We'd only said 'hello', but it seems the marketing justification for Total Overdose is already in full swing: "It's definitely not GTA. We prefer to think it's closer in spirit to the Tony Hawk's games." So we're absolutely, positively not going to compare this like for like with any GTA game. Much.
In truth, it's hard not to. There are the plentiful GTA carjackings. And there are the GTA-style cityscapes implausibly filled with car stunt ramps. And over there are all the impromptu kill-a-thon bonus missions. And to your left are all the thumping real-world tunes. And behind those boxes is the morally dubious attitude to extreme ultra-violence. Eidos might be saying this isn't GTA, but the parallels are impossible to ignore - it's like TO is a tribute band to GTA's headline act. You can see how the developer has tried to remove anything too GTA-like as it went along - the variations in cars are way down, the sizes of each city area feel far smaller, no in-car radio stations, there's far less for you to do in the city (no non-mission 'life' stuff) - the idea being to distance itself from GTA at every stage.
Unfortunately, it doesn't quite come off that way. Instead you constantly feel as though you're merely playing a cut-down version of GTA, regardless of the developer's intention. The feel of the game constantly gives you that urge to go off exploring midmissions, but the limitations in size and variety ultimately make it feel something of a wasted effort.
Still, it's undeniably fun. At absolutely no point does Total Overdose take itself even remotely seriously. And unlike GTA, combat is actually half decent, thanks mostly to the Max Payne-style agility and slo-mo moves. Shoot bad guys in the head while doing cartwheels off the wall. Dive left, right, forwards and back while aiming for headshots and stringing multiple kills together for bonus rewards. Run up to someone and nick their hat, just because you can, then run away before they get too mad. Or for no discernible plot-based reason, suddenly turn into a giant Mexican wrestler and start twatting other masked tubbos about the head with a giant bat. Which is also more fun than it sounds.
The silliness extends to your special 'Loco' moves, earned through amassing multiple body counts and/or collecting tokens hidden throughout the city. El Mariachi machine-gun guitar cases, whirling 'tornado' spins of death, exploderising piņatas and the truly bizarre Sombrero Of Death are just some of the options to play around with.
At times it can feel relentless. The sheer volume of guns and ammo open to you, and the madcap pace combined with your Olympian-level agility, make it near impossible to actually die (and for those times when you're not quick enough, a handy 'rewind' function lets you turn back the clock about ten seconds to have another crack). Which means TO just keeps throwing wave after wave of angry stereotypes at you in place of actual enemy AI.
But mostly the frantic pace of the mayhem, the knowing daftness of the situations and the story, the energy with which everything is presented and even the cartoon style - well, it all grows on you. Certainly it's helped by interspersing the free-form action with the self-contained story arc missions, providing much needed expansion from the limiting confines of the city areas.
As much as Total Overdose wants to distance itself from the GTA canon, the fact that GTA exists means it will always be held up unfavourably in comparison. But on its own merits, TO is brash, energetic, none too taxing and more than capable of providing some solid midtable entertainment, while GTA and the like get on with battling it out at the top of the tree. It's the Tottenham Hotspur of gaming, if you will - always going to be on hand to provide some light-hearted comic relief, but never likely to put up a serious challenge to the bigger boys. While wearing a big novelty sombrero.
We like eet, ees silly
- The combat moves work a treat
- Free-form city
- Comes off badly next to GTA
- Not masses of variety