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If the movies have taught us anything at all, it's that the use of violence is to be shunned, unless of course you perform it in an extremely graphic or an extremely cool way (say, by blowing up someone's head while jumping backwards in slow motion with a gun in each hand). You'll find a lot of both in Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico -- a game that's made for those who like their body counts high and their action slick.
But while Total Overdose is high on style, a short story campaign and some poorly implemented game mechanics mar the overall experience. If you're an action junkie that's not necessarily a bad thing, as there's enough to be had in this fun title if you're willing to overlook its flaws.
Total Overdose is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve. Its obvious references include Robert Rodriguez's series of Mariachi films, Max Payne and the Grand Theft Auto games. So what you get is free roaming GTA-style action in a large open city in Mexico, plus plenty of bullet-time showdowns a la Max Payne. For the most part, it's a mix that works, albeit some parts better than others.
The cheese that strings all the pieces together involves bad boy Ramiro Cruz, who sets out to infiltrate the seedy drug underworld of Mexico after his twin brother gets injured while investigating the murder of their father. It all gets complicated, and at some points frankly uninteresting, but the plot's really just there to give the action something to lean on occasionally.
Most of the game is set in large, open city environments that are more than reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto. The player is free to roam about, jacking any cars within vicinity and generally just playing havoc with the locals. And just like GTA, you'll find various missions spread across the map. Missions can either be story-based or optional -- story missions progress the plot and sometimes take place in new environments, while the optional missions are there just to fill out time.
But compared to GTA, the environments in Total Overdose feel rather cramped and small -- it's certainly not the urban sprawl you've experienced in San Andreas. The various citizens you'll come across seem awfully dense as well. You'll often see them walking in the middle of the road not heeding traffic, or leaping into the path of your car instead of away from it during close scrapes. And speaking of cars, while there are a healthy variety of vehicles that can be found in the game (everything from forklifts to tractors), they all handle rather loosely, making the driving sections of Total Overdose feel a bit tacked on.
Thankfully, driving is the focus of only a few missions. Where the game excels is with its combat action, which is heavily based around its particular version of bullet time. Pressing the L1 button will put the game in slow motion, allowing Cruz to pump dozens of rounds into one or more opponents in a matter of a few (real time) seconds. This effect, used in The Matrix films and Max Payne games, certainly isn't anything new, but it's still undeniably cool to use. Leaping forward with two guns blazing, flipping off walls while firing an Uzi, scoring sweet headshots and throwing a grenade and then shooting it in mid-air (all in slow motion, of course) are just some of outlandish moves in Cruz's repertoire.
The game's combat controls well, and you'll find yourself pulling off many impressive moves easily with just a little practice. The game throws dozens of enemies at you in every mission, letting you be as creative as you want when it comes to disposing of them. But for a game so focused on mayhem, we found Total Overdose seriously lacking in the ammo department. We ran out of bullets in nearly every mission -- it could just be our overactive trigger finger, but it was a real downer to go from machine guns to baseball bats in the middle of a fight.
Cruz also sports some special power-up moves that can clear entire rooms of bad guys. Called Loco Moves, these power ups have to be found throughout the game world, and range from devastating to downright strange. The Golden Gun Loco Move results in one shot kills, Tornado sees Cruz perform a spin in mid air while firing Uzis, while Mariachi sees him whip out two machine gun guitar cases and go to town. Toro's the strange one -- use this Loco Move and Cruz will run around bashing into people.
It's all over rather quickly, however, as the Total Overdose shouldn't take more than 10 hours to complete. There's also little incentive to just explore the streets -- sure there are plenty of hidden bonuses and ramps that can be jumped, but with the vehicle mechanics being so loose you'll probably end up using the cars solely to get from one mission to another.
That said, Total Overdose is good fun while it lasts, albeit in a cheesy and over the top way. Despite its flaws, action fans will find a lot to like in this game.
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