PAX Prime 2014: Sunset Overdrive

Posted September 9, 2014 in ,
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Sunset Overdrive
This is the money shot for Sunset Overdrive. Photo: Ashley Lippert

Sunset Overdrive is all about chaos. The game is an open-world shooter where mutants run rampant in the streets, searching for their precious Overdrive—a deliciously toxic energy drink that turned them into mutants in the first place. It may sound like another dystopian future shooter, but Insomniac works hard to set itself apart. Yes, the world has pretty much ended in Sunset City, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. You get to customize your characters’ outfits with some outrageous things, most notably, a kangaroo head codpiece—which should give you an idea of the craziness of the game. The customization doesn’t stop there—you get to customize your weapons, traps and abilities, or Amps, as they’re known in the game. It makes every experience unique to players.

The clothes, sadly, don’t give any bonuses because the game is all about style. The developers really wanted you to be able to wear whatever you wanted in the game instead of simply going for the best stats. Even the way you charge up your special abilities is through style—the cooler you look killing the baddies, the more your ability meter charges up. Throughout Sunset City, there are a ton of places to grind and jump to, from which, you can shoot up the mutants and look pretty badass doing it. You can take the boring route and stand on the ground and shoot ‘em up, but it’s not going to be effective for filling up your Amp meter and it certainly isn’t as cool. Don’t worry, once you get the hang of aiming while you’re speeding around on light rails, you barely touch the ground and your cool-factor goes up a notch.

Insomniac brought part of their eight player co-op mode for us to try here at PAX. Sunset’s multiplayer is easily accessible from the single player campaign by simply going into a phone booth. Your character joins up with seven other people, forming a Chaos Squad. You and your teammates select the missions you want to do, which are usually separated into two different categories: high-risk but with a better payoff and lower risk situations with some lower rewards. Everything you earn in the Chaos Squad is yours to keep when you return to the single player campaign. Once you complete your missions, you have one last battle, the night defense.

Arming us with the basics of the game, Insomniac threw us right into night defense, where we had to keep the mutants away from two Overdrive vats. The monsters will do anything for this stuff, including killing you, which means you need to do everything you can to keep them away from the energy drink. You can set traps all over the place that will take care of some of the work for you. Some of them are pretty sweet—rotating blades to make a mutant smoothie, a trap door in reverse that sends the mutants flying in the opposite direction and those are just the ones I saw in the demo. Traps still give you points and if you place them right, it can totally save your ass in the fight. You can move them in the fray if you notice that they’re not in an effective area.

Once all the traps are set, the mutants come rushing down the streets for their coveted Overdrive and you get to work. There are a few different type of enemies that are going to assault your little base. One is the mighty Herker. This gigantic mutant somehow got a backhoe fused to his arm, giving him a giant hand that will knock your ass flat. They’re tough bastards with some serious strength making them one of the most challenging enemies you’ll encounter. There are also some mutants who will explode when you shoot them, spraying the energy drink all over the surrounding vicinity. These guys are disgustingly awesome and are dangerous in large numbers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and surrounded if you’re not paying attention.

Some of the highest points are scored while you shoot the deformed mob as you grind about in the air. Grinding took a bit of getting used to and it goes real quick. You have to adjust your aim almost constantly as you keep up with not only your enemy, but with the grinding motion as well. It’s easy to change direction on the rails and you’ll do it automatically when you hit junctions so you have some time to focus on your aim. The grinding mechanic works really well, and the extra bonuses you score from the kills made from on high will inspire you to practice until you’re perfect.

One of my favorite things about this game are the explosions, and there are plenty. They look so fantastic and some of them are even beautiful—there’s a one-handed dragon gun that shoots out fireworks and when it makes contact, it lights up like the Chinese New Year. It’s a good display of the games fun-loving nature—these characters want to help the city, but they’re going to do it in style. The rest of the game is full of bright colors, seemingly to contrast the dark situation at hand. It all looks beautiful on the Xbox One. It’s going to be an exclusive for the Xbox One and it’s actually tempting me to pick up the system. It’s out Oct. 28, just in time for Halloween.

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