Third person free roaming action shooter with an ace up its sleeve Total Overdose looks like a great bet as a smash hit. Shirking off the copycat comparisons to GTA Total Overdose is phenomena of its own and even a short amount of playing is able to make a fan out of you.
On paper and in practice the game borrows much of GTA's basic make up, but adds such a welcome dash of it's own (namely enjoyable immersive combat) that it left me praying that Rockstar will pay it the compliment of stealing its innovations and slotting them into the next installment of the GTA.
Apparently in Total Overdose you are some Mexican guy whose dad gets pushed out of a plane and you work for the DEA and are bent on revenge, I think, but I quickly skipped the intro scenes to get to the action I'd heard so much about. And after only a short period reprogramming my San Andreas drenched (addled) brain I found myself hooting and hollering in a blaze of Matrix lobby scene inspired twin sawn-off shotgun madness.
Where GTA has always been acceptably frustrating at presenting gunplay; with its twitchy targeting and camera wildly flipping enough to rob any firefight of any finesse or satisfaction, Total Overdose offers the opportunity to be a truly graceful, balletic gunsmith. Levels are designed in such a way that it is theoretically possible to clear them entirely of bad guys in one long linked killing spree, players scores being multiplied to astronomical levels in the process.
During gameplay the D-pad activates a series of power ups or 'Loco Moves' that guarantee impressive and improbable bursts of mêlée action. Link these together with the regular controller activated shooting acrobatics and the seemingly far-fetched idea of wasting entire levels of baddies in one long chain of death becomes a whole lot more realistic.
The built-in combat actions are mouth watering in their ease of use and joy to use. The standard Shootdodge move activated by L1 slows time and allows alignment of headshots and aim readjustment, press it twice and you automatically spin round in mid air and take aim at opponents taking shots at you from behind. Add to these moves based on launching yourself from any nearby vertical surface and Total Overdose offers the chance to become a staggeringly ruthless artist of death.
The driving element is strangely reminiscent of Simpson's Road Rage, car handling is laughable but the ability to open car doors and leap out guns blazing is yet another feature I pray will be absorbed into the next GTA outing. Load times between tiny city areas are tedious and mire the free exploration of the game enough to make you think twice about checking out of a district without exhausting all the distracting possibilities of its side missions.
Graphics too are a little clumsy preventing immersion too far into the arena but a moment of combat quickly destroys even the remotest possibility to suspend your disbelief. Unlike San Andreas you won't be driving out to any local beauty spots on your motorbike just to check out the dramatic sunset. Apart from anything else you'll be far to busy bouncing of walls and stringing together head shoots with loco moves to be worried about such irrelevancies.
Total Overdose is a free and easy blast and a breath of fresh air into a genre so dominated and badly imitated as GTA, delivering so much that players who have put the hours in will possibly feel that what San Andreas is a nice place for a Sunday drive with the radio on but if they're looking for some real action then they might as well head down Mexico way…