Tony Hawk meets Ratchet & Clank in the violent paradise of Sunset Overdrive

week gaming sunset overdrive lords fallen e3 rollercoaster 1

Sunset Overdrive doesn’t hold your hand. There’s a gradual ramping up that happens during the game — though we didn’t get to see it during our E3 demo — but Insomniac Games created a complex traversal system for its post-apocalyptic open world adventure with the intent of challenging players to learn. This is a game in which indecisiveness is death.

If Dead Rising 3 was the dumb fun launch title for Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive seeks to be its brainy younger brother. Both games are defined by open spaces that swarm with deadly creatures, but there’s a sense of style in the fall 2014 release that’s meant to punish shameless button-mashers.

Story/Concept

The best crappy job ever. Fizzco is ready to take the world by storm with its new energy drink, Overcharge Delirium XT. There’s just one problem: anyone who drinks it turns into a disgusting, misshapen mutant. As a janitor working at Fizzco’s Overcharge pre-launch party in Sunset City, you see this awful transformation firsthand. The city is quarantined, the company tries to cover up the mishap, and you — realizing that the bulk of the city’s population is made up of flesh-hungry monsters — come to treat the once-bustling metropolis as your own, personal, blood-soaked Garden of Eden.

sunset-overdrive-chaos-squad-vat

There’s a larger story here that involves coming into contact with and working for an assortment of factions. Troop Bushido is a bunch of adult Adventure Scouts that holed up in a Japanese culture museum during “Horror Night” and came to embrace the code of the samurai. The Fargarths are a group of fantasy-loving LARPers who think the mutant uprising is evidence of their game coming to life. The city’s few, quirky survivors — friend and foe alike — help to drive the events of the as-yet-undiscussed plot, but “party in the post-apocalypse” is at the core of what drives this game.

Gameplay

Slip sliding away. Your playable protagonist is an agile sort, able to grind like a skateboarder along everything from power lines to the edges of building rooftops. You catch air by bouncing off of virtually everything in sight, and you scramble along on vertical walls like the swiftest parkour-loving assassin. The controls are more Tony Hawk than Assassin’s Creed, an elaborate symphony of button taps and holds that produce different effects depending on where and when you press them.

This is where the learning curve comes in. Pull it off right and you can watch as the nameless protagonist seamlessly transitions out of a bounding leap off of an umbrella and into a high-speed, high-wire grind. The challenge lies in dancing your fingers around the gamepad’s face buttons as you juggle the various traversal maneuvers. There are helpful visual indicators on the screen, such as an icon that always shows where you are in relation to the ground (and therefore where you’re going to land), but everything moves so quickly that ingraining each command into your muscle memory is a requirement.

Tons o’ guns. Insomniac has a demonstrated appreciation for large, diverse arsenals (as seen in Ratchet & Clank and Resistance), and Sunset Overdrive is no slouch. We only got to see a small sampling of the game’s outlandish lineup of firearms at E3, but they do their predecessors proud. The High Fidelity shoots 12-inch LPs that ricochet off walls, floors, and ceilings as they carve out a path of mutant death. The Captain Ahab is a harpoon rifle that’s powered by Fizzco’s Overcharge. The mutants are drawn to the pool of liquid an Ahab shot leaves behind — the only thing they crave more than human flesh is more Overcharge — which creates a great opportunity to blow them all up with a TnTeddy, an explosive launcher that fires teddy bears strapped with dynamite.

There’s a very satisfying feedback loop that develops as you dish out damage to larger and larger mobs of mutants, which splatter neon fluids in all directions as you take them down. As you kill more mutants, quickly and with a range of different weapons (all of which can be leveled up and further boosted with collectible “Amps”), your style meter fills. This powers you up even more, allowing you to fire off groups of mini-tornadoes and call forth spears of lightning from the skies. As challenging as Sunset Overdrive is to master, Insomniac appears to have invested heavily in making players who take the time to learn feel like unstoppable badasses.

Presentation

Paradise city. The post-apocalypse envisioned in Sunset Overdrive is a colorful one. Even the monsters — from the loping “OD” grunts to the giant-sized, pustule-pocked Herker — inject the world with eye-catching flair, especially when they burst in a shower of neon orange Overcharge. The busy environments are packed with objects, almost all of which you can bounce off of or interact with in some way. An amusement park’s spinning comet ride is a deadly merry-go-round of mutant destruction; simply bouncing off of its circling rockets launches them into a nearby swarm.

sunset-overdrive-wondertown-environment

As you explore deeper into Sunset City, it becomes clear just how self-consciously Insomniac built the urban space as a playground for Sunset Overdrive‘s unique traversal mechanics. It’s by necessity, of course, since the game punishes you for spending too much time running around in the streets, but there’s a sense after spending just a half-hour tooling around that there’s a thrilling open world to explore.

Takeaway

Sunset Overdrive has promise. There was a lot of talk coming out of E3 2014 that the best stuff won’t be playable until 2015 and beyond, but Insomniac has something here that’s worth paying attention to this fall. The complex traversal mechanics pair well with the sense of speed and wide assortment of firearms. There’s a whole lot more to dig into than what we’ve seen, but we’re excited to find out what other secrets are tucked away when Sunset Overdrive comes to Xbox One on October 28.

Product Review

Step aside, Sonos: Riva's Concert is the best smart speaker you can buy

The Riva Concert series speaker is a fantastic, small-profile smart speaker with Alexa integration, truly excellent sound, and great looks, making it the perfect addition to your kitchen, living room, or bedroom.
Computing

Leaked AMD Ryzen 3000 mobile benchmarks look fit for thin, low-power laptops

AMD is poised to give Intel a run for its money in the ultra-low-power processor space for laptops. Leaked benchmarks for the Ryzen 3000 APU series show the AMD processor besting Intel's Core i7 Y series in multicore performance.
Home Theater

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ season 2 gets a new, Spock-heavy trailer

CBS has released a new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, which premieres January 17 on CBS All Access. The new trailer features series newcomers Spock and Christopher Pike prominently.
Movies & TV

Pedro Pascal officially cast as 'The Mandalorian' as Disney show fills out cast

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Gaming

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Gaming

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Find the perfect weapon in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' multiplayer with our guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has several different guns to choose from in its multiplayer mode, and they're split across multiple classes. Here's a guide to all of them and when you should use them.
Gaming

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.
Gaming

Kanye West wants to meet ‘Metal Gear Solid’ creator Hideo Kojima, for some reason

Rapper Kanye West wants to meet video game designer Hideo Kojima in New York. Nobody knows the reason behind the meeting, but fans are speculating that it may have something to do with Death Stranding for the PlayStation 4.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.