Monday, November 17, 2014

Better and worse

Insomniac Games had more than enough built up goodwill for me to take a second (and third) look at Sunset Overdrive. Almost all of their previous games have been excellent, with Full Frontal Assault being the only game of theirs that I would place clearly in the 'ass' category. These are smart, creative guys, what am I missing?

My initial dismissal of how the hero moves around was wrong, but only because an import move had not unlocked yet - the air dash. Once I had that I was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and then grind down the opposite side. It is such an integral piece that leaving it out makes little sense. The game does not lock out areas of the map. On the contrary, the player is allowed access to the entire city from the very beginning, there just isn't much to do in it yet. Why keep them from getting there with style and speed?

Figuring out how to move did nothing to fix the combat. It was still a bouncy, inconsistent mess. The player's walk speed is kept intentionally slow to force grinding and hanging and bouncing. It is so slow that walking just isn't an option. Using cover isn't an option. The only way to not get killed is to be flying around the map as if your hair was on fire. This gets old quickly. On top of that Sunset Overdrive suffers from a the same 'problem' that the Ratchet games do: so many weapons that you cannot possibly use them all correctly. How cool they look has little to do with how well they work and if there are usable when jumping off of umbrellas. Example: The Dude fires flaming bowling balls. This is most excellent. But it is charge weapon and that just doesn't work when you are trying to squeeze off shots at the apex of a bounce. So I use the boring weapons while sulking over a White Russian.

Most damning of all was something that I did not notice as first. Think about Ratchet and Clank games and how different looking all the planets and areas are. Even the Resistance games, which consisted of grey and more grey, had themes to levels that changed. Everything in Sunset Overdrive looks the same. Every place in the city is identically too colorful and adorned with too much graffiti. Without the mini-map navigation would be impossible because there are too few landmarks. Different areas are indistinguishable in their forced post-apocalyptic bubble gum coolness.

I am no longer upset with the game, I am simply disappointed. Insomniac is better than this.

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