Preview: Sunset Overdrive

“Can you save Sunset City? Of course you can, it’s a f*****g videogame!”

The former quote sets the tone for what seems to be Insomniac’s most insane game yet. Best known for the Ratchet & Clank franchise, Insomniac Games has always been known for their storytelling and humour, but so far they haven’t reached their prime yet. Sony and Insomniac’s collaboration, Resistance didn’t get the reception both parties had hoped for, and 2013’s Fuse received not so favourable reception. But now Insomniac seems to have gone back to their Ratchet & Clank-based roots, and their newest creation Sunset Overdrive seems to be right in their alley creativity wise.

Sunset Overdrive is a third-person shooter which seems to lean on its over-the-top comedic art style, and gameplay that definitely doesn’t follow the standard shooter pattern that a lot of games seem to do nowadays. The game is set in the fictional location of Sunset City, which has been overrun with infected citizens turned by the new Overcharge energy drink, which seems to have had some issues post-release. Here’s where you come in, and you’ll have to use advanced traversal, an arsenal of insane weapons and your wits to rid the city of the infestation.

Whilst we didn’t get any time with the game’s single player mode, we were given the chance to play a short demo of the co-op Chaos Squad mode, which sets eight players against hordes of enemies whilst defending specific points on the map. Seven of us were set-up along with an employee from Insomniac and after a quick introduction we were immediately thrown into the world of Sunset Overdrive.

The goal of the mode was what you’d expect, you have to defend points on the map from the incoming hordes of enemies, which include different factions of enemies and mini-bosses that spawn on different ends of the maps. In this aspect Chaos Squad was actually a lot of fun, though for demo purposes it was incredibly short and if you need a while to get into different styles of gameplay, your opinion of the game may differ because of the extremely short timeframe you have to get an initial impression of the title.

In the first minute of gameplay, the game really reminded me of inFamous 1&2 when it comes to traversal, and grinding on rails and such really felt incredibly fluid. The thing with grinding and such is, if you don’t like the mechanic and refrain from using it, you’ll make the game much harder for yourself. Whilst I really enjoyed the way of traversal, other players in the session spent a lot of time on foot, which really slowed the game down on their part. Traversal is incredibly important in Sunset Overdrive, and unlike a lot of other third and first person shooters you won’t be able to spend much time in one place, if any. You’ll be advancing and moving around constantly, both defending yourself and flanking the constant streams of enemies, which aren’t incredibly intelligent considering their nature, but still offer enough challenge to players.

The weapons and gadgets of the game are set up in the same style as the Ratchet & Clank games, by which I mean that most of them are just insane concept-wise, and offer interesting and humorous ways to take out enemies as you go along. You have access to a weapon wheel much like the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance games, and even when one of your weapons runs out of ammo you’ll have enough guns and ammo to continue your reign of mayhem on the enemy, which is extremely satisfying thanks to the nature and styles of the weapons, which is something Insomniac has always been spot on with. Variety doesn’t seem to be an issue with the arsenal, and every player should have no issue finding an appropriate weapon that’ll complement their play style.

The mode consisted of multiple waves, with each wave coming from a different direction, and the last wave coming from multiple directions. Initially each wave starts with the standard-sized enemies, but every once in a while the game will offer some more challenge by throwing larger-sized mini-bosses that may require multiple players to work together to take them down. The scenarios create some well-needed variety and in its whole Chaos Squad is a fun mode that has players fight their enemies, but also compete with each other for the highest ranking of the match. It’s unclear whether the full game will provide players with different difficulty levels, but it might be welcome as it does feel a little easy when you’re doing well, and some extra challenge might be a good fit for experienced players.

The health system was something I didn’t really expect, and rather than having a regenerative health system Sunset Overdrive provides a pickup-based system with an actual health bar for a change. Health pickups are spread throughout the map, though if you keep moving and choose the appropriate weapons for the situation health isn’t exactly the most important thing you’ll have to worry about throughout a session.

Visually Sunset Overdrive is a very colourful and stylish game, resulting in a clear visual style that’s very nice to look at and refrains from using any of the grey, color-muted schemes that plague many action games nowadays. Each frame of the game is vibrant, sharp and incredibly well-made. Characters en environments are heavily stylised, and are generally incredibly well-designed, and compliment the tone of the game very well. The game is presented at a resolution of 900p, but still looks very sharp considering. The frame rate is set at 30 frames per second, and luckily during my session the issues presented in some of the earlier builds and previews didn’t seem present. However the campaign does seem to have a lot more going on at the same time compared to the multiplayer, especially since Chaos Mode only offers a limited portion of the map. I can only speak for the visual fidelity of the game, which is stellar, but the frame rate for the single player is something we unfortunately won’t be able to analyse till we get closer to the release date.

Sunset Overdrive funny enough felt more like a PlayStation game than an Xbox game considering the familiar ground, but it looks like Microsoft has scored an awesome exclusive with Sunset Overdrive, that in my opinion will be well worth the purchase upon release.

Sunset Overdrive is set to be released exclusively on Xbox One on October 30th. The game will also be available in a limited edition white Xbox One bundle on the same date.