This is exactly the kind of action that you would want to find south of the border - if you were an incredibly talented serial killer fuelled by revenge. Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico is an uber-violent game in the tradition of Max Payne but much more open and colorful since it takes place mostly outdoors in rural and urban Mexico as opposed to dreary abandoned hotels, warehouses and subway tunnels.

Total Overdose does tend to overdo it at time with a super-hero, super-human gunfighter kid that has more moves than a regular comic book hero. But since we get to play as this kid, Ram, it's not such a bad thing. He's got a lot of over-the-top moves which are like mom's fine China in that you only bring them out on special occasions - like when the boss comes over to kill you. It's quite possible to get through the majority of the game with ordinary moves but you're still going to have to learn how to handle a small arsenal of weapons.

Mexico is the perfect setting for this action-based game that involves various drug cartels and their war lords. A young and obviously talented gunslinger is out to avenge the death of their father who worked for the DEA and was apparently murdered in the line of duty by being administered an overdose. The streets are gritty and marvelously tacky, decorated in gaudy primary colors while the bad guys are typically fat, greasy bastards that are just begging to be shot at.

Killing the bad guys is very satisfying. The blood flows and the screams of agony fill the air, although they are somewhat muffled by the sounds of dual Uzis. One incredible move is called the Tornado and is the perfect solution to clearing a path through a gang of enemies. You launch yourself into the air and proceed to twist around like a tornado while unloading your Uzis in all directions. Other moves like black flips, cartwheels, head butts and wall jumps can also be accessed - it's a little bit like driving a stunt car. There are plenty of chains and combos to make which will increase your score substantially.

One move that you will use more than most is the Max Payne-inspired bullet time move that slows down everything onscreen but you, allowing you to unload a ton of led into various enemies before they even hit the ground. The El Mariachi is a weapon-based move that involves two guitar cases filled with chainguns and tons of ammo. It's even effective against bosses.

Handguns, shotguns and even rocket launchers are at your disposal. They do a lot of damage and you'll be able to do even more damage if you unlock dual weapons. The targeting system is accurate and it feels organic, not like some lock-on systems that do most of the work for you while you just button mash.

Gun fighting is the best part of Total Overdose but too much of a good thing can get boring so you can expect some other elements to take up the slack. Exploring will give you some breathing room and let you experience the varied Mexican environments while searching for power-ups and other unlockables while the story unfolds. Often you'll have to go out of your way to get these power-ups as they may be located at the top of buildings in which case you'll have to zip line your way from rooftop to rooftop like Spider-Man.

The storyline is forced upon you in a linear fashion but there are some side-quests that you can take that have nothing to do with the story but could enhance your inventory and upgrade your skills. It also lets you break from the rigid, linear path to have a little bit of fun on your own.

Presented like a movie, Total Overdose employs semi-realistic graphics with a hint of cartoon, not unlike the Grand Theft Auto series. In fact you'll find a lot of similarities to Grand Theft Auto including the ability to drive vehicles but they are very sloppy to control and not much fun. Thankfully they don't dominate the gameplay. The violence is graphic - and the graphics are violent. There's lots of blood and bodies so make sure the kids don't get a hold of this one. The voiceacting is professionally done and the music, although there is a lot of hip-hop which isn't my favorite by any stretch, manages to marry itself to the game perfectly.

Total Overdose is a darn good adventure and one that should be taken by every serious gamer. It may not take the place of any Grand Theft Auto game but it could certainly hold its own against Max Payne.

System: Xbox (shown), PS2, GC
Dev: Deadline
Pub: sCi Ent.
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole