Total Overdose review

If you want to get ahead, get a hat. And this game, says PSM2

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So, you've glanced at the score and you're thinking "What?! 90% for a shameless GTA rip-off? You've gone mad, PSM2. You sicken me to the core and I'm never buying your magazine again."

But do bear with us because we're going to tell you why Total Overdose is great and why you have to play it. No, really. We haven't been popping goofballs or anything. It really is that good.

Above all, it knows it's stupid. In fact it revels in it. Like a pig rolling around in its own poo.

For instance, what other game lets you run up a wall, do a 180 degree flip, smack someone over the face with a rake and then catch their hat on your head?

Or crash around a sunny cliff-top Hacienda in slow-motion battling bikini-clad babes with a sub-machine gun?

Or career through the Mexican border in an 18-wheeler truck, jumping out at the last second to cause the mother of all explosions? Or... well, you get the idea.

Now, the very fact that Total Overdose is so similar to San Andreas may invite snorts of derision from hardened GTA fanboys, but suspend your disbelief - the main story missions are, dare we say it, a bit better than those of Rockstar's crime epic.

They're less fractured and unreasonable and you never get frustrated, thanks to a supremely user-friendly 'rewind' system that lets you zip back in time instantly if you fudge something up.

You don't have to go through the rigmarole of loading save games, losing all your weapons or taking a taxi to the next mission - you just prod the D-pad and try again with a spot of extra health. A bit like Prince of Persia. Only in Mexico.

Between missions you've free reign of Los Toros, a dusty, crime-ridden Mexican city split into six areas, including an industrial zone, a port and a red light district full of grizzled ne'er-do-wells and hookers.

You get around either by foot or by stealing vehicles which range from station wagons and vans to sports cars and dirt bikes.

Hardly on par with San Andreas in that respect, and the handling is a bit jerky and simplistic, but it gets the job done. You spend more time flinging cars into things than driving them anyway.

The core of the game however is the Max Payne-style gunplay and combat. Squeeze L1 and you enter 'adrenaline mode' (bullet time, basically) which lets you dive around in slow-motion and perform acrobatics.

This is probably the least original thing imaginable, but it's done well and looks cool, which is all we care about.

Furthermore, hold the square button while you're locked-on to an enemy and a target closes in on their head. Tap fire just as it forms a circle between their eyes and, if you time it right, their head'll pop like a balloon, you'll get loads of points and an instant kill. It really does pay to practice.

Then there are the loco moves. Man, we love the loco moves. Kill enough bad guys in a row and you earn the ability to perform absolutely devastating special moves including 'El Mariachi' (obliterate everything in your path with a pair of guitar cases concealing chainguns), 'El Mysterioso' (summon a fat, bat-wielding Mejicano wrestler to distract enemies) and Golden Gun (instant head shots).

Then there's Tornado (spin around firing your twin uzis and watch in awe as the camera darts around showing you everything you've hit), 'Pinata' (enemies rush towards a bomb-rigged pinata and get, well, blown up) and finally, 'The Sombrero of Death' which calls upon the skills (and shotgun) of a scary man dressed in traditional Mexican 'Day of the Dead' garb to fight alongside you.

It veers dangerously into 'zany' territory, but it has so much style, panache and chutzpah that it ultimately comes across as more cool than anything else.

The music helps, being an inspired blend of Mexican hip-hop, rock and traditional trumpets-'n'-guitar stuff and the sunny, colourful visuals are just plain gorgeous.

So while developers try feverishly to butch their games up with gritty urban settings, sweary 'gangstas' and customised sports cars, Total Overdose gives us explosions, guns, swearing, mayhem and sombreros - and excels as a result.

It's not clever, it steals shamelessly from countless other games and it's more cliche-ridden than a James Blunt LP, but we don't care because it makes us smile. And what's more important than that?

Total Overdose is out for PS2, Xbox and PC now

More info

DescriptionWith sample dialogue like "Hey, pig face, it's time to go to pig heaven," you know the proceedings are pure queso.
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"","",""
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)