Version tested: PlayStation 2
Friend o' mine used to signal she'd eaten too much by saying, "I've got to go lie on my tummy." Cute. Eidos: go lie on your tummies. Total Overdose has definitely eaten too many games. It's got bits of all sorts. Mainly Grand Theft Auto, which it mimics with amusingly awful results, but also Prince of Persia (Let's rewind time!), Max Payne (Let's slow down time and jump around!), Tony Hawk (Let's get missions from blokes on street corners!), and even Bad Boys II (Look! Another room full of generic gun-toting foreigners! Let's be racist about them!).
That last bit is really quite silly. Apparently it's fine for the unsympathetic cocksure numbskull you play as to wander around Mexico saying things like, "Shut up and stop breathing chilli in my face," and "Hey! If you marry your sister, are you your own kid's uncle? I can't figure it out!" Hey! If you put things like that in your game, is it racist? I can't figure it out!
Having supped on too many games and chucked around lots of casual racism like it's funny, Total Overdose then pulls one of its wacky power-ups out of the bag - the one where you charge uncontrollably around headbutting people like a bull - and smashes its way through the nearest bargain bin in search of other PS2 staples like poorly detailed textures, identikit character models and lots of really transparent game mechanics. "You just picked up EXTRA POINTS. They will be added to your GLOBAL score. Increase your GLOBAL score to win BONUS AWARDS!"
It's a total mishmash of ideas, and they flood out of its pea-sized brain like it probably thinks the dirty foreigners flood over its precious borders. In the first 15 minutes I zip-lined, shot and then flew my dead father to his death, took over my twin brother and broke his leg, turned out to be the black sheep of the family and learned around 20 specific game mechanics one by one, and got to free-roam around US/Mexican border towns while being told about a billion different icons and points I could build up.
I should hate this really. It's all a bit wrong. Yet, bizarrely, I can't stop playing it. I will present the reason in the form of a geeky joke. Don't worry if you don't get it. Here goes. When is a ramp not a ramp? When the game logic doesn't say it is.
The reason Total Overdose kind of works on me is that it's so stupid that sometimes it's stupidly funny. Roam around the actually quite small and load-time-ridden areas of the game and you can uncover literally hours of amusement helping it to cock up in creative fashion. One of my favourite early adventures I've dubbed Car Juggle. You stand in the really GTA-esque road and wait for one of the really GTA-esque cars to stop, really GTA-esque, just in front of you. You then fire your gun, really GTA-esque (getting this bit yet? Good, I'll stop) into its bonnet and it suddenly goes to race off - directly at you. You will be struck and bounced about 10 feet ahead of it. It will continue to drive at you and with each collision you'll be tossed back up in the air. If you try you can keep juggling yourself for quite a while and - with a modicum of control over your trajectory and car logic that demands they veer onto any given side-road - there's a bit of a challenge to it. My record's now eight juggles, but you usually die around the fourth or fifth unless you've got upgraded health. If you stock up on the one-use Prince of Persia rewind power-ups you can just keep trying it.
The game's full of stupid things like this that make you laugh. You're supposed to have fun by finding (okay one more) really GTA-esque ramps and doing jumps off them, but - and here's where my ramp gag comes in - you can seemingly only do this on prescribed ramps, which aren't so much hidden as bloody everywhere. This isn't a proper physical 3D world like GTA's - if you race up to an angled surface you don't jump off it; you get stopped and your car shudders violently against the incline. Or maybe the back end gets bounced up in the air and you can grind along the wall with your arse inexplicably ten feet off the ground. Brilliant!
When you hit a proper ramp, you fly off it, it cuts to a third-person slow motion camera angle and you then fly through the air. I've seen that before SOMEWHERE. You can go up ramps at weird angles and find yourself propelled off them like it's a fast-moving conveyor belt; and when you land you can probably jam your car in the pavement so the camera shoots through a nearby wall; and you can hit the lamp-posts, but watch out for the yellow ones which are indestructible. It's like Grand Theft Auto designed by the guys who did SOLDNER.
When you're done laughing at the bugs... Actually, I'm not done laughing at them yet. You see hats and heads suspended in the air; you can shoot a guy who's sitting in the cab of a truck until he dies, then for some reason his chest lurches forward like he's had a nasty turn with a xenomorph and he shakes his way violently through the shattered windscreen; the oft-gun-toting general populace flee your campaign of violence by running into walls, falling over, lying there a bit, getting up, leaning casually against the wall, then falling over again, etc. That's if they're not too busy leaping in front of your car and getting knocked miles into the air like bowling pins.
But when you're done laughing at all of that, and it takes a while, you've got the things that game actually intended to play around with, and some of them are genuinely fun and amusing. The running-up-walls and leaping-around-in-slow-mo stuff is okay, but being able to headshot someone and then run under his sombrero as it flutters to the ground and claim it for your own is actually amusing; the random (sigh) really GTA-esque side missions that involve killing men dressed as zombies or wrestlers are passable; the power-ups that give you twin guitar case machineguns are nuts; and the constant points-gathering is actually mildly addictive. On top of that, you can do the story missions. You'll have to suffer the characters, but you'll get to blow lots of things up. Lots of things. And you'll get to shoot people in creative fashion.
It's not particularly funny by design ("You sound like my old girlfriend..." ... YEAH! That showed HIM!), but you get to laugh at it and in spite of it often enough for it to be fun, and its unpredictability is practically arresting. Shockingly, it even does a couple of things that the GTA chaps could learn from instead of suing over - the time-rewind feature, regular save points during story missions, and ability to load missions directly from the pause menu, are good things, as is the ability to pick up guns, health packs and the like just by running over them. You also strafe by default instead of squirreling like Carl Johnson, and you auto-target properly. That works.
See, Total Overdose is unmistakably game, largely thanks to running around a press release archive with its mouth wide open, and won't exactly win any design awards (although, saying that, Big Mutha Truckers did so who bloody knows), and we probably shouldn't encourage them by buying it, but if you happened to be sitting at home one evening, bored off your tits, and feel like lying on your tummy with a stupid grin splattered across your face, you could probably do worse than to rent it out - even if it is basically that "Kill all the Haitians" line from Vice City done up as an entire game. Totally.
6 / 10