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The apocalypse should be fun, according to Sunset Overdrive Creative Director Marcus Smith and Game Director Drew Murray, and it looks like this latest offering from Insomniac Games aims to deliver on that very premise. The duo took the time to show off their latest creation during E3 2014, an off-the-walls third-person shooter coming to the Xbox One on Oct. 28.
The premise behind Sunset Overdrive is quite a bit different from your average zombie apocalypse fare, which is exactly what Smith, Murray and the team at Insomniac were shooting for when setting out to develop the game. They were tired of drab environments and stone-cold serious narratives, wanting instead to create an end times where there are colors aplenty and gameplay that empowered the player to get creative and have fun blowing shit up rather than hide behind cover, move from room to room and conserve their ammo.
For a more direct look at what Sunset Overdrive has to offer, check out Katy Goodman's hands-on preview highlighting the online multiplayer. As for Smith and Murray's behind-closed-doors E3 presentation, however, they said that game development was guided by three simple themes. Theme one is “fun in the end-times.” Theme two is “be who you want to be.” Them three is “major McFuck Ups.”
“If the zombie apocalypse really happens, it would be because some human made a mistake,” said Marcus Smith. “In our world, it's because a mega-corporation brute-forced an energy drink through the FDA and, unfortunately, there are a few side effects.”
Sunset Overdrive is set in the year 2027. Fizzco is set to release a brand new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium XT and, three weeks prior to launch, they're hosting a huge celebration in Sunset City. You happen to be a janitor working at this utterly ridiculous event, and so you're witness to the first batch of poor human saps becoming mutated monstrosities.
It turns out you're perfectly suited to this new world of lunacy and, thanks to your ability to grind, leap and bounce around the environment like a pogo stick on acid—as well as your sweet arsenal of explosive weapons and environmental traps—you'll (hopefully) stay one step ahead of the monstrous horde, blowing the enemy to smithereens while you zip around the city in a nonstop ballet of chaos and destruction.
“After a while, you start to look around and realize you don't have a boss, you don't have bills, you can go and climb that building you've always been looking at, you can blow stuff up and you can play your music as loud as you want,” Smith explained. “In short, one man's apocalypse is another man's awesomeocalypse.”
Smith went on to say that, when he says “you,” that's what he really means.
“Although we have a guy on the box, we don't really have a named character. We have a robust character customization system,” he continued. “At the beginning of the campaign, you can choose who you are going to play as. You can be male, female, different races, different body sizes, different hairstyles, cross-gender...there are no limitations. You can be crazy, conservative, and you can be whoever you want to be.”
Along with the mutated threat, the player is gong to have to take on Fizzco security details who are trying to keep the fiasco under wraps, as well as human bandits, called Scabs. You'll have some help, though, as a couple of friendly factions are also in the game. One such group is called Troop Bushido, a collection of adult Adventure Scouts who survived the outbreak inside a Japanese heritage museum, where they have now become obsessed with samurai culture and the bushido code. Another group is called the Fargarths, a group of live-action roleplayers who were in the city park when the world went sour and now they are a little emotionally scarred, thinking that the module they were playing has now become reality.
The standard enemies, though, are folks who chugged too much Overcharge and are now mutated. Some of these folks happened to be standing too close to environmental objects, like leaf blowers or a bulldozer, and now those items have been melded to their bodies to provide additional attacks, strengths, etc. Luckily, you've got plenty of tools, and speed, at your disposal to assist in cleaning up this hella-mess.
“We wanted Sunset Overdrive to be all about momentum and aggression,” explained Drew Murray. “Last gen was all about taking cover and playing it safe. We wanted players to be out there playing recklessly, playing right on the edge of their abilities.”
As mentioned above, this was accomplished by making the game's environments extremely interactive. You can bounce on awning and trees, grind across rails, power lines and wires, and keep right on moving as the enemies try and keep up.
“We very much acknowledge that this is a video game. We want people to have fun,” Murray said. “We spent a lot of time trying to come up with different ways to sort of make fun of the conventions of video games and express the spirit of creativity that we want the Insomniacs to explore.”