Review by berserkkenshin
"What if Robert Rodriguez created a videogame?"
Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico is a game that takes some of the best and worst elements of gaming and smashes them together in one package. While it shows that it is inspired by some of the industry's best games, it also sets itself apart as a stand alone title. I personally enjoy this game very much, but some haven't so take my review as you will.
The story revolves around three members of the Cruz family, Ramiro (Ram), Tommy, and their father. When you begin you play for a short time as Ram's father and learn a brief history of the Cruz family and you are set up for the rest of the story. The story plays out like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, lots of gunfights, but not much substance (if you were a huge fan of the movie, I'm sorry, but I feel Desperado was much better). You play as Ram and take over as an undercover agent when your bro Tommy is injured from a grenade. From there the story unfolds as you try to infiltrate the drug-dealing underworld of Mexico and come closer to finding out what happened to your father and the connection with Papa Muerte. The story isn't going to win any awards for originality, but it is easy to follow.
Like my other reviews, I'm going to divide this into three parts: combat, side missions, and the rest of your life.
There is a reason they call this game Total Overdose and that reason is because you are constantly fighting enemies whether you are going one on one in a small hallway or if you are going one on twelve in an area. If you have ever seen the over-the-top shooting/gunfights of the El Mariachi trilogy, then you will know how combat works. Ram has about 15 weapons (an estimate, but not that far off) that he can choose from ranging from bats, pistols and shotguns to rifles, grenades, and bazookas. You are constantly picking up ammo from your fallen opponents so you won't ever truly run out of weapons to use. If you do, you can always melee someone get their weapon and try to take them out.
Ram uses an adrenaline meter which fills and depletes when you use your "shoot dodge" move. With this activated, you go into a bullet-time view ala Max Payne. You can then 1. target people for head-shots, 2. target explosive barrels for multi-kills, or 3. perform stunts (about 60 different moves) and just waste ammo on your enemies. Use this too much and you will find yourself on the short end of a stick waiting for it to recharge. However, the game isn't that hard so you won't die with one shot or anything like that.
Ram also earns power-ups from doing combo kills that can be used to help him in a crunch. There are 7 loco moves that Ram can perform that help him out if he's in trouble. Surrounded by enemies with no means of escape? Use the tornado move and take out people with a couple of Uzi's 360 style. Low on ammo and wanting to take out a few people, try the Golden Gun move for head shot kills. Just feel like shooting up a line of enemies running towards you? Use the El Mariachi move and you will receive two guitar cases full of ammo to use machine gun style and take out your foes. There are more loco moves which really you have to see to believe, but again they are just as over-the-top as the ones I listed.
Side Missions: 7/10
The side missions in this game are both a nice distraction and somewhat required in order for you to advance. Like my review of Ultimate Spider-man, there are three sides: Combat tours, races, and extra.
The combat tours are actually quite fun as you might have to do certain stunts in a time limit or recover items. Either way, you want to get as high of a score as possible as the rewards for completing this include power-ups for weapons (more ammo/unlimited ammo) and health and adrenaline upgrades. These tours aren't that difficult and they at least allow you the opportunity to sharpen your skills.
The racing missions are a mixed bag as car physics in this game are difficult to control. The racing missions are given an extra degree of difficulty because of the map. Whoever thought it was a smart idea to give the map a radar feel and not include streets should be slapped in the back of the head. Some racing missions will require you to just follow arrows to the next point and go through bubbles. Not difficult at all and easy to finish. Others will require you to hit points in any order in order to finish. Mostly difficult as you will often have to figure out which route is best for your to accomplish the mission and will involve trying the mission over and over again. The worst part, you have to go through a loading screen each time so after you fail the mission, you will have to wait about 15 seconds for the race to start again. However, the incentive is to get a high score to unlock more stuff. There are only about 10 or so generic cars so don't expect much out of them.
The rest of your life will involve collecting points that float in the air, on buildings, etc. When you reach a certain amount of points in the game, you are awarded bonuses which increase health, give new guns, increase stamina, and give you unlimited ammo. Furthermore, you can touch red flaming skulls to unleash the "Day of the Dead" mini-game where you kill as many citizens who are shooting at you in skeleton costumes. This is a great way to get extra ammo and acts as a nice diversion. The other mini-game is where you touch a fist and you get dressed as a Mexican wrestler, yes you read that right, a Mexican wrestler. Now you would think you would have to wrestle someone, but the truth is, you just beat down your opponent, take their weapon and repeat on another opponent. Not as fun as the Day of the Dead, but again a nice diversion.
The audio in this game is excellent! The sounds of guns aren't super realistic, but they do have their own sound for each shot fired. Where this game truly shines is in the soundtrack. I swear I have had the opening theme running in my head for the past three days. The music only seems to kick in when you have accumulated combos so it adds to the atmosphere, but there are some tracks thrown in along the way during missions. Other than that, pure silence when driving around (with the exception of "La Cucaracha" playing when someone honks their horn).
The voice actors are also a mixed bag. Some of them are really good, others you want to strangle. For instance, Angel's voice actor sounds like she really got into the part, but Ram's felt like he was really bored and knew that the dialogue was going to be cheesy so he made it worse.
Okay, I'm not really one who obsesses over graphics, but this is more for those who look at this. The graphics are on par with GTA III. Nothing flashy, simple textures, but very little slowdown if ever (this may have happened once). The city is divided into sections and you will experience load times to get to them. Nothing too bad, but you wonder why they couldn't make the whole city just one big city. The interesting thing is that there are some animations for gore. For example, if someone is near a wall and you shoot their head, there will be a blood spot on the wall and any bullet holes that were formed. One step up from that is that if you shoot someone really close with a shotgun multiple times, you will cause their body to explode and you see bones fly. A nice touch.
Rent or buy: I would say that it depends. Now I give this game an 8/10, but I'm sure there are others who think I'm crazy. This game is mostly for those who love 1. the El Mariachi trilogy, 2. over-the-top gameplay, and 3. anything related to Mexico. If you can rent it, I highly suggest doing so because you may feel that the gameplay gets repetitive, but if you loved GTA's gameplay (get a job from someone, take care of it, go back to said person, repeat), Max Payne's bullet time, and just random events that cause big explosions, then you will love this game. For $40 you really are getting a great game and your money's worth. It doesn't have the high quality of a $50 title, but it also doesn't suck like a $20 title (with the exception of Sega's 2K series which is just awesome). It seems to blend the best elements of some of the greatest open-ended games and brings in some of the worst elements as well. Though I'm pretty sure this was just a way for the company to test the waters and when they see this game sell, they will up the budget and create a true masterpiece.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/04/05
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