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Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is great, but I wish Insomniac would bring back Sunset Overdrive

It might have released almost a decade ago, but I'm still thinking about it.

It's not exactly controversial to say that Insomniac's take on the one and only Spider-Man is pretty damn good. Both the first game and its recently released sequel have their share of problems, but man, swinging round New York is just damn simple fun. That web-swinging is obviously the key thing that makes a good Spider-Man game a great one, and there's one game in particular that helped lay the groundwork for Insomniac's strong sense of movement: Sunset Overdrive. And gosh, I really do wish they would make a sequel.

Sunset Overdrive was originally an Xbox One exclusive that came out at a bit of an awkward time, barely a year after Microsoft's possibly unfairly maligned console launched. We all know how the Xbox One was originally received, affecting sales so drastically that Microsoft doesn't even reveal how many consoles it sells these days. It also didn't really have any exclusive launch titles, nor did it have any massive exclusives within its first year; meaning, a title like Sunset Overdrive, from a pedigree studio like Insomniac, could have been a hit. It was not.

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Estimates from sites like VGChartz put sales figures around the one million mark, which is great by indie standards, less so by AAA. Sales obviously don't define the quality of a game, but they often do decide whether a game gets a sequel or not. Nearly a decade on since Sunset Overdrive's release, it's probably safe to say that we're not getting a follow up, and I really do think that's a shame.

I'm not going to act like Sunset Overdrive is this slept on masterpiece that should have been genre defining, but much like Insomniac's Spider-Man games, it was damn simple fun! Movement was key here too, clearly riffing on Jet Set Radio with its own slightly zanier flair, allowing you to grind rail on pretty much anything. You had to keep moving, too, otherwise you'd be likely to be overwhelmed by the soda zombies taking over the city. I admit, the concept there is a bit silly, but I think for the most part Insomniac leaned into that enough where I could buy it.

The zombie apocalypse never looked so sweet.

It was clearly a game for the slightly older Ratchet and Clank fans, with out-there weapons like a gun that shoots out vinyl records, or another called "The Dude" that shoots out bowling balls. You can see the through line from R&C to SO quite clearly, with the latter's weapons having just as much juice as the former's. All of that blended very well with the constant need to move, meaning you always had to be on your toes. Simple fun, but not passive fun.

Sure, at times the jokes didn't really land, as they could be a bit overwritten, and there would occasionally just be way too long stretches of silence because no music would play, but these things are forgivable in the greater scheme of things. Heck, it's not like the performers are the ones responsible for bad jokes; Yuri Lowenthal, Insomniac's very own Spider-Man, plays the male version of the playable character, and he's got buckets of charisma to make up for any off one-liners.

The thing that Sunset Overdrive needed was the chance to grow. Anyone that's played Marvel's Spider-Man 2 can tell you how much has been added to the web-swinging compared to the first game, something that could only really have been done with a sequel. Iteration is just as important a part of design as innovation, if not more, as you get to see certain mechanics fleshed out to their max; imagine FromSoftware trying to make Elden Ring without years of experience with developing Dark Souls?

I don't think the spirit of Sunset Overdrive is entirely lost, this year's Hi-Fi Rush, ironically also an Xbox exclusive, captures it quite well. Clearly there's still room for stylised, PS2-era, pseudo-platformers, and a hunger for them too, even if that hunger isn't as strong as it is for other big name games. I know a Sunset Overdrive sequel isn't going to happen, there's just too much risk there. But hey, Insomniac: just give it a think, would ya?

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