Battling Mutants Beneath the Sunset in Insomniac’s new Open World Shooter

Title: Sunset Overdrivesunset-boxart
Developer: Insomniac
Distributor: Microsoft
Platform: XBOX One
Duration: 12 + hours

More Entertaining Than:
Ratchet and Clank Q Force

Less Entertaining Than:
BulletStorm

Pros:
-Gorgeous visuals
-Acrobatic fun
-Uniquely awesome weapons
-Entertaining upgrades
-Good use of humor
-Enjoyable soundtrack

Cons:
-Occasionally annoying controls
-Moderately restrictive environment

Verdict: 8 (out of 10)

Insomniac’s more recent titles, including Resistance 3 and Fuse, might cause some gamers to question their faith in this developer. The quirks in the above mentioned games however have certainly been ironed out when it comes to Sunset Overdrive, a game which, much like Ratchet and Clank, seems to make a habit of taking the piss out of the gaming industry. Many titles today seem to be obsessed with realism. In 2009, a developer working with id software discussed people’s first impressions of Rage, a strong focus been on the weapons. Apparently, having spent brass ejecting from the left of the weapon caused criticism from gamers, who said the bullet casings were a distraction, however, when the casings sprang out from the right, people complained it wasn’t realistic. Clearly, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. In the case of their new product, Insomniac take the guide book on how to create a video game, and kindly tell it to fuck off (excuse the expletive, however, if you play Sunset Overdrive, expect to encounter as much profanity as you do mutants).

This is evidenced throughout the entirety of the game. Right from the start, you can change the appearance, physique, sex and attire of your character, and can continue doing so as you progress through the story. Unlike a certain game I played recently (*cough* Destiny *cough*) which refused to show the player how an attire looked upon their person before they bought it, Sunset Overdrive happily does, and for good reason. Despite having access to contemporary attire, you may also equip, if you happen to have the same tastes as I, a jester hat, spider web face paint, a corset, drivers gloves, a biker’s jacket, loose jeans and red sneakers.

Additionally, whilst playing, there are moments when the character might hear a narrator discussing how to use the controls, before wondering how a disembodied voice is talking in their ear, and later still, when things aren’t properly explained, the lead says ‘don’t poke holes in how we present the story.’ Although NPC’s and the player alike may question the legitimacy of the environment or story in general, Insomniac constantly reminds the gamer that this is a work of fiction, and thus, seriousness should therefore be the one thing that’s lacking. While games like Call of Duty go above and beyond to provide an in-depth world which feels and reacts much like the military does, Sunset Overdrive doesn’t care about authenticity. Rather, it works similarly to the film Cabin in the Woods, where a genuine horror story is instead told with ridiculousness and humor. Despite monsters running amok through the streets and the plentiful amount of violence, the game often appears bright and inviting. The physical layout is reminiscent of XIII meets Fuse, with comical graphics ensuring stunningly bright environments, which the player is drawn into via the action oriented soundtrack. On one occasion, the character asks that a spy theme begin to play to help set the espionage mood of the mission, and immediately, the game grants the request, the themes helping the gamer feel like a regular action hero.

Fizzco, a shady drink developer, may have created the ultimate thirst quencher, however, their beverage has the undesired affect of turning those who drink it into mutants, and unfortunately, the town in which you inhabit, much like Resident Evil’s Racoon City, is suddenly in the midst of an apocalyptic disaster. The mutants the player encounters come in a variety of flavors, from the common OD, which brainlessly chase anything resembling a human, to Blowers, a more intelligent life-form, which eject a pile of glop at enemies from the leaf blower attached to their arm. Larger enemies, like the Spawner, which aptly do as their name suggests, require specialized attacks from the player, who must switch between weapons in order to take them down. Unlike in many games, where the stronger opponents often appear later, the player finds themselves in front of a massive ugly not even half an hour into the story. As more enemies appear, players are forced to adapt to creature’s attacks. Where some use ranged weaponry, others pounce, or attack from above, a combination of styles being required to achieve success.

