Sunset Overdrive infuses the apocalypse with optimism
There’s a weird energy to Sunset Overdrive, a video game coming this fall from Insomniac Games. It’s bright and whacky, and after playing it for about an hour I was left with the kind of exhausted excitement I remember having after spending an afternoon with a toddler.
I got a chance to sample the game during a press event in early April at Insomniac’s studio in Burbank, California. The Xbox One exclusive puts players in the guise of a hero in Sunset City as society collapses. The game is about wielding crazy weapons while rapidly traversing an environment using parkour and skateboard movements.
It might be the end of days, but as creative director Marcus Smith said during his opening remarks to media, for the player it’s more like the “awesomepocalypse”. Smith also mentioned that both he and game director Drew Murray became fathers around the time when development on Sunset Overdrive began.
Which helps to explain why the apocalypse the two men helped create in Insomniac’s Resistance 3, which had a palette of browns and greys, is so different from the brightly-coloured end of days in Sunset Overdrive.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Smith admitted that becoming a father was a factor. “I think it definitely has an impact. During the Resistance days we were preoccupied with the end times. And I think a lot of that has to do with the preparation. It's a huge, life-changing event to have a kid.”
Murray added that they were in the final days of development on Resistance 3 when they were coping with the sleep deprivation that comes from raising a newborn. He called it being “in the drudgery”.
“And then around one or one and a half they’re giving back, and they are out there and they are discovering the world. And it’s fun,” said Murray. That joy, he said, went into Sunset Overdrive.
Straight editor Charlie Smith once told me that having children is an expression of pure optimism. At the time, I was a few months away from becoming a father, but now that I’ve got a few—okay, seven—years behind me, I appreciate what he was saying.
A father has a different view of the world. “You look at the world differently because now you're seeing it through the eyes of a kid,” agreed Insomniac’s Marcus Smith.
When he visited Disneyland as a college student he couldn't help but be jaded and cynical. But he’s since taken his young daughter and admitted to loving it. “Because I'm there with someone who really is enjoying it for the first time.”
“The world is how you look at it,” said Murray. “When you have a kid, everything is new again. As an adult, you have a choice of how you see the world.”
And how to build the virtual worlds that we play in.