Sunday 15 December 2019

Sunset Overdrive preview: It's certainly not dull

James Tennent

We shouldn’t be drinking energy drinks, we’ve all learned that by now - they are full of whatever you can’t name, but what do they really taste like? According to Sunset Overdrive they taste a bit like the mutant apocalypse – as this new anti-corporate chic-anarchistic game will tell you.

We begin at the release night of the latest glowing energized concoction to find out it turns everyone who drinks it turns into slime spewing, ultra-violent mutants, desperate to get their next taurinated fix. What would your reaction be? Grind down rails, do some kick-ass jumps and shoot stuff, of course, and once you’ve got home you’ll throw your feet up and have a beer, happy in your awesome disinterest. God, we’re cool.

There’s a myriad of reactions to games like these, ones that aim to be overly insincere but end up so very pleased with themselves — they’re easy to look down on and often loved and lauded by people you don’t want to talk to.

But that’s not to say I don’t want to play Sunset Overdrive, quite the opposite. Maybe it takes being part of the Scott Pilgrim generation but, even though it might not work entirely, shooters that don’t try to take themselves to seriously, even if that can come across as forced, are great.

There’s a sense that what they want to come across as quirky originality just ends up looking like the worst dull thought, but the gameplay holds up. There is the usual selection of weapons, plus some more esoteric choices – exploding teddy bears, that sort of thing – and with the help of your other awesome friends and survivors you can upgrade them. There are lots of different kinds of enemies too, each with a better way to destroy them or dodge them, all while you’re grinding around earning points.

It’s not dull, and though the cutscenes remind you again of Scott Pilgrim, they’re not boring to the point of skippability. At least it’s a fun shooter that doesn’t have a male protagonist crying over his dead wife/child/family/pet and nursing a drinking problem.

As one of the developers told me “the apocalypse is really interesting… it’s not always Lord of the Flies; sometimes it’s Burning Man. You can express yourself, be who you want to be, there are no rules,” and you can see they had fun with the game.

One thing these short previews don’t give you (quite obviously) is enough time with the game, you play through the first five per cent and get to know nothing but the surface layer – it takes the developer to tell me the storyline goes on to take on corporate culture and cover ups, that later on you get to fight robots.

Which, even in the setting of unstoppable irony, with some flash colours, some funky guns and a fully customizable character, sounds like quite a lot of fun. Or not, whatever, who cares? Not me, guys.

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