Mutants are not the only threat in the city though, with Scabs, a human gang, who seem to have adapted to the epidemic a little too well, rampaging through the districts. Apart from looting and kidnapping, they arm themselves with a wealth of firepower and explosives, to inflict maximum casualties. On top of this, Fizzco themselves have a lot to answer for, and will go to any lengths to stop their dirty secrets been made public, which the player is unfortunate enough to often confront. Despite the mutants been a massive threat, Fizzco’s mascot, Fizzie, is the true masochist of Sunset City. Zenya Amo in Akiba’s Trip Undead and Undressed was very entertaining for being such an eccentric villain. Fizzie however takes this a step further to become quite possibly the funnest antagonist this year. ‘It’s the apocalypse, bitches!’ he cries, while doing all manner of horrific atrocities, before resorting to using lines from contemporary media sources when things don’t go according to plan. If a mutant were to say ‘we have destroyed the world’, Fizzie would surely be there to retort ‘and I’m going outta my way to make sure the world stays dead.’

Fizzie may well be the apex of the game’s deranged characters, however, he is not alone, with those who survived the pandemonium making up a collection of rather funny sorts. With the exception of Floyd, who is the master of wisecracks, the men in the game who your character teams up are either, insane, nerdy, LARPers, or lacking in limbs or common sense. The women on the other hand are the most well adjusted to the end of days, with a combination of intelligent babes and kick-ass cheerleaders accompanying you for the ride.

The game itself operates much like a Greek tragedy and a comedy of errors, all combed into one. In one instance you find a certain someone to help craft an item. This someone has friends who are needed to build said item, each of whom need motivation to work, requiring you to fulfill jobs for each of them. Once complete, and the item in question is in the process of been built, the machine crafting it breaks down, and you are required to find spare parts, which just so happen to belong to a person who has a mission of their own they want completed.

Unlike in Gears of War Judgement, where all you really ever did was kill Grubs, Sunset Overdrive makes the continuous slaughter of mutants fun by providing the player with a collection of weirdly unqiue objectives. In one instance, you are required to go to a bottled water plant to find several liters of refreshingly overpriced spring water, while on another, you go to a hot dog factory to find a missing acquaintance. However, as the game progresses, the missions become even wackier. At one point, you are tasked with killing hundreds of pigeons, while on another, you are required to bounce across a set of drums in order to achieve an intended result. Near the conclusion, the lead character decides in their wisdom, that although threat of an imminent cataclysmic event is on the horizon, they will instead form a rock band, and even I, at this point, began to question the general sanity of the storyline. If there is a line separating the deranged from normality, Sunset Overdrive not only crosses it – the game leaps over it, before turning around with a laser gun and pulverizing the line into oblivion.

The serious lack of authenticity begins to be displayed from the start with the armaments you find yourself using. Reflective of the gadgets in Ratchet and Clank (people may remember Mr Zurkon), the guns you use are both original and unqiue. These include the High Fidelity, or Nothing But The Hits, weapons which fire records at your opponents, or the Flaming Compensator, a shotgun with flammable buckshot. There’s the Acid Sprinkler, which lobs a grenade which acts like the kind of sprinkler you may find in your yard, but instead shoots noxious acid at your foes. On top of this, there’s The Dude, which fires an onslaught of bowling balls, the Murderang, which lobs a metallic boomerang at opponents, which almost always hits its mark, if not the first time around, then certainly on the return journey, and the TNTeddy, which fires an explosive teddy bear. At the end of the game, if you have the cash, you can reward yourself with the Charge Beam, a weapon that makes even the mightiest mutant do pee pee in its pants. These are just a few of the entertaining armaments, however, this isn’t all, with a selection of traps also available at the player’s discretion. Such include the Hack N Slay, which produces a propeller that renders your enemies shorter, and the Pyro Geyser, that when bounced on, emits a burst of fire upon all enemies in the vicinity.

