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Total Overdose

'Tequila-fuelled' is how the accompanying blurb for Total Overdose describes this tongue-in-cheek, Mexican-themed action shooter. Unfortunately, that phrase only conjures up for me a particularly eventful night many years ago involving a house party, a scuffle with a well-known stand-up comedian, a painful fence-destroying garden-hop and the stealing of a kettle from a local school.

So, to soothe my aching conscience, I'm going to avoid any further mention of the evil slamming liquid, and concentrate on a recent showing of the game, now only a few months away from completion.

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CHICKEN TONIGHT
You can imagine Total Overdose to be a piņata full of gameplay treats from Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, Serious Sam and Tony Hawk's, smashed open by film-makers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. As ex-con Ernesto Cruz, ?you must track down the criminal underworld figures that killed your drugs cop father, and to help, you have access to over 20 weapons - some of which can be dual-wielded - including machine-guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, baseball bats and machetes.

As well as Mexican villages, the 20-odd levels in Total Overdose will feature Aztec temples, seedy inner cities and goon-stuffed warehouses. You dash around the destructible environments, as the auto-target reticule locks onto the enemies streaming towards you for instant satisfying blasting. Cruz is also able to drive numerous vehicles that involve equally explosive stunts, such as piling a truck headlong into an oil tanker.

While not exactly sophisticated, the action is intense, especially when you manage to chain different combos together (ā la Tony Hawk's) - a combo meter in the top-left hand corner handily ticks down between kills, showing you the time you have left to find another victim before the chain ends.

In one sequence, numerous gringos (and some rather unfortunate chickens) were hacked, beaten up, kicked and shot in seconds, as I marauded around a Mexican desert village - and you can actually clear whole levels like this in one giant combo of destruction.

However, you can also earn so-called 'Loco moves' with multiple kills - eight bullet-time slo-mo specials that include a bloody 360-degree machine-gun spin-around for taking out dozens of enemies, a move for guaranteed headshots, and another that summons up a Mexican skeleton (like Manny from Grim Fandango), an undead sidekick who fights alongside you.

CAN I GET A REWIND?
If the back-flipping, dual-wielding chaos does happen to catch up with you, and Cruz bites the dust, you do have another trick up your sleeve - Rewind. This is exactly like the feature in the Prince Of Persia titles, giving you the sneaky ability to rewind time just before you headbutted that grenade, and replay the action again - although obviously you do only get a limited supply.

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With a soundtrack that includes heavy rockers such as Control Machete and Molotov (come on, it'll make a change from Coldplay), Total Overdose is a Mexican platter of potentially very spicy flavours - slo-mo blasting, ultra-violence, stupid humour, filmic cut-scenes, sexy surprises and, er, guacamole. Will it stick a cactus up the backside of third-person action-adventures? If we can avoid the tequila, we might just be able to provide the answer...

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