E3 2014: How Sunset Overdrive Returns to the Golden Age of Video Games

It gives you wings.

When I first saw Sunset Overdrive in motion, the game's hyper-saturated combination of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater-like rail grinding with Dead Rising 3-like weaponry reminded me of the kinds of games you see someone playing on a TV show. You know, something that's not actually a game, but a collection of random nonsense on the screen--what people who don't play games vaguely think games actually are. "That's us!" laughs Marcus Smith, creative director at Insomniac. "That's totally us."

Smith went on to explain how I could have arrived at such a conclusion. "I think the game is a huge mashup. This is mashup culture, we're in it," he says, as the main character respawned by falling through a couple of orange and blue portals. "If you look back to the golden age of video games, when they were just...fun; the Sega days, the Dreamcast days, Nintendo--it made no god damn sense. There are mushrooms, there are things...I had no idea what was going on, but it was fun as hell. As we started to focus more on technology, everybody started saying, 'I want to make this movie', more than an interactive thing. For us, this is going back to the roots of what video games are."

Drew Murray, Sunset Overdrive's game director, agrees. "I think the roots of Insomiac are there too. The bones of Insomniac are in there. So much of this has nothing to do with the original idea we pitched, but just with people feeling free to express themselves."

But with so much happening on-screen--colourful explosions, spurts of orange energy drink erupting from mutant enemies, interface elements blasting onto the screen and away again just as quickly--I wanted to know how Insomniac made Sunset Overdrive at all coherent.

"This is totally toned back," says Murray. "One of our things was, 'Go too far, and we can always pull back.' It's easier to pull back than to inch forward."

For us, this is going back to the roots of what video games are.

Part of this toning back is limiting you to eight weapons at a time. Many more exist in the game; Murray wouldn't say how many, but explained that players would find themselves overwhelmed when having to choose between teddy bear rocket launchers, vinyl cannons and guns that shot fireworks--whilst grinding on rails.

Murray hints at dynamic events and special objectives that will appear to keep you grinding onward outside of story missions, and adds that Insomniac wants to introduce at least one new gameplay mechanic with each main mission. We saw one of these in action--a firefight on a rollercoaster track, with a boss that appeared in his own special rollercoaster car. But if you want to get there before the mission, you'll be able to access the entire world map from the start of the game--and even be able to get from one end of it to the other without ever touching the ground.

Sunset Overdrive looks like complete nonsense, in the best possible sense. It appears to be an homage to the golden age of video games, as Insomniac claims--but, in keeping with the game's punk rock attitude, an homage that's turned up to 11.

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dhindes

Daniel Hindes

Daniel Hindes is GameSpot's Australian editor. He really likes stealth games. And he's also right behind you.
Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive

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115 comments
0m39AX
0m39AX

The influence of Jet Set Radio is HUGE in this game. It looks like a game that would come up on the Dreamcast 2, if it was ever released. 

hypgnosis
hypgnosis

It's funny how EVERY game has mostly negative comments on websites like this nowadays. I guess only negative people have no life thus they feel the need to criticize things. I for one think SO looks awesome and look forward to it.

CrillanK
CrillanK

This game looks amazingly stupid, and not in the good way.  I laugh any time I read someone say this game looks great.  The gameplay videos made me wonder how anyone can think this looks cool or fun.  To each their own, but lol.  Sorry, not buying into the hype here.

blkgto
blkgto

@CrillanK It is one of the dumbest things I have seen in years.  It's a real shame that they are taking time to produce something as droll and trite as this, especially considering how bad everything else has gone for MS up to this point.  It should be a slap in the face to gamers everywhere.

jttwister9
jttwister9

Sunset overdrive is going to be great a game cant wait 

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

This is the only exclusive that I want on PS4, but it isn't a halo or a gears game, so it might lose its exclusivity and PS4 would have it. Microsoft impressed me though with Platinum game and Halo collection. I'll probably wait for holiday next year ( probably sooner) and see if it's really worth buying X1.