Additionally, the environment itself constantly reminds the player this isn’t the conventional experience some gamers may be used to. You can bounce on cars, use fans to reach higher altitudes, run on walls, swing on lampposts, and grind across rails and power lines, among other things. The fact your character’s health is unable to survive much attack is the game’s way of incentivising the player to use the wealth of acrobatic options available to them in order to survive.

Occasionally though, as the ‘x’ button is used to not only enter grind mode, but swing and wall run as well, sometimes the character might inadvertently do something the player did not intend, or perhaps even begin moving in the wrong direction. Although the character is able to grind without the player holding down any button, the game will automatically pick the direction you grind in (although this can be changed). On top of this, despite the openness and interactivity of the environment, restrictions do apply. The character may climb up some buildings, but not others, which instead requires you to bounce up them, and if said bounce pad is located on the other side of the building, and you are presently on the other, being chased by mutants, this makes chances of survival less plausible. On top of this, some plants can additionally be used as bounce platforms, however, on occasion when I leapt in the direction of one, I passed right through it rather than ricocheting upwards. Again, the inconsistencies and restrictions are a little annoying: it’s a bit like going to a camp where the instructor announces ‘there are no rules’, before providing a list of regulations.

Using the acrobatic options moreover, along with killing enemies whilst grinding or leaping through mid air, increases the character’s style gauge. With each part of the style meter that is filled, abilities the gamer has attached to their character become unlocked. Abilities can include Amps, to increase the character’s effectiveness in combat (as an example, you can set enemies on fire with your melee weapon, create a shield around your player which activates after an enemy attacks you, or leap down onto your foes, emitting a shock-wave in the process). Amps can additionally be applied to weapons, many of which allow for an influx of explosive capabilities, however, there is no guarantee they will work every time, with the game insinuating there is a chance the Amp may be activated.

Many of the Amps moreover, the player needs to build, by using a combination of items, including smelly shoes, toilet paper, cameras, or even balloons. What is a little annoying though, is that the game makes it a requirement for you to build the Amps, rather than an option. Although it is not mandatory to play online (unlike Destiny), or compete in Buck National (an arena where you verse mutants to score points), it is rather restraining the game presumes the player wants Amps in the first place. The fact they are difficult to create, as you are forced to hold off wave after wave of mutants as the Amps brew, is perhaps a deliberate strategy by Insomniac to make the game last longer.

Moreover, upgrades can also be applied to your character, which can increase the amount of style points you acquire from using acrobatic skills, how much spare ammunition you can carry, or the damage done by your weapons. Rather than increasing the overall health of the protagonist, the game offers the player the option of decreasing damage taken by certain enemies. Some upgrades do however come with a price. An example might be, inflict 5% extra damage to mutants, but suffer an extra 1% damage from them, and in a game where a single hit from a mutant can take off a significant portion of your health, increasing that particular damage is the last thing you may want to do.

Although death is a common occurrence in the game, unlike during other titles where gamers may find themselves grunting  a number of choice words afterwards, Insomniac alters death from an unwanted hindrance, to a welcome occurrence. If simply running around town, or undertaking a side quest, the game will automatically respawn you where you fell, however, it is always different. Maybe you’ll hatch from an egg; erupt like Dracula from a coffin; be deployed from an alien mother-ship, or materialize out of the air; the possibilities are as vast as they are fun to watch. On top of this, unlike in Fuse, for instance, when, during the final boss encounter, you were forced to repeat the grim ordeal time and time again if you failed, checkpoints are commonly found in the game’s main gigs, which limits the amount of repetition in difficult areas.

As with many games these days, the conclusion is left wide open for a potential sequel. Though the ending doesn’t necessarily fall flat in contrast with the rest of the game, it certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions, again, perhaps doing so to pave way for future titles. Moreover, although your character is frequently referenced as a hero by your fellow peers, at the end, unlike conventional story lines, there is no gorgeous dame who launches herself into the arms of the lead character, which I found to be a little limiting.

In conclusion, Sunset Overdrive reminds consumers of the pure, fictional entertainment once experienced in games when they were been conceived over ten plus years ago, with suspension of disbelief and realism having no sway over the game’s events. Frequently ludicrous and often lacking in sense, rather than questioning how something occurred, you simply go with it, in a game that plays by no rules – not even its own. Where so many gaming companies today seem to care only about making money, and this desire flows into their titles, Sunset Overdrive appears to be filled with the same passion games were once injected with; fantastical environments, unexplainable, often delusional story lines, and energetic fun.

Lighting a Fuse: Analysing Insomniac’s new Third Person Shooter

Title: FuseFuse-Box-Art
Developer: Insomnia
Distributor: EA
Platforms: PS3 and XBOX 360
Genre: Team oriented third person action

Pros:
-Relentless action sequences
-Powerful upgrades
-Captivating action oriented storyline
-Awesome take down moves
-Incredibly fun

Cons:
-Graphics seem a little outdated
-Been there, done that

Rating (out of ten): 8

Synopsis: A solid, entertaining action shooter that ought to have been released a year ago.

If some of the best ideas from games the likes of Gears of War, Vanquish, Enslaved: Odyssey of the West and Brute Force were all meshed up into one title, that game might very well end up being this new creation from the developers of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance.

Fuse is a futuristic third person team oriented shooter in a time when the governments of the world are attempting to discover a new form of renewable energy. An energy source, capable of unquantifiable levels of destruction is unfortunately discovered in the process, but its consequential power is not exactly energy, as it is so much militarian, with limitless potential for building an unstoppable army to bring an end to any other force on the planet.

Raven, an antagonistic military group that have gone beyond rogue have seized control of this unimaginably powerful energy source and God only knows what they intend to do with it. Burgess, a man contacted to help apprehend Raven and destroy the Fuse energy, rallies his team, consisting of four unique operatives from around the globe, each with different backgrounds and skills that can advantageously take care of this diabolical situation that is slowly but surely spiraling hopelessly out of control.  

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine...

Taking down choppers is not quite as easy as one might imagine…

Over the course of the campaign, each member of the team who the player has the option of playing as during the game, hold three weapons, originally beginning with just an ordinary pistol (if you acquire the Fusion Pack DLC you can upgrade your pistol to immediately use Fuse based technology) and additionally having the ability to carry another weapon of their choosing, whether that be an assault rifle, a sniper class weapon or a shotgun. The third weapon each character is able to wield are their unique Fuse empowered devices which they acquire not long into the campaign. When this occurs, each team member begins to address a certain function that the team needs to survive and complete their objectives.

Dalton, the team’s leader, who has a past with Raven and is now doing his best to shut down their rogue operation, acquires a Magsheild, which allows him to generate a well, a shield (obviously?) that will halter any firepower from injuring him or any team member standing behind it. Additionally, enemy rounds will be plucked out from the air by the device and launched back at the one who fired them. Simply put, Dalton becomes the conventional shock trooper.

FUSE_Dalton_Solo-1024x576

Jacob, the voice of reason and quite possibly the heart of the team acquires himself a crossbow of sorts, which is capable of launching Fuse empowered rounds that can burn through enemy combatants. These can be fired from a hefty distance which allows him to become the team’s stereotypical sniper.

Fuse_Jacob_2

Izzy, who is seen as the brains of the outfit, being both cold and lethal at the same time, acquires herself a weapon that will crystallise the environment and her opponents and cause them to explode. The opposite affect will happen to her team, as she is able to launch crystals with a healing serum in the direction of her fellow comrades which will advantageously benefit their progress and keep them alive longer and heal them over time, thus making her the team’s medic.

Fuse_Izzy_2

Lastly, Naya, the team member I played as, an assassin with a foxy British accent (meow!) whose father has become caught up in the exploits of Raven, found herself carrying a singularity shock weapon that allowed black holes to appear and suck enemies into oblivion. The more enemies hit by the rounds meant that the implosion would become more devastating, a chain reaction taking place which sucked in everyone within the vicinity and blew the others around like rag dolls. This adjunctively came equipped with the phantom cloak, allowing Naya to become invisible for a short duration, enabling her to become the team’s scout, and further empower her lethal assassination skills.

