Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sunset Overdrive

What happened to Insomniac Games? Between 1998 and 2000 they had my attention fixed on their Spyro the Dragon trilogy. Though I did take time out to play and finish Final Fantasy VIII over 98', a lot of my time went into Spyro the Dragon and its two sequels. Insomniac Games then moved on to the Ratchet and Clank series. I liked it, but never quite got into it as much as I did with Spyro. From there Insomniac Games dropped off my radar of developers I cared about. I didn't like Resistance, how they milked the Ratchet and Clank series or most recently how they retooled the seemingly light-hearted Overstrike into Fuse; a generic, gritty and genuinely shite third-person shooter. But while I haven't exactly been thrilled with anything they've developed within the last decade, they're newest creation has been unleashed upon the gaming public. However, despite my initial concerns this latest offering from the developers of Spyro is much better than expected.


Developed by Insomniac Games and out now exclusively for Xbox One comes Sunset Overdrive, a game that's basically what would happen if Jet Set Radio, inFamous and Saints Row had a baby- a big, loud mutant baby armed with a gun that fires rare vinyls. The plot is rather simple and doesn't try and bog the player down in endless cut-scenes, a confusing narrative or meaningless character jabber. It just gets to the point, and revolves around a very different take on the apocalypse. In 2027 soft drink company FizzCo have created OverCharge Delirium XT, an energy drink that when consumed turns people into mutants. You take on a custom created character that bands together with other characters to survive both against mutants and human bandits alike. 


The first thing that jumps out at you when playing Sunset Overdrive are the visuals. Sunset Overdrive is an open-world title, but it's an open-world title like you've never seen before. Though Insomniac Games may have screwed up Fuse by turning into a dark and bleak shooter, judging by  Sunset Overdrive they're going for a tone that's more in line with their earlier games. The city of Sunset City presented here is extremely colourful, over-the-top and has a certain charm to it that I haven't seen in an open-world title outside of the Grand Theft Auto series, while the characters that inhabit the city look like the cast of Mad Max 2: Road Warrior on LSD. It nicely fits into Insomniac Games' ethos of the late 90's/early 2000's, and the gameplay built around its pretty trippy visuals is also based around what their earlier games aimed to achieve- fun, just simple fun.

Gameplay is essentially your typical open-world fare- Accept a mission, travel across the city to do the mission, go and collect your reward. The real meat of the game comes through getting around Sunset City and dispatching enemies. While your character plods around quite slowly on foot, you'll soon master the act of getting around in style. Whether it's grinding along a rail, running up a wall, running along the side of a building or sprinting across water (or all all four within the space of 30 seconds), Sunset Overdrive is like a wackier version of Mirror's Edge in the fact that movement is wonderfully free form, surprisingly nuanced and an utter joy to behold. Weapons are as varied as they are bizarre too. Though they start off quite small scale and basic, much later in the game you'll be packing a Teddy Bear launcher, a Chinese fireworks gun, a weapon that fires limited edition vinyls and even a cannon that shoots bowling balls. Combat would be generic without it, but used in conjunction with Sunset Overdrive's stunning control system, combat is bloody insane and often a sea of multicoloured explosions, buckets of mutant goo and pillars of neon smoke. It's tricky to get it right, but if done properly you'll be able to make your way across the city while taking out enemies, but without your feet ever touching the ground!


This release can't come at a better time for Microsoft, as amid pretty awful sales for the Xbox One, they're in dire need of a decent exclusive that isn't Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Though I wouldn't say it's worth buying an Xbox One solely for Sunset Overdrive, it is a great start to Microsoft's case for purchasing one. With incredibly in-depth character customization, a whole bunch of hidden collectibles to find within every nook and cranny of Sunset City, and some of the more impressively big and high tempo boss battles in recent memory, Sunset Overdrive is proof that Insomniac Games still has it.

Sunset Overdrive
goes on full overdrive and gets a 4/5.

★★★★☆

Denis Murphy


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