ashxgeist
ashxgeist

Hmm, people relly think this is the first game to throwback to the old days of games? Uhh, no one heard of indie games lately? Most of them play, look, give the feel of actually playing a game in the "Golden Age". Hell, they are just as fun too. Not only indie games, but as someone on here previously mentioned, Suda51 and his games have already been doing the throwback, and crazy action, nonsensical game. No one has played No More Heroes, Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw, or Killer Is Dead? How about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z which looked and played like the vibrantly colourful, wacky, action comics and games from the 90's. People are either just blindly buying into the hype, or or pretty behind in gaming as of late, Sunset Overdrive isn't the first, nor probably the last to do this throwback to the old days. This could either do pretty well for itself, or just be a rehash of many other titles from what it looks like. Personally, I keep seeing Dead Rising and Borderlands (though fps) when I look at this game, it can't be helped, for something meant to be an original throwback it seems to heavily borrow from modern games. Let's hope for the best anyway. On a side not, something that fucking irritates me, why the hell does the character (or one of the character models?) look like the damn head dev(?) or the creative director? I'm not sure which one, but I've seen a guy assoiated with the making of this game in interviews that looks just like the character in the red skinny-jeans. Why do they feel the need to insert themselves in game? That shit irritates me, but that's just me personally.

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@ashxgeist The characters are fully customisable and those characters were just the ones made by the devs, so it's not a big surprise when one or more characters look like the devs.

Yeah, it's far from the 1st throwback to the 'old' days, though it's not the most popular choice amongst AAA budget titles to say the least. That said, it's also something rather new, made from merging gameplay elements from popular games in completely different genres and insomniac is a company that have proved that they can make this sort of thing work well in the past, so it's understandable why people are eager to get their hands on it.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

I like the points they make here. Back in the day games made NO Sense.

I mean... even things like Mario, we have fleshed that story out SO much over time... but when you first picked up an NES game, there was no story, there was no explanations of what was going on.

You were just dropped into a world, and you went with what was happening, and hoped it was fun. As the medium has evolved, it's naturally taken on aspects of storytelling, but there was a time back in the 80s and early 90s... where the MOST story you would ever get was the nonsense that some marketing team put in the NES Cartridge's "manual".

This game looks like stupid-amounts of pick-up to play fun.

Mostly though, I'm just glad there is SOMETHING for me to buy on my X1, everything I've picked up has been better on the Playstation 4, so there's been nothing since Dead Rising 3 for me to play on it.

Just wish those 2 weren't so similiar in the open-world kill-zombies kind of goofy way.

eternal_napalm
eternal_napalm

Poor Man's Second Son with the childish stupidity of Saints Row.


Geez, am I glad I'm done with Ecksbawks.

StageS7N
StageS7N

@Ovirew @eternal_napalm No offense but this game doesn't look anywhere on level with InFamous and Sucker Punch is twice the developer Insomniac is, which is why Sony brought them into their internal studios. Insomniac has always been an outsider because they were never up to snuff. The last game Insomniac made with EA flopped. I hope for the sake of Insomniac surviving the next gen that this game actually turns to be higher than a six or seven on the review scale.

blkgto
blkgto

@StageS7N Agreed.  The level of stupidity evident in Sunset Overdrive far outshines anything in any of the infamous titles.  This game will be seen for what it is soon enough.  Sunset what? 

Ovirew
Ovirew

@eternal_napalm  lmao, except infamous second son is more like a poor man's sunset overdrive.

hotwog21
hotwog21

do i believe the hype or do i watch the videos, read for and against comments in the forums, and then make up my own mind?


i think i will make up my own mind.


at this stage, not convinced.

Slagar
Slagar

Reminds me a little bit of MDKII. The graphics and the world look very impressive - especially the fire effects.

sonichunter99
sonichunter99

God I missed these guys' more silly games like Spyro.

benleslie5
benleslie5 moderator

I love the art and visuals for this and of course the inspiration of The Young Ones added in too

pharoe777
pharoe777

This game looks really fun and amazing... Can't wait to play it !

CrillanK
CrillanK

Sorry, but this game looks f'ing retarded lol.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

This game is sexist too, another man with a filthy wiener as a main character.  Wow, I could work at Gamespot now!

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@spacecadet25 Every player character is a player-created one made using the 'robust character customisation' that the game has for character creation. This includes gender selection of course. There isn't a main character (or even a named one beyond those made by players, for that matter), despite the box art. As such calling this game sexist is a bit of a ridiculous notion even compared to the other stuff that regularly pops up. At least that stuff can be logically argued as sexist to an extent, even if it's no way the intention of the developer and it's usually just people reading into it too much.

vladric
vladric

 People have the oh this game looks repetitive comment. 


For christ sakes every video game is repetitive. 

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I feel like this game might be more fun to watch than to play; I'm not sure how long it would be entertaining for.

