“What this place needs is a hero. One that doesn’t just arrive, but does it with style.”
This line from Sunset Overdrive’s E3 must have been first and foremost in Insomniac’s mind from the very beginning of the development process.
Right from the get-go, the game’s trailer opens on a dark and dreary soldier, fighting off a horde of nameless, faceless thugs in a bleak and dreadful warehouse. Things seem to be all but over for the military operative, until our Sex Pistols-esque hero comes along, bursting through the door reading Insomniac Games (real subtle, guys) and helps him out in a gorgeous show of sleek and beautiful violence. Equal parts grotesque violent battlefield and colorful playground, Sunset Overdrive seems to be something Dr. Seuss would have come up with during a particularly awful trip. Sunset Overdrive will be Insomniac game’s first offering to the new generation of gaming, and it seems they’re looking to start with a bang. With radioactive energy drinks, ravenous mutant monsters out for blood, and a deliciously absurd amount of onomatopoeia written in blood and bomb smoke, Sunset Overdrive clearly wants to leave the players with an experience that they will remember for quite a while. Some words used to describe Sunset Overdrive since its appearance at E3 are “high-velocity,” “high-octane,” and “stylistic.” This game wants to go way over the top, with its balls to the wall for its entire duration. But the beautiful colors and ridiculous mayhem, aren’t the main things winning me over from Sunset Overdrive. What is most refreshing to me about this game is its intelligence and its self-awareness.
All but obliterating the fourth wall, Sunset Overdrive knows that it’s a video game and it uses that as an opportunity to charm the pants off of its players. “Can you survive the many dangers? Can you help other’s survive? Can you save Sunset City? Can you?! For the love of God, can you?!… Of course you can. It’s a fuckin video game.”
In an industry where so many high profile games offer the exact same experience of taking on the mantle of a not- brown person to shoot some brown people, Sunset Overdrive seeks to take players as far away as possible from those tired tropes and insert them into something that can only be summed up in the word “fun.” Everything Sunset Overdrive does is in the interest of fun. The safety orange and neon greens of the color scheme are fun. The traversal system where players can grind on power lines and use the roofs of cars as trampolines is all about having fun on the move. The combat is absurdly over the top, but all with its tongue in cheek. This game knows how dumb it’s being, and that’s a refreshing stance to take in such a high-profile title. Insomniac knows that some gamers are tired of the same brown and grey color palettes offered by every shooter this side of Call of Duty, and it wants to give the gamers a change of pace. It goes for big silly over-the-top violence, but all the while retaining the self-awareness that keeps it from getting to far up its own ass, like so many games before it.
Though it’s hardly the first foray into the wacky and silly by Insomniac Games (Rachet and Clank), it’s the first time they’ve really gone for it on such a graphic and truly action packed scale. No longer are players taking the place of an anthropomorphic cat, or whatever he was. Now we can assume the role of whomever we want with Sunset Overdrive’s character building system. No longer are we fighting cartoony enemies with wrenches, but now we’ve got freeze cannons, machine guns, and rocket launchers that send our bloodthirsty foes into oblivion with showers of orange radioactive blood that could make artist Leonid Afremov blush. Okay, it still might be cartoony, but in the best possible way.
While Insomniac is keeping mum on some of the details, it’s clear that that every element of this game will be utilized to immerse the player into this vivid world of sheer insanity and splendid chaos. Sunset Overdrive is definitely a game built by gamers for gamers, giving it an inside track on what makes games fun. And this game looks hella fun. Insomniac clearly wants to give gamers something they haven’t had in years, a game that “in short, kicks ass.” And if the trailers are to be believed, this game doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint.