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Platform

PS2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Eidos

 

Developer

Deadline Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Sept. 27, 2005

 

 

- Shoot-outs can be fun in the beginning

- Graphics are acceptable

- Lots of different special attacks

 

 

- Combat gets old too quickly

- Many animation and physics problems

- Bad story

- Terrible AI

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas (PlayStation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PlayStation 2)

 

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Total Overdose

Score: 6.5/10

 

I'm not usually one to call one game a clone of another. I think it's somewhat disrespectful to the dedication that most developers pour into their titles. But I've also never seen a game that so blatantly tried to repackage the values of another, without disguise or innovation. In short, Total Overdose is a Grand Theft Auto clone in the purest sense. And not only do they take the mechanics and controls of the GTA series, but most of the features are poorly implemented and a few steps below their obvious inspiration. This is not to say the game doesn't have it's up points, but they are often out-shined by a deluge of strange enemy AI, incomplete physics implementation, a far-fetched story, and a host of other problems.

 

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The story focuses around the main character, Ram, who's twin brother is an agent in the DEA. His brother is deep undercover when he gets injured and doesn't want to risk his setup, so they (in an entirely believable fashion, of course) spring Ram from his life sentence in prison in order to take over his highly trained twins position undercover in the drug cartels. Not only that, but they tell him that because he isn't really a cop he doesn't have to play by their rules. While this is all a little strange it is passable as a story for a shooter/action game, at least in my books. I don't expect much story wise out of this type of title. All I need is some context for shooting everyone on the map, and I'm good; if you need more than that in your shooters than you'll be disappointed.

 

The reason that shooters don't need a solid story is of course that they are built on action. The shooting and combat should be so gripping that you don't even care about the plot holes until you're finished the game. Total Overdose uses what they have dubbed a stunt-based combat system. The main mechanic is essentially a copy of Max Payne's bullet-time but with a few more moves, very reminiscent of the Matrix. You'll run on walls, flip off of them while shooting baddies in mid-air, and just generally bounce around like a psychotic grasshopper while capping bad buys and defying physics. Even if it is something that we've seen more than half-a-dozen times before it is implemented well and stays fresh through most of the game. Combine this with Loco Moves where you can do a wide variety of things like Twister Kills, using the famous Golden Gun, or bust out the El Mariachi by loading guitar cases with some automatic weapons, and you have a pretty fun and varied combat system. But it has it's problems. First off, enemies seem to be able to shoot you from impossible angles, and on the rare occasion they'll shoot right through a wall and kill you. Unfortunately for Ram, his bullets don't seem to penetrate walls like his enemy's do. Less rarely an enemy will do something silly like crouch right in front of you and not shoot. They will courteously let you have the first shot, and sometimes even a bullet in the face doesn't get their attention. They will still crouch and wait for you to kill them completely without ever firing a shot in return. 

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In one memorable instance I shot an enemy in the chest, and he reacted by yawning and stretching his arms. Your opponents can shoot through the body of a car or truck to kill you, whereas your bullets will just bounce off. The actual combat AI is a joke, with all enemies adopting either a 'run and shoot' approach, or a 'stand and shoot' approach. None will hide, none will try to pick you off from hidden alcoves, and none will use any semblance of group tactics. The shoot-outs in 

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the game manage to be fun just in how frantic they are, but it's a real controller-tosser when you're having a good time and an enemy you didn't know was there offs you by shooting through a concrete wall.  

 

When outside of the missions you'll find yourself in the city of Los Toros. The city is divided into different sectors, and all-in-all is pretty large. The sectors themselves aren't that big though, and the loading times between all of them can be a drag. The good news is that the radar in the corner of your screen is almost exactly like Grand Theft Auto's, and you'll need it to help get around the city and find quests. The main issue with the city is its lifelessness. The buildings repeat frequently and there are only a few types of civilians, all of them male. There isn't a huge amount of variation in cars, either. Interesting to note is that when you steal a car you don't actually kick the driver out. They just stay there in the passenger seat while you trash their ride, and then when you get out they don't even move their car again. They just sit there in case and wait for you to come back and steal it from them once more. Unfortunately the one aspect of GTA this game doesn't attempt to copy is the radio stations, which is too bad because some tunes would have helped liven up the experience. In a similar vein to passengers not reacting when you steal their cars, if you shoot someone on the street the people around you don't run away or even seem to notice. They just go about their business like nothing happened. If you shoot enough people then some police might show up, though. On that rare occasion they actually just appear out of nowhere and start shooting at you without so much as a shouted warning. In other words, like most of the other content in this game it's a good idea that was only done half-assed.

 

The quests you get in Los Toros are just a smaller side pretext to why you're shooting people, and they don't vary much in content. An apt example is your early quest to shoot down drug dealers. You'll steal a car and drive a little bit, gun down some pushers, and then you'll move on to the next part of the story without so much as a reaction from the local police about the shoot-out happening in the middle of the streets.

 

If you need a diversion from the repetitive quests you'll find a few activities to catch your attention. There are numerous power-ups scattered over the city. Collecting enough of them can give you a permanent boost to either your health or adrenaline meters, or even allow you to dual-wield different types of guns. Added to these are some other wacky power-ups that will turn every citizen into a Mexican wrestler with a melee weapon that’s out to get you. The "Day of the Dead" pick-up will turn all of the civilians into skeletons with guns and put you in a position to eliminate as many 'dead' as possible. This is indicative of the quirkiness that pervades that entire Total Overdose experience, and leads me to believe that this could have been a much better game if more time had been spent on it. Also of note is the fact that generic '500 points' pick-ups are scattered all over the city to the point where it's almost funny. You literally can't avoid walking into these things, even if you aren't looking at them. In one roof-to-roof point chase I went on I followed a trail of more than ten-thousand points for about two minutes, without even having to think about where to go next. This isn't a bad thing at all, it's just that the over-abundance of points makes them seem unimportant and makes you not want to bother collecting them.

 

The graphics of the game are passable, but not great. There are too many animation problems to list but some examples are dead people floating in mid-air, and frequent clipping problems with arms, shoulders or guns sticking through walls or doors. Some other visual problems come from the poorly implemented physics engine. Sometimes you'll blow up the bottom box in a stack, and the ones on top will just float in the air. All the civilian and enemy models have a pretty low polygon count. I wish there were more to say in this department but it's pretty much just painfully average. Unfortunately, that almost stands out as a bright spot.

 

The audio of the game doesn’t fair much better than the rest of it. Most of the sounds are pretty limp and don't pack much punch, and some of them aren't timed correctly. The most glaring and annoying example of this is the jumping noise. When your character jumps there is quite a significant pause between him grunting and his actual jump. The soundtrack in the game is pretty sparse but what is there fits well. It's mostly rap with Mexican/Spanish themes in it. It never really seems out-of-place, and while it's not my kind of music I appreciate it being there to help kick things into gear when it actually plays.

 

In the end Total Overdose is not going to be in anyone’s top-ten games for this year. It probably won't even make most top-thirty or forty lists. In the avalanche of games that pours down on consumers every single holiday season you have to wonder why they would choose to release it now. To push an untested franchise out the door, when the game is full of problems, during the season when we get the most games, in a year where we'll be seeing a system launch, well, that's just silly. Another three or four months of bug-testing would have seen them in the clear from the holiday whirlwind and with a healthier game to show for it. If Total Overdose had come out at a time when there was little competition I might recommend it, but during this holiday season there will undoubtedly be much better things to spend your hard-earned dollars on.

 

Daniel Mathers

November 15, 2005

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