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Sunset Overdrive first look - Insomniac talks cloud power and mutant carnage

Xbox One's least expected new IP struts its stuff

Of all E3 2013's surprises - a new Battlefront, free-to-play Killer Instinct, Tom Clancy's The Division - perhaps the most surprising was the sight of Burbank-based Insomniac, developer of this year's least admired venture into multiplatform waters, touting an Xbox-exclusive new IP.

Serviceable yet unremarkable and perceived to be a diluted version of a once-promising game, Fuse has left a fairly big dent in the Ratchet developer's professional veneer. With the rainbow-hued Sunset Overdrive, studio founder Ted Price aims to claw back a little fan respect, and cloud computing could be the key.

"It's not just an open world," Price told us at E3 last week. "It's a living world. The idea is that we're updating the game on a regular basis. Not just updating it with stuff that we want, but also by what players tell us, and inspired by what players are doing in the game.

"Adding or changing weapons based on what players tell us is an opportunity we haven't really had during the current generation. Because if you want to put out regular updates, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. So our intent is not to just to offer new weapons, but new gameplay features that change up the environment.

"We want players to talk about what happens in the game, get really engaged and connected, because they never know what's going to happen, but they have an influence."

Insomniac has yet to screen actual gameplay footage of Sunset Overdrive, but the E3 conference trailer should give you some sense of the priorities. Wackily outfitted, elongated cartoon hipsters are shown flipping and blasting their way around a wrecked, yet attractive metropolis, riding ziplines and making use of some funkily conceived weaponry. It's not all hyper-connected high jinks - there's a single player plot of sorts, which is billed (like that of Fuse) as a mixture of the humorous and the serious.

According to Price, the developer's updates will "facilitate change on the small and large scale" - expect world events such as a new breed of enemy, or outbreaks of nasty weather. Intriguingly, Price would like to acknowledge real-world events, too.

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"It depends on the popularity of the event," he mused. "When events attain critical mass, they become socially relevant and embedded in social consciousness. This is a satirical game, and it allows us to make some pretty pointed social commentary. And this is not something we're unfamiliar with - we have done that in our past games. Sharing an inside joke with players."

Long-time Insomniac fans may find this last part particularly reassuring - Ratchet & Clank has a brilliant sense of humour, after all. Those who've plunged a few hours into Fuse's comparatively turgid plot may take a little more convincing, however. Ambitious connected features aside, Sunset Overdrive's big challenge is to persuade audiences that Insomniac isn't a one-universe outfit, whose best days are now thoroughly behind it. Hopefully, the leap to next generation hardware will fire the studio's imagination in a way its shift to multiplatform never did.