WOW!

WOW!

Unlike in Brute Force, where during the single player campaign the player had to physically activate each particular squad member’s capabilities, the AI will naturally do this during the game, which sufficiently aids progress and makes the action even more fun to fight through.

This was not all though. Larger enemies found throughout the game who are basically the champions of Raven; often being large hulking mechs with extraordinary weapons can have their firepower ripped away from them once they have been relegated to a cadaver. Although these weapons impede movement, they are incredibly powerful and only come equipped with a limited amount of firepower so ought to be utilised whilst available.

Moreover, the weapons the characters were equipped with, along with their health and abilities could be upgraded over the course of the story. Every so often, the player went up a level which presented them with not one skill point, but four; one for each member of the team. Unfortunately the team members do not naturally assign their own skill points and so this is up to the prerogative of the player. Since this is the case, the player is then able to choose what to upgrade and what special abilities the characters will use. The more abilities the characters have at their disposal, the more the AI will be able to use over the course of the game. For instance, in the case of Izzy, she does not automatically begin the game with her healing ability, and this subsequently needs to be unlocked. Once it has been, she was use it when applicable.

Additionally, there are team perks; beneficial upgrades which unanimously assist each of the squad members. Unlike the points acquired by leveling up, these particular ones are acquired from Fuse credits found throughout the game. Fuse credits are small stacks of gold worth 500 each, however, when each upgrade costs 10,000 credits, well, safe to say one needs to scour the maps up and down in an attempt to find them. These abilities are often similar to the traits assigned to each player, however they often, as the title suggests, come with their unique perks. For instance, the marksman ability allows the player to acquire ammunition each time they pull off a successful head shot. Other perks increase damage resistance, or simply resistance to one particular offensive attack; the ability to level up at a faster pace; or even the chance to not consume so much Fuse energy when using special player capabilities.

That’s right, each player ability does run on ammo; the same ammo that each of the player’s Fuse based weapons run on, which is rather annoying, and at the end of the day it comes down to whether or not the player wants to use their ammo to assault the enemy from afar, or for tactical superiority.

Apart from being a babe, Naya's combat abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Apart from being a babe, Naya’s abilities and amazing weaponry make her absolutely ruthless in combat.

Firepower is not the only weapon in each character’s arsenal though, with the team able to pull off special melee moves. Sneaking up behind enemies, players can break the necks of their opponents, drag their bodies over crates, or slit their throats with knives. During combat, the players are able to perform a wild manner of exciting kick ass combat moves which look really extraordinary. Just keep hitting the melee button and the player will automatically continue to perform admirably on the battlefield.

There is of course one addendum to all of this Fuse energy; since Raven has stolen the technology, your team are not the only ones capable of using such amazing technology. Over the course of the game you will run into opponents who are cloaked, who sneak up behind you and take you hostage, using you as a human shield as they assault the rest of your team. Enemies who have Fuse shields covering their person; enemies who are able to heal their comrades if they happen to be in a certain vicinity of them; the list goes on, and thus the player needs to accommodate themselves for any situation and prepare accordingly, adapting to each combat scenario.

Boss battles are especially deranged when it comes to this; not in a bad way, but the limits of the imagination are diabolically stretched, these particular battles often being a time consuming process in which the player needs to adopt a particular strategy as to efficaciously beat their opponent, who of course is never alone, with a number of friends coming to assist them as they wage their private war against you.

Moving on, as with many games today there is no traditional health bar per se, and as soon as your character takes too much damage they are out for the count, temporally at least. Much like in Gears of War, the player is left to crawl across the ground crying out for assistance, a person needing to physically revive you, vice versa, before a timer on your screen runs out. If you or any other member of your team dies, the game officially comes to an end, much unlike Gears of War when your fellow team members could crawl around the floor for days asking for assistance and never require any; in Fuse, you either help your team or help hinder your own progress, which makes your friends far more important to you than in other titles where they are basically invincible.