That being said, I'm glad it's not taking itself too seriously, even if this isn't exactly the way I would do it.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

From what I've seen, it looks like fun, and I predominately play video games for fun. I'm a sucker for custom characters as well, so yeah. Interested.

gamingnerd121
gamingnerd121

Sunset Overdrive may be fun for some time, but it can also get repetitive very quickly, from what i've seen. It's not something i could enjoy for longer periods of time.

russelsviper89
russelsviper89

@gamingnerd121 completely agree, the gameplay looks monotonous just shooting and blowing stuff up while constantly moving can get tedious...

Navardo95
Navardo95

I am not hating on this game because its an XONE exclusive but to be really honest,it actually looks like the type of game that is actually a complete blast to play for 1 hour and then...it gets painfully boring to the point its almost nauseating...Does anyone remember how amazing fun Prototype and Saints Row 3 looked in the videos and it was also amazing fun for the first hour but after that it just gets horrendously boring...

I hope I am proved wrong though..

shinrae5
shinrae5

I like a fun and crazy open world game (crackdown, saints row) so this should be a good time. If you don't like open world approach, this won't be for you though.

aquoon_0nly
aquoon_0nly

@Navardo95 maybe its you or maybe not...but i playied and replayied all infamous games...maybe youre not much in the sandbox thing

dominoodle
dominoodle

@Navardo95 Never played Prototype but i remember Saints Row 3 being super fun throughout the game.

cboye18
cboye18

@Navardo95 That's how most games are nowadays IMO. All flash with little to no substance to back them up

dolphudbud
dolphudbud

@Navardo95 I played the heck out of Infamous, and it was largely the same textures, railroad tracks and buildings for most of the game. This, I imagine will have a tonne of variety. Just this one stage has an amusement park and rollercoaster. I can't wait to see how bat-shit crazy the other stages get. It reminds me of Jet Set Radio, with the crazy level designs, and that's a good thing.


I don't have an Xbox1 or a PS4 yet. Come my next tax return, I want to get one of the next gen consoles. This game alone is making me lean towards the Xbox. It looks so.much.fun

hypgnosis
hypgnosis

@cboye18 @Navardo95 I don't think it's video games nowadays,I think the problem is that too many pessimist assholes have internet access and spew their stupid opinions and logic everywhere,yet many games sell one million+ copies.

jeager_titan
jeager_titan

Over the top craziness is what I expect from video games now a days. Too gritty titles have been releasing lately.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I hate conflicted people. I hate conflicted games. I am a PS-owning hater. This game, though, feels so comfortable with itself. It embraces its identity and proudly displays its whackyness, and I love it.

subt1e
subt1e

This game makes me want an X-box one.


shinrae5
shinrae5

Day 1 buy. Easily. Creative weapons, open world chaos, updated missions and events and great art and fun looking play. Add in 8 player co op and wow, just wow.

It's refreshing to see a game that just dives into a game being fun for fun's sake.

shinrae5
shinrae5

Yeah they announced that, so that will make this even better :)

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

Have both Xbox One and PS4 - I thought Sony had a better E3 but this game is the best exclusive coming out in 2014 that was shown at E3 imo.


Can't wait to get my hands on it.

RossRichard
RossRichard

More like "How we imagined an Infamous/GTA clone starring Pauly Shore."

Ovirew
Ovirew

The game looks fantastic.  I think part of the reason I feel that way is that the game does look fun - it looks like nonsensical, upbeat, delicious fun.  I think that is the most important part of video games, and something that all too many other developers have totally forgotten when designing video games.


The graphics look great, and the design of the city's architecture in this game is well thought-out.  The decision to make this a game where you can grind and zip-line around the town means this could be one of the funnest open-world games to actually traverse and run around in, all while blasting mutants with over-the-top instruments of destruction.


It also really just screams next-gen to me.  I'm surprised not a lot of other people feel the way I do about it so far.  Maybe it's because it isn't a violent game like GTA, and it isn't bleak like 90%of the other shit on the market.  But to me this game is what video games are all about.  And it is my most-anticipated game of E3 2014.

shinrae5
shinrae5

The majority of the hate is from Sony fan boys and immature kids who think if it isn't gritty it isn't fun. Some may be honest in not liking the product but a lot of the comment seem more ignorant than sincere

xantufrog
xantufrog moderator

Take a classic frenetic blaster experience like Gunstar Heros, convert it to 3D and incorporate platforming action from Jet Set Radio and the light-hearted feel of Ratchet and Clank = legitimately fun game with strong roots in classic action gaming. This is the most interesting of the X1 exclusives I've seen