Sunset Overdrive is an open world, third person perspective shooter developed by Insomniac Games that emphasizes style, speed, and customization.
Originally released in 2014 as an Xbox One exclusive, the game has recently been re-released for PC. Sony fans have been crying salty tears for years.
Insomniac are probably best known as the developers of some heavy hitting Playstation franchises; Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank, Resistance. Their first major departure from Sony exclusivity was the cooperative shooter Fuse. Fuse was heavily reworked and rebranded during development, and met with a largely negative critical reception. A Metro review calls it, “An inexplicably bland shooter from the usually reliable Insomniac that has no personality and no sense of purpose beyond a few hours of empty co-op action.” Youch..
“Fuse helped crystallize who we are as a company,” Price said. “It helped me realize that basically what it is that we all love to create. We’ve taken a lot of different paths as a company, whether it’s Resistance or Fuse or some other games that didn’t even see the light of day, and always have come back to games that are in the ilk of Sunset Overdrive. It’s the colorful, vibrant games with an edge. Games that allow us to express ourselves in a way that’s sometimes unusual.”
— Ted Price talking to Polygon
Reviews often cite the game’s platform exclusivity as a selling point, with Digital Trends calling it the sort of game that people buy a new console for. Also praised for its incorporation of movement and energy reminiscent of Jet Set Radio. Criticized for being perhaps too busy and overall not as satisfying as other open world games such as Grand Theft Auto V or Just Cause.
Yeah, our first prototypes were actually you building a fort with friends, fighting off hordes of demons or mutants. So, very similar to a very popular game today, which we all sort of chuckle about. But the game did…morph along the way, to something that was more of a story-driven, open-world game.
— Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price speaking with IGN
Perhaps low on the cyber, Sunset Overdrive at least tries to go all in on the punk. Not all critics are convinced:
Games—software—typically just don’t collide with this sort of way of thinking. Creating software of any magnitude is an intensely detail-oriented process. It requires meticulous work that quashes any possible mistakes. Bugs. Glitches. Punk isn’t about any of that. It’s about embracing those mistakes and cold-shouldering any instinct of trying to impress anybody. Doing something different. Saying “fuck you” to the tried and true.
What disappoints about Sunset Overdrive is it’s too busy sneering at “the man” of giant corporations that it forgets it was made by one. It isn’t the designers’ fault that products of this magnitude have to play it safe. It is their fault that it is simply tone deaf when it comes to being punk.
What Sunset Overdrive was shooting for was punk. Where it landed was mallternative.
— David Wolinsky, stroking himself in an article on Kill Screen
With Sunset Overdrive, bidding a hearty fuck you to the tried and true appears to be exactly what Price and Insomniac’s designers hoped to achieve. This is a company who made their name with Sony exclusives, including the mainstream first person shooter franchise Resistance. They got a bloody nose attempting to play it safe with Fuse - the lowest reviewed Insomniac game to date.
Sunset Overdrive is a little different. It’s a shooter, but instead of firing realistic weapons from behind the safety of a waist-high wall, you’re firing harpoons from a gun called Captain Ahab while grinding rails. This is a game where you have to keep moving to survive, not play whack-a-mole against enemies who conveniently poke their heads out of cover every few seconds.
— Wesley Yin-Poole, introducing a Eurogamer interview with Ted Price
We can perhaps set aside questions of whether games—software–or the companies that make them can ever be punk. What’s clear is that with Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac Games wanted to do something different. Different from what they’d done previously and from what everyone else was doing at the time…
Best selling games of 2014: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Madden NFL 15, Destiny, Grand Theft Auto V, Minecraft, Super Smash Bros., NBA 2K15, Watch Dogs, FIFA 15, Call Of Duty: Ghosts — Techspot
Insomniac Games would love to make a sequel.