E3 2014: Sunset Overdrive Preview

Embrace the ridiculous and prepare yourself for the Awesomepocalypse! Insomniac Games surprised everyone at E3 2013 with their announcement of Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive. A stalwart of the Sony stable, Insomniac brought the PlayStation brand some of its best games with franchises like Spyro, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance to name a few. Now they’ve come over to the dark side, or Microsoft, and they brought with them one of the most hilarious and over the top games I’ve seen to date.

Set in the fictional metropolis of Sunset City in the year 2027 the story is based around the disastrous release of an energy drink called Overcharge Delerium XT. The company that produces the beverage, Fizzco, is having a massive pre-release party in Sunset City 3 weeks before Overcharge is released to the masses around the world. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the energy drink has been rushed to market and not properly tested or approved, there are certain side effects one might consider to be unfavourable… like turning into psychotic mutants. Following this mutant outbreak the city is quarantined and when Fizzco comes in to cover up their mess it’s up to you to take back the city and expose their wrongdoings.

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Speaking with creative director Marcus Smith at the E3 conference this year he gave me the inside scoop on the ideas and inspiration behind the game. For the bright, stylized backgrounds and characters Marcus referred to the work of Jamie Hewlett best known for Tank Girl and bringing the Gorillaz to life. For gameplay they kept three themes in mind as the springboard for everything that is Sunset Overdrive.

Theme 1 – Fun in the End Times

Alright so it’s that Awesomepocalypse I was talking about earlier. There’s Overdrive crazed mutants on the loose. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun right? You’ve got a deserted city landscape as your playground and the slick parkour inspired traversal means that there are a lot of killer places to run, jump, slide and zipline your way around. Not only that you have the most absurd arsenal of weaponry this side of Dead Rising at your disposal. Want to shoot green dragons at your enemies? How about old wax records or a teddy bear strapped to a wad of dynamite? Why not says Insomniac! Just to sweeten the pot a bit more you can also build up a style metre that will allow you to unleash AMP attacks such as Twist of Fate, a nuclear level explosion, or elemental based attacks with tornado or lightning damage. The riskier you play the faster your style metre builds but you’ve got to maintain your pace because it starts draining quickly.

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Theme 2 – Be Who You Want to Be

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“Let the player decide their style” said Marcus, “Why would I want to decide that for them?” Sunset Overdrive has a full character creation suite allowing players to choose anything and everything from clothes to hair to tattoos and body type.

Theme 3 – Major McF*ck Ups

You read that right. A cutthroat capitalist society where the only thing that matters is the almighty dollar leads to one of the most devastating disasters known to man. Why get FDA approval when you can pay a few guys off and do whatever you like? Comparing Fizzco to some of the biggest food manufacturers in the real world Marcus noted that as farfetched as Sunset Overdrive is there is some element of reality in this inspiration.

There is a single player campaign but for purposes of a hands-on I was treated to Chaos Squad, an eight-player co-op mode where players take on various missions such as killing a mini boss, loot scramble, collecting traversal icons and Night Defense which has you holding off waves of OD’d (the pet name for mutants).

Once I’d switched my aim to inverted (don’t judge me) I was let loose on to the map for a Night Defense mission. The first thing I noticed, which admittedly surprised me, is how easy and fluid it was to navigate the terrain. A simple press of the X button and I was zipping, sliding and wall-running to my heart’s content. Aiming took a little getting used to and will require some practice to master mostly because you’re always on the move and your targets are too. This game is fast and will require some fast reflexes. I immediately knew that standing around was not an option and shooting on the run was the only way to go. Changing weapons on the fly was effortless requiring players to hold down the LB1 button to bring up a HUD. On the whole all the mechanics of the game felt natural and intuitive which is a feat considering its pace.

My team fought three waves of enemies, each being more powerful than the last, and came out victorious, but just barely. While the game might be easy to pick up it will undoubtedly be difficult to master. If players want to unleash their devastating AMP attacks, like that BOOM mushroom cloud in the trailers, they have to play hard and play risky so they can be rewarded for their insanity.

My time with Sunset Overdrive was far too short for my liking but if I took away anything it was the knowledge that Insomniac looks to be doing everything right with this game. Fast paced, frenetic and most importantly fun, Sunset Overdrive is slated to hit shelves October 28

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