bhlaab's Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico (PC) review

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Stupid Game You Might Find Yourself Enjoying

Total Overdose starts with a tutorial mission in which you play as an old DEA agent, blasting up drug runners who operate from an Aztec ziggurat. At the end of the tutorial he is killed off by another agent who was secretly working for the kingpin Papa Muerte the entire time. At this point the perspective shifts to the real protagonist: his son, who is also a DEA agent and is out to find the truth. And then at the end of his first mission he hurts his leg so he calls in the real protagonist, his twin brother. It's like the game is being open about its own identity crisis.

On one hand, Total Overdose is a Max Payne clone. You do a lot of diving in slow-motion while shooting at guys. Except it's also a Grand Theft Auto knockoff, set in a semi-open city environment (divided by loading screens into five or so districts) where you're free to wander and steal cars. Except it's not a GTA knockoff at all, because the open world is completely pointless; all you use it for is driving from one mission to the next. Except it's not used for that, because at any time you can bring up the pause menu and select any active mission or side activity from a list in order to start it immediately. There's literally nothing to do in the open world. There are no stores to buy things from and no diversionary minigames. Even going on a little rampage is meaningless, since there are no police or wanted systems to fight against. This environment is the barest of the bare minimum required to be mentioned in the same breath as GTA. Why is it even there? Was it a publisher mandate? A prank that got out of hand? I refuse to speculate on the matter.

There are eleven story missions in total, which makes the game shockingly short. Each mission is roughly the same setup: you are in a place and must shoot all of the guys. There are sometimes other minor activities such as delivering vehicles, but it's always in service of forcing you into places with lots of guys that must be shot at.

You can press a stunt button at any time during combat to enact a slow motion dive. That is, unless you're standing next to a wall, in which case it will probably glitch out as your character tries and fails to do a cool Matrix-style wallrun thing. Gunplay is mostly based on an automatic soft-lock on, which was common in the PS2 days but makes less sense here as the camera is fully controllable with the right thumbstick or mouse. You have to aim the camera, but you don't have to aim your gun. If that makes sense. I know that it doesn't, but please bear with me. Since you can't buy weapons or ammo in the open world, everything needs to be scavenged from dead enemies or pickups in the level. Carrying capacity for ammo is low all across the board, so you're constantly made to swap weapons and improvise with whatever you have at your disposal. This makes for an interesting experience, but it also feeds into my biggest gripe with the game. The feedback for cycling through weapons and keeping track of what you have access to is poor. I'd either find myself realizing that I have no shotgun ammo until it's too late or completely ignoring my shotgun because I had assumed it was empty.

I actually had more than a little bit of fun playing through this confusing mess of a B-list game. Slow motion diving may be cribbed from Max Payne, but it's still fun to do. I enjoyed trying to get high scores in missions to unlock bonuses and health upgrades, and in spite of my states reservations, I like having to constantly switch up my weapons on the fly in order to meet the currents of combat. So that's that. Total Overdose is a flawed game with huge gaps missing, but the shooting gameplay is fun enough to justify some time spent with it.

Oh, yeah. Before I wrap up, the tone needs to be touched on a little bit. Total Overdose is what I'll call, "food racist." That is to say, there are no overt political messages being made, but some of the characters will just talk about how much they like tacos in the middle of conversations that are otherwise unrelated to tacos. You know... food racist. Like Punch Out, or Super Mario Bros. I'm not going to try to characterize this sort of thing as 'harmless' because, to be honest, I'm not fully educated on what sort of harm this kind of representation can have. I will say with confidence that the content is extremely not funny and works to the detriment of the intended Robert Rodriguez flavor.

Also I just realized while writing this that the aforementioned drug kingpin named Papa Muerte, who ordered the death of your character's father, never actually shows up in the game. Take that as a generalized statement about the game's storytelling abilities.

TL;DR

Total Overdose is a B-list pile from the old days that's surprisingly enjoyable in spite of its many obvious compromises and its baffling execution. It's also quite racist, but in a way that will probably just make you feel like an idiot if you try muster up any feelings about it.

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