Total Overdose can only be described as the love child of Max Payne, Grand Theft Auto, and raised in front of a TV that played Robert Rodriguezí El Mariachi movies 24 hours a day. It attempts to take the greatest elements from those mediums and combine them all in one sleek and spicy package and it works really well on some fronts while on others it falls flat on its face. Those who can look past the unintentionally laughable AI, a short single player game void of any kind of challenge, and paper thin story will find some moments where Total Overdose actually works and can be enjoyable while offering up a unique style and attitude that isnít too common in games today.
You start the game as Tommy Cruz, an undercover DEA agent that is trying to infiltrate a powerful drug ring in Mexico. After Tommy is injured, he calls upon his ex-con and overall loose cannon twin brother Ramiro to moonlight as him and finish the job. From the initial set up the story goes to a tale of revenge, but really thatís about as far as the plot extends before it starts to become as thin as a pair of pantyhose, not like it matters anyways since it basically serves as an excuse to get you going into the next mission.
What Total Overdose lacks in storyline is made up in its gameplay. The game takes pride in a lot of fast paced and over-the-top action and it really pulls it off well. Ramiro has an ability to induce a type of bullet time effect that slows down time and allows you to perform some insane and suave stunts while filling baddies with lead. You can perform slow-mo dives around corners or run up walls and either cartwheel off or bounce. Not only do these moves help you get the upper hand against multiple enemies, but they also allow you to score more points for a mission. The more elaborate the move you perform, the higher the score, for instance if you dive into a room of enemies and manage to take out one in front of you, another with a headshot, and be able to twist around 180 degrees to take out a guy behind you, youíll get a better score. Each kind of move has a witty (and borderline stereotypical) name behind it like ďfly on the wallĒ when you perform a head shot while jumping off of a wall, ďburrito blastĒ if you blow up an explosive barrel around a group of enemies, and ďgringo frenzyĒ for straight multiple kills. For those who like to keep score, you can also chain together kills for score multipliers and bonus items. The point amounts for each mission allow you to earn items that will increase your health bar, give you more ammo, increase your stamina meter for more bullet time, or allow you to dual-wield certain types of guns. The standard shotguns, submachine guns, pistols, and assault rifles are here and youíll also be able to get your hands on grenade and rocket launchers as well, though the ammo for those are sparse. There is also a good variety of melee weapons like rakes, machetes, bats, and shovels in case you run out of ammo, which is a fairly common occurrence unfortunately. Aside from that one gripe, Total Overdose has the combat down to the point where itís fast, satisfying, and fun as hell.
For those situations where you find yourself grossly outnumbered you can use loco moves that will give you even more of an edge and some downright crazy attacks. You can summon a surly masked wrestler to help you out during a boss or firefight, spin in a circle with guns blazing, pull a Desperado with guitar cases armed with machine guns, or just send an explosive pinata their way. These attacks are where some of the more creative aspects of the game come out and are sure to give you some pretty satisfying kills. Where else can you summon a mad wrestler that screams thing in Spanish? Thatís totally cool! You can earn more loco moves by racking up chains or scoring well on missions which isnít really hard to begin with.
After the initial missions that set up the storyline, youíll be free to roam around a mid-sized Mexican city that stays true to its source material while not actually representing any real city in particular. You can either choose to explore on foot and take in the sights or force yourself into someoneís car and drive around. You can search the city for secret and not-so-secret items or just tear into anyone that you come across without any consequences. The design of the city isnít as subtle as say, the GTA games, since youíll have ramps placed in the oddest of areas ready for you to fly off of them. There are tons of secrets to be found and while some are out in the open, others will actually try to make you think about how to get to them which usually involves using zip lines from one building to another. Exploring on foot will usually be more rewarding than driving around since the cars youíll drive lack any kind of control or stability and the only time youíll have any use for them is when you want to grab a floating point bonus placed in front of a ramp. Thatís it and thatís all, plus, itís just cool to hit sombrero wearing pedestrians with a shovel and catch their hats in mid air no matter how cheesy it looks. The city is divided up into sections with load times separating each one. While the load times arenít long, they have the potential to be frequent based off of the small size of each section, which further makes driving around more of a chore.
Total Overdose makes use of the mission based gameplay thatís expected from games of its ilk. While you can just breeze through the game in a few short hours by performing the missions that further the story, the majority of the gameís length lie in its side missions. There isnít much variety in the side missions and theyíre purely optional save for a couple of sections that youíre required to complete one or two in order to get to the next story mission. Side missions will allow you to earn more points, items, and loco moves to pull out on the story based missions. Side missions come in three flavors: kill all enemies, race to a set number of goals, and destroy targets with each type getting some sort of stipulation, like time limits, tacked on in later parts of the game but do nothing to make missions any harder. Fortunately, driving missions are the minority
If youíve noticed, I havenít once mentioned difficulty and for good reason: the game really doesnít put forth any effort to challenge you at all. Any mission or boss can be beaten by using your shoot dodge ability and an occasional loco move. As a matter of fact, most loco moves can take out a boss in just a couple of hits. To make matters worse, the AI isnít particularly smart and is content with charging straight ahead or surrounding you, thus setting you up for a loco tornado move to take them all out. Youíll also notice some funny AI quirks with the pedestrians that walk and drive around the city. Theyíll jump out of the way of phantom vehicles, get stuck in objects, or drive into ditches. One trait that borders on hilarity is when pedestrians are running away from you straight into a wall and fall down. Itís almost guaranteed and a mystery if this was intentional or not, but either way itís good for a laugh.
Though the game has a great sense of style, the visuals in general arenít all that great. Characters tend to be on the blocky side and feature some muddy looking textures. Ramiro is pretty well animated especially during shoot dodge attacks. Other secondary characters donít arenít as well animated, but are passable. Environments are colorful and have a sort of cartoony feel that goes well with the rest of the game. While the environments generally look good and colorful, youíll notice the same kinds of muddy textures on the environments that plague the characters. Youíll also notice some anomalies in mission design for instance, in another mission youíll find yourself fighting through a jungle amidst some Mayan ruins where the jungle looks like a hallway made of trees in some spots and just gives the entire level a sloppy feel. Aside from that, the visuals help set the tone, feeling, and attitude of the entire game and really give it a great Mexican flare from intro to, well, epilogue.
The gameís sound is mixed to extremes. On one hand youíve got a great soundtrack featuring some great sounding Latino rap and metal bands that only add to the attitude of the game and its atmosphere. Youíll get some mariachi music queued up at certain points in missions or when you get a good combo chain going which may seem like it doesnít fit in at first, but then youíll come to realize that itís an amusing addition to the chaos thatís going on. Thereís also plenty of gunfire and explosions to keep you happy in a game of this type. On the other hand, some characters just come across as cheesy when delivering their lines. Ramiro does a decent job, but you just canít take him seriously at points. Youíll get some random Spanish from pedestrians and people whose cars you commandeer which are great, but occasionally youíll just get some lines that are ridiculous and almost stereotype the country all together. Some lines seem so stereotypical that they turn these unique characters into overblown caricatures that wear sombreros and carry a burrito and a shot of tequila in each hand just by their lines alone. It just all goes against the style and attitude of the game as a whole and sound like a mockery of the country in general. How many burrito and tequila jokes do we need?
Total Overdose definitely has the potential to be something great but just canít hang on to it. There is some enjoyment to be had in this game and itís definitely worth at least a rental. While certain elements may be borrowed, they can easily be forgiven by offering totally new and different locale and culture to play in.
- Brad Hicks (Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media