Xbox Games with Gold for April 2016

Microsoft has announced quite a lineup for April 2016 in their “Games with Gold” program for Xbox Live subscribers. Check it out:

The month starts out strong with Telltale Games’ Xbox One title The Wolf Among Us, an M-rated adventure based on the comic book Fables from DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, which will be available all throughout April. Joining it from April 1st to 15th on the Xbox 360 side (playable via backwards compatibility on Xbox One) is Electronic Arts’ space survival-horror title, Dead Space.

The action heats up on April 16th through the end of the month with another Xbox 360 heavy hitter (also playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility), Saints Row IV. I’ve long wanted to try one of the Saints Row games — particularly after they got really crazy — and I can’t think of a better opportunity than this.

Finally, available exclusively on Xbox One and for free to Xbox Live Gold members from April 16th through May 15th, is Sunset Overdrive. This is one of the games that I thoroughly enjoyed previewing and which drove me to want to get an Xbox One in the first place — and in fact, I’ve already got it, so this part of the deal doesn’t do anything for me personally.

That said, I am thrilled to see other Xbox One owners get a chance to try it out for free. In fact, I was going to start playing it recently, but decided to hold off until I got this live stream thing I’m doing off the ground. Funny that this should be a good time to go for it — then if you like what you see, you can grab it for yourself.

On a related note, you can see the terrible, glorious mistake that was the live-action trailer for the game here, and my interview with creative director Marcus Smith here.

If you’re not familiar with the Games with Gold program, you can learn more by clicking right here.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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Today marks the release of Insomniac Games and Microsoft Studios’ new Xbox One-exclusive title, Sunset Overdrive. We’ve played the game (and been left wanting more for the past month), we’ve laughed at the tragic glory that is the live-action trailer for the game, and when presented with the opportunity to ask a creative director Marcus Smith a few questions about surviving and thriving in the Awesomepocalypse, we leapt at the chance.

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Q: Sunset Overdrive is a lot more colorful and cheerful than a lot of other games on the market now, especially those with an M rating. What influenced/inspired this direction?

A: The central theme for Sunset Overdrive is “fun in the end times”, the idea being that we take the classic post-apocalyptic setting and turn it on its ear– instead of everything becoming desperate and every man for himself, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Mad Max, the hero of the story recognizes it as a new beginning. Overnight, societal norms and laws are gone and they are free to be who they want to be and do what they want to do. It’s liberating and exhilarating. This central idea dictated everything about the game, including the look. What better way to illustrate exhilaration with vibrancy? What better way to differentiate ourselves from the classic post-apocalyptic genre than being bright and inviting?

More importantly, the world of Sunset City is designed to not only to look fun and inviting, but to play that way, too. The city needed to be like an amusement park, offering interesting places for people to explore and exploit. It’s a game, like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, where the player will be using the environment to get around, using objects in the world to gain height and move quickly, so the city needed to be built to support all the player’s available move options in mind. What we ended up with is visually unique and works super well with moving around (or getting into combat!).

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Q: A number of aspects of Sunset Overdrive feel reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank, such as the variety of wild and wacky weaponry. Was this a deliberate choice, and if so, are there other elements which carry over?

A: It was. Originally, Drew (Murray, Game Director) and I had in mind a much more ‘straight’ zombie apocalypse type game and part of that idea was to move away from the wacky, inventive weapons. It would have been awful. In fact, we moved away from that direction even before pitching the game internally. But, I think we just wanted to not perpetuate the idea that Insomniac *has* to do crazy weaponry. However, as we moved on with production and figured out the proper pace and feel of the game, it was clear that more exotic weapons were required. Our ‘normal’ weapons got phased-out and now we only have a couple. Of course, with our weapon upgrades and Amp systems, even the normal weapons become extraordinary, so we can’t even do that right!

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Q: In my preview of the game, I noted that playing it made me feel like a teenager again. Granted, I was a teenager back in the 90’s, while the game is being released in 2014 and takes place in the not-too distant future of 2027. As such, I was curious if there was a certain sense of time period that you were trying to evoke in the game– then, now, later, or just an overall sense of timelessness?

A: Indeed! To a lot of us, the general sense of ‘fun’ and ‘unexpected’ in games has taken a back seat in console games. We’re in a period where reality is all the rage. And while that’s great as a part of the spectrum, many of us here at Insomniac miss those games that were just fun/funny/exhilarating as games. SEGA games of the 90’s (especially the Dreamcast era) like Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind/Set Radio, Sonic, etc. were just nuts! So fast and frenetic. Hell, no matter your age, you probably played some form of Mario Bros. in your formative years– those games taught us all that games should be fun and don’t necessarily need to be grounded in reality. Mario’s universe is like one big acid trip, but people don’t sit around picking apart the mythology (This is where I would have lowered my head, avoided eye contact, and slowly sidled away… –Ed.)! Anyway, philosophically those games were a big influence on us, but so have more modern indie games. We’re just looking to make something interactive and fun and not necessarily an interactive movie, which so many modern console games feel like. So, yes, we want to be timeless. 😉

With that, we’d just like to thank Mr. Smith for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Sunset Overdrive is available now, both a la carte and as part of the Cirrus White Xbox One Sunset Overdrive console bundle for $399.99!


Following my hands-on with Sunset Overdrive, it should be little secret that I am in love with this game, and pretty much anything referring to it is going to grab my attention. So naturally, when Topless Robot (one of my top daily stops for all things nerdy and cool) posted this trailer from Microsoft titled “The Live Action Trailer for the Game Too Big for a Live Action Trailer,” you know I immediately took notice.

