Can Sunset Overdrive Save the Shooter?

by on June 25, 2014

I think it’s fair to say that the modern shooter has lost its way. Whether we’re talking about first person or third, today’s video game industry is filled with shooters that tick all the boxes from “gritty” and “realistic” to “thrilling” and “emotional” – but sadly, in all their fervour to deliver the next heart-breaking, soul-sapping, eye-popping, ear-ringing slice of war-is-hell excitement, shooter developers seem to be forgetting the most important box of all: the one marked fun.

Recent offerings in the form of Titanfall and Wolfenstein: The New Order have provided doses of the F-word, while slightly older releases like Fuse and Brink fell flat because, while they were fun, they forgot to actually be any good. To find a shooter that provides the thrills you need throughout while maintaining a consistently high level of endorphin-stroking happiness? Rare indeed. I haven’t played a shooter that I could truly call solid fun since Bulletstorm and Left 4 Dead 2.

So it seems a perfect time for Insomniac Games (developers of the previously mentioned underachieving Fuse) to release Sunset Overdrive, a high-speed arcade-style 3rd Person Shooter that looks like something spawned after a drunken union between Bulletstorm, Crackdown and Jet Set Radio.

Described by its creators as the “rock and roll end times”, Sunset Overdrive sees the inhabitants of Sunset City mutating into crazed freaks after overdosing on a new energy drink made by FizzCo. As an employee of the company, it’s your job to clean it up.

Mostly, this involves shooting the crap out of everything that moves while riding high-wires, performing insane gymnastics and wall-running. The recent gameplay trailer was enough to get us excited, and the E3 trailer cemented our interest. Sunset Overdrive looks fun.

There’s nothing po-faced here, nothing gritty or heart-rending. Even the trailer breaks the fourth wall to remind you that it’s a “fucking video game”. Insomniac have done what very few modern shooter developers dare to do: they’ve created a video game, rather than a glorified war simulation. The seamless traversal of the open world looks smoother than a greased supermodel, and the fact that you can rack up killer combos without ever touching the floor has our attention.

With another Battlefield and Call of Duty already confirmed for the end of the year, with Bulletstorm dead and Left 4 Dead 3 only hinted at, Sunset Overdrive might just be shooter that saves the genre in 2014, the blast fest that reminds us that you don’t need multi-billion dollar franchises going toe-to-toe every Christmas, or spirit-crushing trailers that hint at the harsh reality of war, or A-list actors spouting rhetoric.

No, all you really need is what Insomniac are producing: messy, irreverent, hyperactive, balls-out, over-the-top carnage played out out against a backdrop that looks like picasso popped one too many party pills and went to town with all the colours. Insomniac’s shaky track record means we’re still to be fully convinced that Sunset Overdrive is the real deal gameplay-wise, but it’s already looking like it could be the most interesting shooter of 2014.

Sunset Overdrive is set for release for Xbox One on 28th October 2014.