Posted Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT by Brian Hoss
Colorful, fun, fast and wacky.
Going into E3, 'Sunset Overdrive' seemed like a colorful Microsoft (Xbox One) exclusive that apart from the Insomniac Games association, did not have much going for it. For me, I just had in mind the game's initial gameplay-lacking reveal and a notion that it would have some signature Insomniac weapons. The recent reveal of the game's eight player Chaos Sqaud was more than just an eyebrow raiser, and yet I remained dubious. Microsoft has done a great job of pushing the game's energy drink powered plot, and that extended to E3 where 'Sunset Overdrive' was everywhere from buses to bathrooms to balloons, etc. Fortunately, amid all of the craziness, there was an actual game demo.
The whole "a FizzCo. energy drink has mutated the population plot" has been shouted to death by the games' marketing, and the E3 demo even begins in a very familiar crazy convention/pre-release party setting. Here I saw the would-be hero go from janitorial duty to badass at the outbreak. The hero's kind of a punk, but that doesn't really matter, as the player won't be stuck with him, they can customize and create their idea of a post mutation-event righteous marauder.
In fact, it is really fair to say that the broad strokes of 'Sunset Overdrive' are being misrepresented. There's a running vibe of shallow consumerism and other American cultural phenomena satirically turned on its head in a modern (2027) 'Dawn of the Dead' manner. This is most funny in the crazed enemy factions the player can expect to find such as the Boy Scout like Adventure Scout troop that has been holed up in the Japanese Heritage museum since the outbreak and have now embraced samurai culture to become Troop Bushido.
But the plot logic is much more situational. Wondertown, an amusement overrun with mutated enemies tells its own microstory throughout the environment. Think of a Valve game like 'Left 4 Dead.' Since Wondertown is packed with fun little characteristics, the Insomniac team has erred on the side of fun makes right (trumps realism).
The Creative Director Marcus Smith and the Game Director Drew Murray were very explicit on this. After 'Resistance 3,' they really wanted to do a project that was a large departure from the previous one. I can see where 'Resistance 3' as a game world is depressing, it's dark and full of broken (literal) homes and crushed dreams. By comparison, 'Sunset Overdrive' is vibrant, and full of a lightly perverse joy. Where 'Resistance 3' had you moving level by level along a fixed path to a towering destination, 'Sunset Overdrive' is open, and it begs the player to discover its crazy, active environment.
This is where the fun makes right part comes in. They worked with the environment to make things like booth awnings interactive rather than static, and to give the player a more free and mobile feel. But when it comes to say sliding around the tracks of a rollercoaster (as though on skates, but free to jump away and back at any time), the only logic required is that it seemed like a fun idea and feels fun to play. Forget hiding in cover, this is a game all about movement.
Here again, this is an open world game, which is why Insomniac wanted to make the environment traversal fun without having to just say parkour. Different areas have different little stories to tell and enemies to encounter, but there's one other aspect that Insomniac has tried to enliven, how it feels to play through the world of 'Sunset Overdrive.'
Forget about the weapons, crazy stuff like the vinyl record launching gun or even the FizzCo spray gun are a given from this developer. Typically, when you play an open world game, the character basics tend to get stale. In 'Sunset Overdrive,' you can change these basics; for example, your melee attack and dodge roll can be changed and augmented by equipping amps.
Equipping amps is not a get XP and click a box type thing. Specific parts of the open world yield special amps, while other parts yield amp recipes, enabling the player to craft and equip varied abilities.
Not only does this mean that the player gets some fundamental variety and the ability to make the single player more or less challenging through different amps, all of the acquisition and customization carries over into the multiplayer Chaos Squad (and carries back). Switching modes is said to be seamless and is backed by dedicated Microsoft servers.
Some have been quick to term 'Sunset Overdrive' 'Infamous on Drugs,' but it really seems more like a playground built with large shares of surrealism and satire. Just how that mix bears out over the course of this bright exclusive ought to be worth the price of admission on its own.
You can find the latest info on 'Sunset Overdrive' linked from our Video Game Release Schedule.
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