Please note that this trailer is Not Safe For Work (NSFW). I haven’t been keeping track, but it might even be the most NSFW trailer I’ve ever posted on this site, at least since the last one. That probably isn’t saying much, but I’m just saying that “Get ready to die, @$$hole!” being repeated in an electronic voice is probably bound to attract unwanted attention in certain places.

But enough of that; on with the show!

If there’s ever been a game that couldn’t be translated into a live-action trailer, Sunset Overdrive is that game. With its unique blend of hyper agility and inventive weaponized destruction, Sunset Overdrive is the one game that would be disastrous to attempt to make real.

So that’s what we did.

Stay to the end (or just click here to experience an interactive version of the trailer above.

Sunset Overdrive arrives on Xbox One on October 28th, 2014.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get to attend Microsoft’s X14 event. Unfortunately, due to only having so much time to play so many games, I didn’t get to touch on nearly as much as I would have liked (sorry, Forza Horizon 2 and Fable Legends). But aside from a couple of rounds on Killer Instinct (now with Fulgore for the win– literally) and checking out Skylanders: Trap Team, I spent most of my time focusing on the game I wanted to see most: Sunset Overdrive.

Not only did I come away satisfied with what I had played, but it has left me hungry for more.


Note: This trailer is probably Not Safe For Work.

At first, things were a bit shaky. Part of this is due to my first experience actually being in the cooperative/competitive online multiplayer mode, where you and a group of others have to keep the oncoming waves of mutant hordes away from the batch of energy drink Overcharge Delirium XT that they so desperately crave.

Truth be told, it was sort of a case of running before I could walk, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. The biggest problem came from the fluke camera, which would constantly raise itself upward slowly– I figure someone was pressing the stick up when the machine was turned on, as that sort of thing tends to happen as a result. I was quickly swapped out after bringing it to a representative’s attention, though, and it largely went well after that.

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Soon after, I signed up for a chance to spend some time with the single-player mode, and that’s where the real fun began.

At the outset, you’re allowed to customize your character. Male or female, tall or short, facial features, hairstyle, those sorts of things. You’re limited to one set of clothes at the start, but following the intro where you escape back to your apartment for your life, you get to choose more options.

It’s during the race back to your place that the tutorial occurs, teaching you the basics of moving around. The key thing to remember is that you generally don’t want to be on the ground; bouncing off cars, grinding along wires and rails, and running up and alongside buildings parkour-style are the keys to keeping safe from the mutants on the street below.

The grinding is especially prominent, and reminds me a bit of how it’s done in Sonic titles, but with a greater degree of control and freedom. In addition to speeding up or slowing down, it’s easy to reverse course, and you can even switch from hanging and zipping beneath wires to grinding on them and back at the press of a button. Overall, it’s very well integrated.

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You’ll use a variety of weapons to fend off the mutants, as well as the predatory human “Scabbers,” who basically seem to be the anarchist element taking advantage of the downfall of society.

The big one is the different firearms you’ll get. From Dirty Harry-inspired pistols to fire shotguns to ice cannons to guns that can shoot bouncing vinyl records and more, there are some crazy options which may remind some people of developer Insomniac Studios’ prior work on the Ratchet & Clank series for the PlayStation systems. The shooting itself reminds me a bit of that found in the recent Transformers console games, such as Fall of Cybertron, albeit minus the cover mechanics and with a lot more moving around while shooting.

You’re also allowed to go hand-to-hand with the mutants and Scabbers with your trusty crowbar (the same item you use for hang-grinding). This style feels rather basic, and again, will probably be familiar to fans of the Ratchet & Clank games, right down to the jumping ground-pound attack to clear away foes in close proximity.

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A bit of collecting is going on as well, such as missions in which you have to travel around and pick up the parts required to progress. One such instance opens up the ability to use Amps, which allow bonus stats. One I received allowed me to generate an electric field while rolling, as another added a stun attribute to my record gun. However, in order to use these boosts, you have to maintain a certain level of “style” for it, which is done through how well you move around while grinding or killing foes.

There are a few small issues I found with performing missions, though. The primary one is that the compass is a little tough to read; I would follow it, yet sometimes end up moving further and further away from my objective, fumbling to find a way to make the distance shrink rather than grow.

This wouldn’t be quite an issue were it not for the fact that leaving the mission area results in a failure, and the boundaries don’t seem to be clearly marked. While on a mission, you’re pretty much confined to that particular area, which is kind of an iffy thing.

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I got to play for about an hour, and I have to say, I’m in love with this game. From the moment I laid eyes on Sunset Overdrive, I knew I was looking at something special.

It’s almost like the counterculture version of most big titles on the market right now: Colorful and cheerful, with tongue-in-cheek and irreverent humor spread throughout. One amusing part is where your character makes an offhand reference to “if this were a video game” before having a voiceover narration actually start speaking to him.

Some sound effects actually appear as an onomatopoeia, and while the game features a fair bit of cursing, I found it felt kind of real and genuine; that is, rather than cursing for cursing’s sake, it felt more natural, at least to me.

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In case it’s not clear, with only a few nitpicks aside, I had a lot of fun with this game. For one reason or another, I don’t tend to buy into the “system seller” philosophy, that of one game that a person would want a whole new system for, but while the Xbox One does have other titles that look interesting to me, Sunset Overdrive alone has me wanting the system just so I can play more.

It just feels good to play. I might be dating myself a bit here, but whereas playing Shovel Knight made me feel like a kid again, interestingly enough, playing Sunset Overdrive makes me feel like a teenager again. I can honestly say that’s not the kind of nostalgic sensation I experience often, but something about this title brings it out in me, and I kind of like it.

As I don’t own an Xbox One, I can’t say when or if I’ll get to review Sunset Overdrive upon its October 28th, 2014 release date. That said, I strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for this one, and if you get the chance, be sure to give it a go. You won’t be sorry.