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Most of the time I don't have a problem with violence in computer games. And before you brace yourself for a holier-than-thou editorial about violent games, this is not one of them. I am not going to say that Total Overdose should be banned because of how violent it is. What I am going to say is that it is a mediocre game at best where the developers either chose to ramp up the violence to hide this fact or got so caught up in trying to make the game cool that they forgot to, well, make a good game.
Titles like Grand Theft Auto work because the violence is part of an overall plot, and a good one at that. Total Overdose is more of an interactive violent music video. I could never tell if the game was trying to take itself seriously or just being completely ridiculously, silly.
As for the plot, well, there is actually a tiny bit of a plot at least. The game starts with you playing a super violent DEA agent who likes to run around killing hundreds of people on his missions. But when he is killed by his own fellow agents, the plot falls to his son to investigate his death.
The good son, as he is called, goes on one super violent mission and gets injured. So the DEA springs the bad son, a total loser currently in jail, to finish the mission. The good son and the bad son are twins you see, so it all makes sense in a sort of 1980's bad action movie sort of way. Didn't Martin Lawrence play in a movie with this same plot?
Anyway, the game is kind of played in a Grand Theft Auto sort of way, though that is a high compliment Total Overdose probably does not deserve. You wander around Mexico's bleak landscapes collecting guns, jacking cars and following little targets on your map that represent mission points.
But although the world is mostly non-linear like GTA, it's not nearly as polished. The graphics are rather nondescript and filled with AI problems. If you stand near a person and draw your gun, they will turn and run into a wall, knocking themselves out. They will continue to do this over and over again. Several times I saw cars that had "fallen" through the street so that only their tops were visible. They no longer moved but just sort of shook in place as the game tried to figure out what to do with these misplaced pixels. If you stand in front of a car it will stop. And if you start shooting it up the driver will just sit there taking no action at all. He won't try to run you over. He won't try to escape. He just sits there until you blow the car up. GTA this isn't.
And speaking of cars, you can get into them, but don't think this is a driving game. All the cars handle like bricks with little tiny wheels. There is no handling differences that I can tell between a pickup truck and a sports car, both of which look like rolling squares anyway. There is no handbrake or skidding around corners. Just push one button to move forward and another to back up. Good luck if you are able to turn. I suppose the developers can say that this is not a driving game so they did not put much emphasis on it, but my response would be that if you are going to put it in the game, it should be worthwhile.
Player control is not much better. You basically have to put a little white dot over bad guys and then pull the trigger to blow them away. You can zoom in to destroyable objects by holding down a key, but you can't zoom into bad guys. Being able to zoom in and target people is what made games like GUN, which was also about shootouts, fun to play. Total Overdose is more like wobbling a turret around constantly, abet one with sneakers and a stupid t-shirt.
The only good part of the game are the special moves, which seems to have taken up all the development time. Depending on how you kill people using Matrix-like moves or big, big guns, you are given points and can even unlock new moves. A point-blank headshot gives you the "spicy!" bonus for instance. Some missions even require a certain amount of style points to be considered successful. Once I got hired to kill a bunch of drug dealers and I went through and capped all of them. But the mission was still a failure because I did not use enough cool moves to do it. How you kill is as important as who you kill.
For me, all the emphasis on tying to make extreme kills was not that interesting. In fact, it had the opposite effect. I got bored with it. Give me a game like Hitman any day where I can use my brain to take down opponents, not a game like Total Overdose where you simply try to get a bigger splatter pattern.
The game is rated M, but you know the target player age they are looking for is a 14-year-old boy. I don't say this too much, but I think they should give 14-year-olds more credit cause even they will find not much to like here beyond the titillating factors of seeing girls in bikinis running around and watching kill after kill fly through the air.
In the end, Total Overdose lived up to its name I guess. It was simply too much. If you are looking for mindless killing and don't mind a wealth of other flaws then this game might keep you interested for a while, but do yourself a favor and don't pay too much for it.
John Breeden II is the Chief Editor of GiN. While a forward thinking man he admits to a fondness for older video games. You should have seen him at Videotopia. John can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.