Sunset Overdrive was the big draw at Microsoft’s massive booth at this year’s E3. That generous showing is a sign of just how confident Microsoft are that they have a new hit on their hands. The infectious candy-colored visuals and relentless in your face attitude do a lot to set the game apart from your average open world shooter. I have always been a big fan of Insomniac Games and I hope that Sunset Overdrive will be the game to bring them out of their funk after their most recent new IP, Fuse, failed to connect with gamers.
The demo showed off Sunset Overdrive’s 8 player co-op mode, dubbed Chaos Squad. Chaos Squad is divided into several rounds where you and your teammates will vote on various maps and different objectives to tackle. Choosing and conquering the more difficult missions will pay off in the end in the form of greater rewards and cash to take back with you into the single player experience.
Night Defense is the final round of Chaos Squad, comprised of several intense waves of mutants attempting to breakthrough barriers and steal your supply of Overcharge. You can use your customized character from the single player in the co-op mode. My character appeared to be a sporty cheerleader wearing a short skirt. Our demo took place in a neon lit district of Sunset City at night.
It’s all quite joyous - a zany spectacle of explosions, aerobatics, and mayhem. The game’s unique art direction is eye catching and the animation very fluid. Amid all the chaos and explosions it can sometimes be hard to make out exactly what is going at times; the fast moving combat and gameplay resulted in me being disoriented and separated from my squad on more than one occasion. Effective communication between players will be to your advantage when the full game releases but for the purposes of our demo an Insomniac rep funnelled useful information to us through headsets.
A clock counts down how long the current wave of attacks will last. The game lets you know which direction the mutants will be coming from and also alerts you when your vats are under attack. Between rounds you can set up traps to fend off the horde before they invade your team’s inner-sanctum using the RB button. Traps include rotating blades that will grind mutants into mince meat and bumpers that will send them hurtling backwards if they run into them. My favorite trap was a giant button in the middle of the street that would ignite an encircling ring of fire when a players jumps on it from above. As usual for an Insomniac game, wacky and outlandish weapons are there in force. One weapon called High Fidelity fired vinyl records. Another shot off sparks that erupted into green dragon fireworks.
The A button jumps and the X button traverses. Those two moves are vital to your success because you cause way more damage by staying airborne and kinetic. You can jump off all manner of objects that you would not expect to be bouncy, including cars, bushes, inflatable kiddie pools and rooftop vents. X will help you scale walls and grind power lines in a manner that would make Tony Hawk flush with jealousy. With these capabilities at hand there really is no excuse for staying grounded or immobile. Indeed, the combat feels clunky when moving on foot and you are far more vulnerable to enemy attack than if you keep moving.
After a bitterly fought battle and a Final Wave that lasted 5 minutes - including assaults by giant mutant berserkers - our group successfully completed Night Defense. You earn points for defeating enemies, assisting allies, and traipsing through the air without touching down on the ground. Once the game was over we got ranked based on our performance (I ended up placing 2nd).
The elaborate promotion Microsoft set up for the game was something to behold. They handed out various t-shirts that tied in with the game world. I received a shirt with the word “SEXBURGER” printed in pink across it. There was also a bus decked out in the game’s unique art that shuttled people from the convention center to hotels, parties and other LA hotspots. They even handed out free samples of the energy drink based on the infamous Overcharge beverage that is responsible for transforming people into mutants (see image below). After a day spent either waiting in line or traversing across the massive LA Convention Center on foot I consumed the drink in one gulp. I am happy to report that it did not turn me into a mutant, but the taste was akin to Red Bull mixed with battery acid.
Sunset Overdrive will release on October 28, exclusively for Xbox One.