Total Overdose will be dismissed by many as a poor GTA clone, mainly due to its city setting, car driving, violence and bad language, but playing the game is a very different experience to Rockstar's multi-million selling offerings. While not really coming close to GTA in terms of overall game experience, Total Overdose focuses on gunplay, and does it exceedingly well.
The set-up in Total Overdose is a simple one: a young undercover cop (Tommy) is on the verge of taking down a huge drug syndicate in Mexico, but an unfortunate accident puts him out of action. In a Hollywood movie moment, it just so happens that Tommy has a twin brother who's more than capable of stepping into his shoes. The only problem is that Ramiro Cruz 'El Gringo Loco' is an ex-con who likes to do things his own way, so things get a little crazy.
Initially the game is pretty underwhelming, with some ropey looking visuals and generic third-person shooter action. However, A quick run around the training area suddenly reveals the wealth of combat options you have at your disposal, setting up a game that is immense fun and satisfying to play. The number of moves may seem a little daunting, but they're mapped well to the controller, making for some of the best action ever seen in a videogame.
It's fair to say that some of the moves aren't all that original. You've got the slow-mo bullet time diving seen in the likes of Max Payne and Dead to Rights, and the rewind time feature that was used well in the modern Prince of Persia games (and Blinx on Xbox). Copies or not, they're still great fun to use, and they're not all the game has up its sleeve. How about throwing a grenade into a crowd of enemies, slowing down time and then blasting it out of the air with your pistol, sending everyone near the grenade flying? Maybe a bit of action-movie-style jumping out of a fast moving truck moments before it explodes when hitting a target is more your thing?
And there's even more. As well as the 'normal' moves you can earn special moves. A golden gun kills enemies in one shot; the Tornado sends Ramiro into a spin, taking out any enemies hit by his machinegun fire; El Mariachi gives Ramiro two fully loaded guitar cases that take out anything in their path; Mysterioso sends a crazy Mexican wrestler after enemies; the exploding piÃ±ata draws in enemies like bees to honey and then explodes; El Toro makes Ramiro temporarily think he's a Bull, allowing him to ram enemies; and the Sombrero of Death sees a Sombrero wearing skeleton join Ramiro to fight enemies with his explosive armoury of weapons. It's crazy stuff, but all adds to the fun of the game.
All this makes combat in Total Overdose brilliant fun, but there's also a high-score element to it all. You earn points for pulling off combos (essentially the number of kills you can achieve in a row) and for pulling off signature moves (such as killing an enemy with a bazooka while in a slow-mo dive). At the end of each mission you'll be given a score, so there is somewhat of a Tony Hawk's Skater feel to it - just with high powered weaponry rather than skateboards.
The environments are free-roaming to a degree and missions are scattered around, but to make things easier you can jump straight to missions from the game's menu. If there isn't a story mission to choose you'll have to complete a few challenge missions in order to unlock more of the story, but these challenges are rarely dull, usually requiring you to blow up or kill a number of targets. The story itself isn't really the game's strongpoint, but does its job.
As already mentioned, the visuals look a little ropey, but when the action heats up things look far better. Texture work is rough and modelling is simplistic, but the frame rate holds up well and there are some great explosions that send enemies and environmental objects flying. While buildings can't be destroyed, almost everything else can be, including cars, fire hydrants, street stalls and more. The soundtrack fits the lively mood of the game perfectly and the voice acting is solid throughout. I haven't heard of any of the licensed artists who have tracks in the game, but it works well.
Inevitably there are problems. Driving plays a part in a large number of missions, but it just isn't as fun as the on-foot sections. Controls don't feel as good as they do in the GTA games and collisions with other vehicles don't seem right. Enemy AI isn't great either, but there's usually enough of them around to make up for their lack of intelligence. After a while the relentless combat does become a little dull, but it only takes a few nicely pulled off moves to bring a smile back to your face.
Total Overdose came as quite a surprise. Don't buy it expecting the depth of a GTA title or the stunning presentation of an established franchise, and you'll have a great time. Gunplay has rarely been as much fun as it is in Total Overdose, and its over-the-top action from start to finish won me over. If you want a little no-holds-barred, non-stop, exhilarating action, give Total Overdose a try.