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Total Overdose
Score: 78%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Deadline Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Mission-Based Driving

Graphics & Sound:
Total Overdose is a GTA clone that tries to be something more by changing the set-up and location, and adding some John Woo-like action moves, but alas, it falls short and ends up being nothing truly special.

Graphically, Total Overdose looks good, characters are nice and generally have a diverse series of animations that they can use. Well, the main characters anyway. When it comes to the hordes of thugs that you will have to shoot, bat or run over, they pretty much all blend together and don't stand out as unique. Not only does your character have the ability to use multiple handguns and perform wall jumps, but the John Woo effect is furthered by slow motion explosions and giant balls of flame when you blow up gas and propane tanks.

The large open-ended world also feels right. When driving through the dusty city streets, it is easy to get lost and turned around in the many winding roads and alleyways. Everything from the expansive highways to the cramped cities did a good job of pulling me in and helping me believe I was out in the middle of the desert.

Total Overdose is about average in the sound department. Though there are a wide variety of firearms, there doesn't seem to be too much of a difference between the pistol's report and the shotgun blast. Though you do get a nice, satisfying thud when you hit an enemy in the side of the head with a rake.

The game's voice acting is okay, but nothing really stellar. At times, the script seemed a bit forced and I never really got the impression that the voice-actors were standing in the same recording booth actually talking to each other.

Total Overdose's story starts off a bit unusual. I spent the first several levels of the game just trying to figure out which character the story was about. The first level gave you control of a D.E.A. agent on a drug bust. As you clear out the old ruins that are being used to fly marijuana out of the country, you learn how to use the various controls and weapons. As you and your team fly away from the jungle, though, your boss (whose face is cleverly concealed) shoves you out of the plane.

Cut to the next scene where a man in a wheel-chair, another D.E.A. agent, is talking to his CO explaining a mission he was just on. Apparently, this agent is the son of the first guy and he just received a tip as to who might be behind his father's murder. So I think, okay, I'm this guy and the whole game is him telling his boss about the various missions that will eventually lead to the broken leg. Well, I was partially right. The next level was the broken-legged agent trying to infiltrate a Mexican cartel (per his contact's tip off) which leads to his broken leg. So who is going to find out what happened to his father, you might ask?

Enter Ramiro Cruz, the twin brother of the injured D.E.A. agent. Cruz has been taken out of prison to go undercover and find out what happened to their father. Finally we get to your character. Even though the game's setup is unusual, the uniqueness pretty much stops there. Once you get to the Mexican city where the game takes place, you will take part in mission-based driving events, protect contacts from rival gangs and various other tasks that seem to come from other more popular games.

Throughout the game, you will find tons of off-the-cuff references to various movies, most of which are cult-classics - kudos to those people who get them. These include the attack mentioned above, "El Mariachi", where Cruz shoots rapid-fire machine guns cleverly hidden as guitar cases.

As you drive around Los Toros, you will be able to do more than just the odd jobs assigned to you by the cartel. You can also jump into many different side missions like Day of the Dead, where you need to kill as many enemies in the area as possible before the time runs out. In this case, all the enemies are dressed in skeleton costumes, when the time runs out -- all the baddies that haven't been shot change back into normal citizens and walk around as if nothing's wrong. There were several times when I found these side missions to be more fun than the rest of the game and spent more time looking for these tasks to get my mind off of the gophering I was doing to advance the story.

As an added bonus though, Total Overdose comes with a second DVD with a first look on the new Eidos game, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend. This is a cool added feature, but it is NOT a playable demo, but merely some insight into the new game.

Total Overdose's difficulty is a bit all over the place, but generally easy. More times than not, you will find yourself taking down the random thugs without any problems, only to find that the next mission will take several repeats followed by a bunch of "run-and-gun and kill everything in sight" tasks again.

Game Mechanics:
Total Overdose uses a simple and slightly atypical third-person shooter controller scheme that allows you to do things like flip off of walls or perform moves like The Tornado Spin and El Mariachi.

You jump with the X, fire your weapon with the R1 button, cycle through your available weapons with the R2/L2 buttons while Triangle reloads your weapon, and Square and Triangle are used for targeting people's heads and shootable objects, respectively. There are also quick two-button combos that allow you to switch to the best available automatic weapon, explosive weapon, shotgun, etc. But since there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between the way the different weapons handle, there doesn't seem to be a need to learn these button presses. In fact, I found that more times than not, when I ran out of ammo and automatically switched weapons, I didn't notice for the first few seconds because one firearm didn't feel very different from the next.

When controlling a vehicle, the game takes on the standard control setup. You accelerate with the X, brake/reverse with the Square and the handbrake is the Circle. Triangle is used to get in and out of the car. An added feature is the ability to lean out of the vehicle while driving. This makes it easy to jump out or shoot while staying in control. You open the door and hang out by holding down the L1 button.

If you are a GTA fan looking for more of the same or someone really, really wanting to spend $40 to check out the Tomb Raider: Legend preview DVD, then Total Overdose might deserve some looking into, but otherwise there isn't really anything new that will get the rest of you gamers out there excited.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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