There's little debate that Sunset Overdrive is a bizarre venture for Insomniac Games and Microsoft. The game's unique style and gameplay mechanics are enough to standout as something unique for the Xbox One. While the title has locked down an interesting aesthetic, there's a lot more to making an enjoyable game than goofy weapons or funny respawn mechanics.
Admittedly, it's hard to predict how much monotony awaits players in the full title, but after spending an hour in Sunset Overdrive's main campaign, it appears that Insominiac Games has been able to create a frantic, fluid and fun exclusive on the Xbox One.
Right off the bat, Sunset Overdrive players are thrown into the build-a-character mode. There are a number of customization options available right from the get-go, with presumably much more to be unlocked later. Everything from hairstyles and facial structures to hats and dresses are made available regardless of gender. Aspiring Sunset City residents have a large number of tools at their disposal to create the protagonist they want, although the tools themselves aren't as in-depth as some of the existing create options featured in other games.
After watching the "awesomepocalypse" unfold in the initial intro video, I was given an immediate tutorial on how the traversal system of Sunset Overdrive functions. Unlike other third-person shooters, Sunset requires players to jump and grind to stay alive. Applying both the fight and flight strategies from basic survival instincts, Insomniac Games has made a title where constant motion is rewarded through power-ups and largely, allowing the player to live.
These gameplay mechanics have a learning curve. Yes, longtime gamers and shooter enthusiasts will have to take time to come to grips with the way they'll be moving their custom-made protagonist around. It won't take long (it only took me the better part of the first fifteen minutes of my hands-on time to start feeling confident with it), but the real challenge comes in constantly chaining together attacks with constant movement.
As a result of the core traversal mechanics, the game ends up feeling like a mix between Tony Hawk, Prince of Persia and Saints Row. This hodgepodge of familiarity is a refreshing blend of gameplay that stands out against a sea of traditional shooters, and that makes it instantly appealing for anyone who's come to find the genre stale in recent years.
Stringing together successful attacks and continuously bouncing around the terrain will charge up the player's Style Meter. This will earn the playable hero the option to activate their stockade of amps which activate special powers to help dole out casualties among the in-game zombies known as the OD. The oozy and puss-dripping foes attack players by swarming around them and clubbing them with their bloated limbs, which is why players must keep moving to avoid becoming a casualty of the apocalypse.
Avoiding the infected can be troublesome (especially when special variants are infused with leaf blowers and others with backhoes), but managing to avoid being beaten to a pulp while peppering baddies with weapon fire does come with incentives. Summoning tornadoes with melee strikes or causing explosions after bouncing off the hood of cars, these are just two of the possible power-ups that make themselves available to players taking advantage of the unique gameplay features of Sunset Overdrive.
Newcomers are able to earn additional amps by roaming around the open-world of Sunset City and completing missions in their own time. This freedom allowed me to get accustomed to the layout of the area and get a better handle on traversing through it in my own time, and the side quests readily available, scattered in the world, ensured that I always had something to do to keep my busy.
The side quests there were available right from the beginning consisted of clearing hostiles from a construction site to collecting various mechanical parts from broken down vans. These didn't take up too much time, but they made for a nice distraction from the main missions – the last of which required me to protect a vat of Overcharge Energy Drink from being consumed by OD.
Sunset Overdrive has a lot promise and I had a blast bombing through the city at my leisure, decimating enemies with laugh-out-loud worthy weapons, and becoming acquainted with a new set of controls. An hour didn't feel like enough time with the zany shooter, and while repetition through gameplay mechanics might be a concern in the long run, the initial impression has this writer excited for the Xbox One exclusive's imminent arrival.
Sunset Overdrive is arriving exclusively on the Xbox One on October 28, 2014.
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