joyous and fun. Instead it went with a sarcastic tone and sardonic humor, and sarcasm is not a joyful form of humor; it is used when there is nothing to laugh at, so you must force humor on the situation. Sarcasm is the comedy version of gritty realism. If they really wanted to undermine the status quo, they should have ignored it altogether and given us a gleefully unconcerned apocalypse.

image

I can't help but feel this image accurately represents Yatzhee's opinion.

The major issue that I tend to have with Sunset's brand of "comedy" is that it uses its characters as vehicles for gags, which in the end, twists them into these misshapen and inconsistent beings. If your comedy flows naturally from having funny, odd, and eccentric characters interacting with one another, then this solves the problem. Your characters are consistent and still make sense.

Instead of thinking "Family Guy," think Terry Pratchett. The former has two actual characters and a cabal of blank vehicles for its gags, the latter lets comedy flow more naturally from its characters and situations. This allows real storytelling, thoughtful satire, and even some excitement to accompany the comedy to fill gaps where the laughs are being set-up, rather than just jamming gags down the throat of the audience at the expense of character.

I feel very strongly that this image from "Hey Ash Watchya Playin?" belongs in this thread. To spare the wrath of moderators I will only post the link.

http://i.imgur.com/KNFvX8Q.gif

I think something along the lines of this Yahtzee needs to look into (B/c he's the one who's mostly been driving all this inevitable narrative through his nonstop droning on about it) .... is how it might be possible that Horror and Comedy (and possibly even eroticism) all have some of the same "rules" in common. Especially the Fleeting Glance of X rule whether it's the punch line or "the monster", or ....even Bayonetta's giraffe thighs and binder-clip back rigging. The same might also apply to the whole "who's the REAL monster/joke? It's me now, isn't it?? / It's all in my own head" or the even more dreaded oppressing "oh shit I've become my parents ...minus any kids, but I will have a choo choo set on astroturf". ...okay getting off-track here (see, puns are 2 ez) but the main point is, just like Monty Python and Red Dwarf did so well: the key to setting up the jokes or monster might be in the "Aesthetics" of the Atmosphere itself, not in how many polygons, nuances, and framerates you packed into the drab brown Hallway, the GoreSplatter animation, or the Jump-Moneyshot.

Once you've used the gag "hey look, videogame mechanics are unrealistic!", you can't really use it ever again without the audience expecting you to make that joke again. Comedy is all about defying expectation, and Saint's Row 4 is really good at consistently doing that. My favourite jokes in Saint's Row 4 are when you end up trapped in a 50s sitcom, or that time they just a drop in line about how the protagonist is a Jane Austin fan. It works because you have spent the game playing as a gangster president thug who beats people to death with a floppy dildo sword, and thus have developed an expectation that all jokes would be derived from toilet humour and comedy violence.

Silentpony:
image

I can't help but feel this image accurately represents Yatzhee's opinion.

I don't think he's into Polly Pocket.

TheVampwizimp:
I actually think that Sunset Overdrive may be another casualty of the prevalence of gritty realism in popular art these days.

We have all noted, and Yahtzee has often lamented, that games, movies, tv, etc. don't have any fun anymore. They are too focused on delivering a dramatic, "realistic" experience, and so convinced that this is best conveyed by grim despair and and deep gray morality. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it is overdone. Often it is a crutch rather than a legitimate artistic statement.

So here comes Sunset Overdrive to save the day, and blow the lid off our dark realism, right? Not really, no. Because if their game was meant to be a diametric opposite of the prevailing storytelling style, then it would be as Yahtzee describes the Monty Python song. It wouldn't be so insecure about winking at us and telling us that we should be enjoying the nutty and colorful world, it would just give us something screwy and joyous and fun. Instead it went with a sarcastic tone and sardonic humor, and sarcasm is not a joyful form of humor; it is used when there is nothing to laugh at, so you must force humor on the situation. Sarcasm is the comedy version of gritty realism. If they really wanted to undermine the status quo, they should have ignored it altogether and given us a gleefully unconcerned apocalypse.

I read a fantastic essay by David Foster Wallace recently, about how irony is so constantly absorbed and internalized by American masses that it's seeped into our entire culture. The essay's ultimate point is how American television's heavy usage of irony so strongly affects our fiction, but he went much deeper than that to make a larger point about American culture that I have literally never heard anyone talk about.

That was written back in 1997, and 17 years later, I think the internet has taken it a hell of a lot farther. Irony has become sarcastic cynicism. This is now our cultural default, in games and everywhere else, and anything else is a breath of fresh air. As DFW said, "irony is the song of a bird who has become used to its cage." I think that's one reason Yahtzee didn't like Sunset Overdrive, because sarcasm is tiring and falls short of genuine comedy - in fact, it goes out if its way not to be genuine.

Johnny Novgorod:

I don't think he's into Polly Pocket.

I've only got one thing to say to that...

image

this is why I'm not a huge fan of things that have a layer of "hurr hurr funny" it makes me think "well if you don't care then why should I?"

granted I'm a fan of Borderlands 2 and while I'm sure plenty of people would say the drama fell flat I honestly liked that they gave you a cohearant story that actually wanted you to care on some level

This is also why laugh tracks are so annoying. If something is actually funny, you don't need to point it out to your audience. The more you mug around the place telling everyone how funny a joke was, the less funny that joke becomes.

Somewhat ironically, given how well Saints Row does most of the time compared to other games, this is exactly where it falls flat with one of its most cited "jokes":

Yahtzee Croshaw:
A defiant, square-jawed salute with a giant floppy dildo bat.

The dildo bat was done first in GTA San Andreas (although given Rockstar's recent behaviour who knows if it's actually still there). It was funny for precisely the sort of reasons Yahtzee notes here - it was unexpected (as part of the story you have to seduce an apparently straight-laced secretary who turns out to have an S&M dungeon as a bedroom), and the dildo is just sitting there. It's not mentioned by the game at all, it's just there. You could hit people with a baseball bat, but ha! there's a dildo. And that's it.

Saints Row, on the other hand, simply can't stop itself dancing around the place and pointing out how funny it is that you can hit people with a dildo. It constantly draws attention to it, points out there are achievements specifically for using, forces into your hand as soon as possible, and so on. It's the very worst of the laugh-track-esque style "you should be finding this funny" failure at humour, made all the worse by it being such a blatant copy of a joke someone else already told.

Thanatos2k:
Drawing out gags rarely works, something Seth MacFarlane will never understand. Re-referencing a gag quickly at a later unexpected time is the way to go.

Agreed, brick joke with a joke is often much more amusing.

I'm glad you wrote this Yahtzee, granted I haven't played the game but I've seen swathes of it and it bores me, I found the humour so shoddy in its attempts to be fun. I do like Whedon's dialogue though, Cabin in the Woods...amazing...

Yahtzee, giving CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and helpful advice? Hmm, looking out the window, the sky is not raining blood, just plain ol' water.
The opening felt like a jab at MovieBob and his taste in comedy, given what the latest episode of The Big Picture is about.

Ugh, what typical AAA idiocy. Sunset Overdrive managed to break the very FIRST rule of comedy, the one that you absolutely must not break if you want to rise above the level of "half-assed incompetent hack":

DON'T! EXPLAIN! THE FUCKING! JOKE!!!

"...I personally think you can't go wrong with a well-timed fart to the face..." Another Terrence and Phillip fan. Happy happy joy joy. Oy.

Silentpony:
image

I can't help but feel this image accurately represents Yatzhee's opinion.

I have to agree with both the opinion and the gif. I just don't get Sunset Overdrive's 'sense of humour'.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here