Sony’s PS4 didn’t have much of a presence at this year’s Comic Con (given recent sales numbers, perhaps they felt they didn’t need one), but Microsoft made itself known via a few different games, including a hands-on demo of Sunset Overdrive—an Xbox One exclusive that went on to become one of E3’s surprise hits. So how’s the game that Microsoft is hoping will become a console-defining gamechanger holding up, three months prior to release?
Sunset Overdrive is an open world third-person action-oriented shooter set in the dystopian metropolis of Sunset City in 2027. Corporate power FizzCo has just released a new energy drink, and you’re an employee tasked with cleaning up after the launch party… until partygoers start to mutate from overdosing on the new drink, and your cleanup extends to include the guests, themselves.
Developer Insomniac Games has deliberately gone out of its way to encourage gamers to forget much of what they consider to be today’s basic shooter mechanics. Sunset Overdrive is very clearly not about taking cover or playing cautiously. The game instead plays like a third-person hybrid of Left 4 Dead and Serious Sam, with an added injection of agile combat—meaning you essentially throw caution to the wind and ride on rails and rooftops and wall climb or zipline your way throughout all of Sunset City, blasting mutant hordes along the way.
The game is a mere three months from release, and this shows in the level of polish present in the demo. Gameplay is tight and finely tuned, and results in plenty of team-based fun. SDCC preview matches were played in 8 player co-op teams, resulting in unrelenting high-speed multiplayer mayhem. It was pretty easy to get caught up in the relaxed-yet-frenetic nature of the gameplay, careening around the city on rails while raining down rockets on thousands of stampeding mutants as your teammates set traps and mowed down enemies from the ground. Weapons are appropriately overpowered, ridiculous, and tons of fun to use, such as the explosive teddy bear launcher, the High Fidelity (taking a page from Shaun of the Dead by using ricocheting records as deadly weapons), and the freeze cannon.
The game’s art direction and points system go a long way toward setting the tone for how it’s meant to be played. Sunset City is vibrant, playful, and full of color. It’s easy to envision Sunset Overdrive as conducive to both marathon gaming sessions but also as a game you can drop in on for 30-40 minutes at a time based on how it looks and plays. The atmosphere isn’t designed to build over time, but rather to invite you right into the fray and throw you into the thick of things more or less immediately. The game’s points system is also configured to promote the light-hearted but frantic nature of the gameplay—points are awarded not just for the number of kills a player manages, but also for style. Accordingly, it’s worth your time to try and find creative ways to dispatch mutants with a little added flare.
Sunset Overdrive is pure arcade-y goodness, and while it’s not necessarily breaking any new ground in terms of innovation or being a next-gen defining experience, it still promises to be very enjoyable to play—and there’s plenty to be said for that.
Sunset Overdrive launches October 28 for the Xbox One.