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    SunSet Overdrive: Preview

    FIzzy Drinks and Mutants at The end Of The World
    In our darker moments we've all fantasised about what it would be like to survive an apocalypse. Go on, admit it, you have. Society’s rules vanquished, new challenges to conquer, annoying co workers obliterated… It’s a foundation that an enormous swathe of modern game design bases itself on.

    Sunset Overdrive puts a different spin on the usual post-apocalyptic drudgery, however. Gone are the brown/grey dilapidated buildings, Mad Max-inspired fashion and ceaselessly methodical scavenging for tin cans and drinkable water, replaced by something altogether more alluring. Overdrive’s colour palette, you’ll have noticed, has all the gaudiness of an acid trip, the weapons can only have come from the mind of a sadistically inclined clown and movement is embedded with the same sense of
    style and freedom as Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio.

    Setting foot in Overdrive’s open world Sunset City environment is enough to make you feel as though you’ve just ingested enough sugar to give you diabetes, a sensation that certainly makes some sense once the plot is explained. FizzCo, the all-powerful energy drink company ruling Sunset City, has released a beverage Over Charge Delirium XT that’s turning its consumers into mutants known only as “OD’d” (OverCharge Delirium Drinkers). Your task is to wipe out the OD’d and bring the city back from the edge of apocalypse. Simples.

    What would it feel like to be in a world in which a single corporation is, quite literally, turning its customers into braindead, addicted, repulsive animals? For those of us who don’t realise that we’re already living in a world like that, Sunset Overdrive aims to provide the answer. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a game in which fun and silliness take priority over social commentary and conspiracy theories, a tact that is made immediately obvious through movement. Put simply, walking around at street level is gonna get you killed. Further, it’s boring.

    Why simply walk around when you can grind, wall-run, bounce, jump and swing your way through Sunset City’s saccharine tones, blasting the hordes of OD’d as you go? Every rail, cable, bush, building and bench can be employed to get you around the world faster, the skill coming from how you link your way from one object to the next. You only need worry about the general route you wish you take as, in a design choice stripped from Assassin’s Creed, a magnetism effect is applied to objects to help your transition from one to the next.

    On one level this magnetism can make your movement feel automated, particularly when you find yourself grinding a piece of brickwork you had no intention of going near. On another level, it means that you’re always moving with ease. There’s no cover to cower behind, so movement is very much your only means of defending yourself.

    As you’re grinding and swinging you’re free to move the camera around and take out enemies with your comedic arsenal. These range from TNTeddy, a bazooka equipped with teddy bear shaped rockets, to the vinyl-spitting High Fidelity rifle and the One Handed Dragon that explodes enemies into dragon shaped fireworks.

    With all this firepower and speed it initially seems as though it’s impossible to die, but once the enemies start pouring in it soon dawns on you that some tactical nuance is required. The regular OD’d exhibit a pack mentality, attacking you en masse and very much adopting a power in numbers approach. Skirting the outside of the bunch, using explosive weapons to thin out the crowd, before getting in closer to pick off the stragglers worked well in the theme park district in which our demo was set.

    Things got more complicated when the Herker was released. The unholy combination of a Delirium addicted construction worker and the digger he used to operate, Herker is a mass of flesh, metal and anger. Not only is he big, he’s also fast a combination that forces you to make simultaneous use of your parkour and weapon skills. Using flame based armaments is key, enabling you to set him ablaze
    and then concentrate on dodging his attacks until he finally succumbs to the flames.

    Battles such as this demonstrate Overdrive’s obsession with throwing multiple stimuli in your face constantly. All at once you’re having to fight a boss character, avoid or dispatch other enemies, switch between your weapons, glide smoothly through the environment AND think about where you should be heading to set up the best angle of attack.

    Stitching these elements together in a way that doesn’t feel forced or mechanical is Insomniac Games’ biggest challenge. Not only do they have to be presented intuitively, they must remain fun and engaging over the long haul. This being an open world game, the expectation is that the experience is going to be a lengthy one; one in which we’re treading the same ground over and over again and asked to completely master the same techniques.

    If any kind of serious fatigue sets in before the finale then Overdrive’s brand of crazy will have failed. Like the drinks it’s depicting, this is an all energy experience designed to heighten the senses and ramp up the heart rate. Oftentimes, though, this kind of instant stimulation is quickly followed by an equally powerful low as the sugar drains from the body. Overdrive will need to provide its stimulation in well-measured doses to succeed.

    Alongside the standard set of weapons you can also assign your character Amps perks that add some new abilities and tweak others. A total of 15 are unlocked as you work your way through the story, ranging from the Twist of Fate nuclear strike to the Scorched Earth that causes lava to erupt from wherever you tread. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that one is designed for head on attacks, the other for giving anyone trying to follow you a nasty surprise. You can even summon the weather by adding Tornado or Lightning Amps to your weapons, and you’ll be able to craft new ones as you gather the required ingredients scattered around the landscape. Which ones you adopt will depend on your preferred play style.

    If you prefer gaming of the social sort then you can partake in the eight player Chaos Squad co-op mode. Just pop into one of the numerous photo booths dotted about Sunset City and you’ll be transferred into multiplayer, with any and all unlocks making the trip with you. Once online your squad votes on the match type you’ll play, from boss and gang fights to scavenger hunts for powerful items, as well as deciding the degree of difficulty in a risk reward payoff, before entering a final Night Defense wave-based showdown. And any rewards you do earn can be taken back with you to aid in your single player quest.

    Hands On
    There’s no doubting that Sunset Overdrive is immediately fun thanks to a combination of slick movement, humorous satire and sheer ridiculousness. What we haven’t seen is how much actual depth there is to these elements, a vital ingredient to prevent boredom creeping into the action. Whatever the case, and as a general rule, video games need more humour and Sunset Overdrive isn’t shy about trying to provide it.

    Colourful, gorgeous environment
    Playful set of weapons
    Movement is a game in itself

    Sticking to objects can annoy
    Questions remain over pacing
    Protagonist lacks a unique identity

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