The Hype: Insomniac Games has had a rough go of it over the last few years. With dismal titles like FUSE, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, Ratchet &  Clank: Frontal Assault, they’re recent work has been on the bottom end of review scores for quite some time. I remember being at PAX East and Greg Miller of IGN hosted a panel called Fuse: The Sleeper Hit of Year. Well I think most everyone fell asleep from boredom and mediocrity on that title. So when the Xbox One was coming into focus, you would occasionally see Insomniac’s latest game, Sunset Overdrive, being featured as one of the flagship titles. Admittedly, I laughed this off as I saw no way for them to rebound from 3-4 clunkers in a row. Friends would often refer to Sunset Overdrive as “oh that Jet Set Radio” clone.

As time progressed, one thing was certain, Microsoft was going to hang their hat on Sunset Overdrive, much like they have with Titanfall. One could argue Titanfall was a failure post-launch due to there being a lack of any narrative whatsoever. But with Sunset Overdrive, you could sense that maybe Microsoft did have a hit on their hands. From the social media airwaves, a ground swell was building that what Insomniac has pulled off was equal parts fun, groundbreaking, different, and compelling. People may disagree with this notion but I always find it comforting when the media (journalists, streamers, etc) have a game in their hands well before the game releases. With Sunset Overdrive, this was the case as media had the title at least two to three weeks ago.

The hype machine(s) over at Microsoft and Insomniac will tell you their game is an open-world, third person shooter set in the world of Sunset City. We dove into the first 90 minutes of the game and will now take a deeper, albeit incomplete look at Microsoft’s potential “system seller”.

In Reality: Boot up Sunset Overdrive and there is no mistake about it that this game has attitude. From the loud punk rock-esque soundtrack, to the bold colors, and some salty language, this game is roaring and ready to go. Don’t let the pretty colors fool you, this is not a game for your kids. Having played some of the eight-person co-op at PAX Prime, I was somewhat prepared for the bold colors, over the top monsters, and non-stop action. However, in a short setting, I didn’t leave PAX feeling blown away by the experience. But the tide started to turn when I actually got some alone time. Actually it happened fairly immediately, being thrusted into the opening scene and taking down a bunch of OD’ds was a fresh and completely satisfying experience. So good in fact, that I managed to play well into the early morning and not have a care that real work was calling in just a few hours.

Gameplay: Insomniac has given the video game medium a shot in the arm with this release. The variety of ways in which you can play is a testament to the work the developers have put into the game to truly deliver a world class experience. However, what remains to be seen is whether or not the constant need to bounce, jump, and grind becomes old too fast. We come from a world where the player is used to being on the ground and attacking their foes. Now with verticality and with the need to always be above the action, will players adjust their twitch reflexes to aim down, rather then straight on. To date, this does not seem to present a problem but certainly something to keep an eye on as the game ramps up intensity, which we’re assuming will happen.

Conclusion: Lessons in life are there to help, there to show you the errors of your way. I was incorrect thinking this title would be a bust and seal the fate for a once proud studio. Clearly, they put all their eggs in one basket and it has paid off tenfold. The game is receiving overwhelming praise and again with the short amount of time I’ve spent with this title, I can understand why. I look forward to getting back to Sunset City and seeing what else the game has in store for me. Stay tuned…