Why Is ‘Sunset Overdrive’ a Big Deal for Microsoft?

Source: Insomniac Games
Source: Insomniac Games

Like every generation’s console war, the one waging now is a battle for living room supremacy. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all want it to be their box that you set under your television to experience vast fictional worlds. So far, Sony is clearly winning, with its PlayStation 4 console nearly doubling the sales of Microsoft’s Xbox One since both consoles were released last November. Nintendo’s Wii U, released a year earlier, lags behind them both in terms of sales velocity.

But it’s the games that make people choose one console over another. Like clockwork, whenever a popular game lands exclusively on a platform, sales of that console shoot up. With Sunset Overdrive, the Xbox One just got its latest such game. Since it’s a new property and not a sequel to an already-popular series, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will see chart-topping sales. But if any game can overcome those odds, it’s Sunset Overdrive.

What kind of game is Sunset Overdrive?

Sunset Overdrive is a colorful game that takes place in a city whose population has ingested a bad energy drink that has turned them into murderous mutants. Your goal is to escape the city, but along the way you’ll spend your time blasting through hordes of enemies and collecting fun gadgets.

What really makes Sunset Overdrive stand out in the crowd is how you navigate the game world. Every area in the game is full of rails you can slide on, walls you can run along, and zip lines you can latch onto to fling yourself any which way you choose. This makes the action much more action-oriented than other shooters, like Gears of War or Halo.

Source: Insomniac Games
Source: Insomniac Games

Why this game a big deal for Microsoft?

Microsoft is betting big on Sunset Overdrive. Really, only two major Xbox One exclusives are coming out this holiday season: Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. In all likelihood, Halo will be a huge seller, and will convince many hold-outs to buy an Xbox One.

Microsoft’s has high hopes for Sunset Overdrive, however, are equally clear. Instead of bundling its new white Xbox One with Halo, the company has decided to bundle it with Sunset Overdrive. This may prove to be a misstep, as a Halo-branded console certainly would have sold more units, but it goes to show how confident Microsoft is in its new game.

Upping the ante is that Sunset Overdrive was made by Insomniac Games, a company that has historically worked almost exclusively for PlayStation platforms. Insomniac is a respected developer that has created numerous popular franchises, including the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series. By snagging an Xbox One-exclusive game from Insomniac, Microsoft is sending a clear message to Sony: We’re coming for you.

So is the game any good?

Based on the reviews, Sunset Overdrive is indeed a good game. Metacritic, a website that aggregates reviews from trusted sources, currently gives the game a score of 82 out of 100.

Reviewers agree that the game’s biggest selling point is that simply moving around in the game is fun. Gamespot says, “Nearly every object and surface is an opportunity to gain ground, which makes it easy to travel great distances with speed and grace. You can grind along most objects, including telephone lines, ledges, handrails, and the like. Cars, awnings, and exhaust ducts act as trampolines that send you skyward, allowing you to work your way up and over buildings with ease. You can also wall-run indefinitely and, eventually, dash in mid-air and run atop bodies of water.”

Source: Insomniac Games
Source: Insomniac Games

Additionally, weapons and abilities are upgraded based on how often you use them, which means sculpting your hero into your ideal nimble warrior happens automatically. The weapons are also clever and unique, ranging from acid sprayers and exploding teddy bears to fireworks and bowling ball cannons. The absurdity of these items feeds into the game’s offbeat sense of humor.

That humor, for what it’s worth, is the main point of contention some reviewers had with the game. The dialog is riddled with needless swear words, and the characters often comment on how they’re in a video game — which can be either entertaining or grating, depending on your tastes.

Some reviews, like IGN’s, loved the humor, saying it has “one of most consistently funny scripts in recent memory… I found myself genuinely laughing at Sunset Overdrive throughout the entire campaign.” Others, like The Guardian, were less thrilled: “The attempts to satirise video game tropes are weak and, again, better delivered in games such as Far Cry: Blood Dragon.”

But overall the game succeeds. As IGN says, “Never has getting from point A to point B in an open-world game provided so much enjoyment. It provides some of the most fun, frantic, and fantastic gaming I’ve had on the Xbox One.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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