If there’s anything I kinda miss about gaming these days, is the sense of people copycatting ideas from other games because they became a breakout success. Sonic the Hedgehog was popular, so here’s a bunch of platformers of characters with some ‘tude. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater rejuvenated a fading extreme sports genre and had a few copycats throughout the 2000s.
But the biggest was around 2001, when two major franchises released that would shift the balance towards what games were for the first half of the decade: Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne. GTAIII was a free-roaming open world game that was actually critically acclaimed. Its success suddenly had many games pivot to making GTA clones or even open worlds to drive around in an otherwise linear action game. Likewise with Max Payne‘s release, a fair share of games started taking the bullet time shooting mechanic as well, though not as big.
Now most of these copycats are perfectly fine, solid game, but they rarely stood out unless they had some kind of gimmick attached to them. One game in particular decided to copy both of those games together, with a pinch of Mexican cinema pastiche for flavor.
Total Overdose: A Gunslinger’s Tale in Mexico is a game definitely in that Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne mold, but with a little Latin flavor. Developed by Deadline Games, a Denmark development studio mostly known for adventure games, this game has them trying to make something previously unknown to them: the third-person shooter meets open-world sandbox.
The game starts in 1989-era Mexico as DEA agent Ernesto Cruz tries to find Papa Muerte, a major drug kingpin. While shooting his way through a Mayan jungle, Ernesto makes his escape on a plane before forcibly being removed from it. The death was reported as a drug overdose.
Cut to a few years later, when Ernesto’s son Tommy, who’s also a DEA agent, tries to figure out the mystery of his father’s death, where he goes undercover working for some drug cartels. But an unfortunate incident at a gas station leads to him being stuck in a wheelchair and being strictly reconnaissance for the time being.
Enter Ram Cruz: Tommy’s delinquent brother who helps him out by doing missions for the DEA in exchange for his freedom. While Tommy is kind and supportive, Ram is a massive dickhead at the start. This doesn’t last for long, though, as he eventually sheds a lot of that attitude for a more casual personality towards the end.
Total Overdose starts like a conventional mid-2000s shooter for the time. WASD moves, left mouse button shoots. Since this is taking a page from the Max Payne playbook, hitting the shootdodge key – Spacebar by default – Ram can dodge and shoot enemies for bonus points. Holding right mouse button gives a more precision headshot that can be a one-hit KO if timed correctly. There’s other little tricks Ram can do, including climbing up walls and rappelling down wires while shooting, giving that sense of style that Max Payne refined just a couple years earlier.