The AI of your team furthermore is not bad, although like with many games they do on occasion get in your way when you are firing and complain about how terrible a shot you are, even though they clearly ran into your line of fire. In the campaign, as per usual, you need to do almost everything, which is kind of odd since you would think that the others would be able to push a button just as well as you can. There are moments when the team needs to do something in synchronicity or all at once and will automatically perform their tasks, but other times it is left solely up to you. This includes shutting off gun turrets, hacking computers, demolishing walls, et al.

The enemy will additionally more often than not act in a manner that will ensure a challenge. There is no skill level so in the end it really comes down to the sheer number of bad guys thrust upon you and their general skill. Enemies will flank, throw grenades to flush you out and take cover. A number of them come equipped with jump packs and hover devices which allow them to expertly fly from one location to the next, allowing them to acquire a better vantage point or avoid fire. However, as soon as the combined effort of your team is placed onto a number of targets, the single most intelligent bad guy alive would be unable to succeed in surviving such an assault, sometimes making fire fights move by at a steady, quick pace.

As for your own intellect – as previously mentioned, Fuse is a straight forward shooter, and thus the player is normally not required to think too strenuously about what to do. As long as you know where the fire button is and can master the controls in a short duration of time, Fuse will most definitely become your oyster.

As amazing as it might seem, although the game, much like Gears of War Judgment is one great big kill fest, unlike in Epic’s newest shooter, never did the action get old. Environments, from bunkers, to forests compounds and locations in the snow ensure that the scenarios the player fights through are frequently fresh and invigorating.

kicking ass and taking names

kicking ass and taking names

When your team are forced to interact with tasks alongside you, one can clearly see how Insomniac are attempting to showcase the importance of the team, and are embodying a large number of occurrences which real militarian groups strategically do together as to create a strong realistic vibe and to make certain that you never feel alone.

However, don’t let this idea of realism put you off for there is plenty of healthy banter that goes on over the course of the game. Since Dalton has a past with Raven, often he becomes the brunt of some of the jokes made about this terrorist force. On other occasions, the jokes have some sexual reference that is not deliberate as much as it is stereotypical. At one point when climbing, Dalton says to Naya ‘I just love to watch you climb’ and in response to this she says ‘Izzy, if you catch (Dalton) staring at my arse, you have my permission to shoot him.’

As entertaining as the game can be though, sometimes I personally wondered ‘hasn’t this been done before?’ Reviving your team and having to be revived, symbolic of Gears of War, and also reminiscent of the team oriented combat found in Epic’s shooter. The ability to switch players is very much reminiscent of what could happen in Brute Force, and the need to on occasion climb obstacles is representative of Enslaved and other like titles. I did previously mention that Fuse seemed to take many of the great ideas from previous games, and if this be the case, at the end of the day it seems blatantly obvious where much of the inspiration is derived. Of course, if these are original ideas, then I am sorry but it would seem that Insomniac is a little too late, which can also be partially said in relation to their graphics.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the graphics of the game. Levels are often incredibly beautiful and vibrantly bright. The characters and the enemies they face are just as beautifully detailed as the environments, however, in comparison to games the likes of Crysis 3 that have already been released this year, Fuse seems rather outdated by at least a year. Explosions especially often look like a number of lines spiraling in all directions with a bright mixture of colour overlapping them.

In conclusion, Fuse is a fun action oriented shooter where the fighting almost never stops. There is always another mission to accomplish; another enemy to eliminate; and another level to acquire, and you will only be too happy to succeed in each of these objectives.

Image References:

http://gamerant.com/fuse-screenshots-insomniac-games/fuse-naya/

http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/fuse/#/news/detail/fuse-update-3-6-13

http://www.newgamernation.com/fuse-the-dalton-rules-trailer-released/

http://www.psu.com/a019403/

http://www.rocketchainsaw.com.au/interview-brian-allgeier-creative-director-fuse-insomniac-2367/