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EGX Preview: Sunset Overdrive

With Sony appearing to dominate EGX again this year, Microsoft had to make sure they had some unique games to draw in the crowds – one of which was Sunset Overdrive which seemed to have a constant queue over the entire weekend. Brought to us by Insomniac Games exclusively for Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive is described as an open-world third person shooter with a twist.

Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Previewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: N/A
Release Date: 28th October 14 (US)/31st October 14 (Europe)

Set in a world reminiscent of the movie Idiocracy, Sunset Overdrive is based in a dystopian future controlled by FizzCo – the evil corporation who seems to control everything and has caused the “Awesomepocolypse” that you now have to clean up as one of their employees. Utilising your skills of jumping, grinding and parkour-ness, it’s up to you to clean up the mess caused by the launch of FizzCo’s new energy drink, OverCharge Delerium XT. This new product has caused many of the population to mutate into monsters following mass-consumption of the product, allowing them to be lovingly known as OD’s.

Mutants vary in size and lethality from the standard swarming enemy to one known as the Herker which throws the smaller OD’s at you (always fun), or one which spits acid at you (very original). For every type of enemy there is always going to be a weapon best suited for their demise, you have eight available weapon slots and the ability to upgrade them throughout the game. However, they are not your usual weaponry. Fashioned from more unconventional materials, guns range from a standard riffle to a gun which fires teddy bears stuffed with dynamite – “TNTeddy,” through to a gun which fires bouncing bowling balls aptly named “The Dude” – if you do not understand that reference then we can no longer be friends and I will have to wait patiently for you to educate yourself in the ways of The Dude… whilst consuming White Russians.

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Sunset Overdrive’s main game mechanic is Agile Combat, which pretty much translates into run and jump on stuff while doing a bit of shooting. The fancier you do these things, the more you fill up your Style Meter allowing you to purchase things like upgrades called Amps – letting you increase the lethality of your weapons, do special moves or even summon things. There are numerous amps with multiple combinations so that you can really customise your character, speaking of which; there is in-depth character creation system that gives you the chance to customize many different aspects of your character.

I’d played a 10-minute seemingly stand alone section during EGX and was introduced to the controls briefly by the XBox Wizard. As I started to have a little fiddle and get used to the controls (I don’t usually play agility-based games so this was new to me), he seemed to be a touch annoyed at my penchant for exploration and kept prompting me to follow the set path, not quite the open world feel I was expecting but this was a demo in a gaming convention so I let that slide.

Not being a regular player to this particular genre-style, I tried the traditional run & gun technique but was met with a problem – you can’t run and you can’t use cover. In order to evade attacks you must utilise your magical parkour skills which allow you to continuously grind on rails, tracks, bars and cables. I had a bit of trouble with grinding, just getting attached to these rails seemed impossible with the character’s gangly legs and blundering leap.  This made movement feel very awkward until finally attaching to some rails.

There were two main sections of the demo I’d gotten my hands-on time with; killing a giant monster and then shooting stuff on a roller-coaster track. I’d accidentally missed the giant monster bit, saw the bugger and then tried to get on a rail but due to my lack of skill I stayed on the ground too long (if you do that, ODer’s swarm you and it makes it very difficult to do anything). As I found myself running away to try and recoup some health, I inadvertently triggered the next section of the demo and was unable to head back. The roller-coaster section was basically just riding on the rails of a coaster whilst shooting things and while this gave me a chance to look at the gun variations, it wasn’t overly enthralling. You ride on rails while demolishing objects until some guy comes out of a castle and then the demo is over.

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I had access to eight weapons with varying degrees of accuracy and damage. Most memorable of what I used were the “AK-FU” (a standard riffle), which just sprayed bullets at stuff until death. Then the most basic of guns was the aforementioned TNTeddy, which while did appeal to me but lacked accuracy and any real power in this portion of the game. Lastly there was a gun that launched flaming gas-canisters, which was probably the most effective of the toys I got to play with.

I am a girl that Loves third-person shooters (Gears of War is one of my favourite franchises) but the shooting in this game is strictly from the hip. There is no skill in taking shots, you do not have to reload at any point, there is not a real scope on any of the guns or any real way to work on your accuracy but you can slow down time a little which does make aiming on rails a bit easier.

This EGX demo gave a limited view of what Insomniac have in store for us with Sunset Overdrive; an open-world, customization of characters & weaponry, Co-op of up to 8-players and more. It should also be mentioned that there were no headphones when I had played, so I was unable to experience everything it could have offered me; especially from the studio whose minds gave us Ratchet & Clank. The demo left me wanting – from first hearing about it at E3 to playing the demo, my lust has waned and my desire for this game has now passed. If you liked the rail-rising aspects of InFamous then go for it – this game might be something you like. But for those in Love with traditional third-person shooters, you may want to look elsewhere based on first impressions.

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