Those Alien Scum Won't Shoot Up This Ride
Turbo Overkill is one of those titles that is hard to define its genre, simply because its inspirations are vast and rich. It has the intensity of Doom and Shadow Warrior, the cyberpunk aesthetics from Cyberpunk 2077, jumping and gunplay like Quake, and that's just from the first level. Even our protagonist's name, Johnny Turbo, is up there with the Duke and Serious Sam as "badass" names to shoot minions by. Turbo Overkill's premise is very simple. Mr. Turbo is tasked to save his city, Paradise, from a rising cult whose mastermind is a floating eyeball A.I named Syn.
Everything the player needs to know about what awaits them is within the first 30 seconds. Turbo's friendly AI gives him their task, in which Turbo leaps off a bridge and lands chainsaw feet first onto a hapless thug's body. Brandishing dual pistols, Turbo is greeted by several goons and the gunfights begin. There's no native controller support at the time of this review but it's something that has been acknowledged and will be "tweaked" upon the release date
Keyboard and mouse feel the most natural with Turbo Overkill's gunplay as hair-triggering reflexes are needed for the onslaught that awaits the player. Aside from the classic WASD movement, the left shift button allows Turbo to dash (Turbo Dash...) on the ground and up to two times in the air. Left CTRL is Turbo's melee where he brandishes a chainsaw from his boot, giving Chainsaw Man a run for his money. While moving, the button also serves as a slide, assuming a low profile and going through hidden areas.
Hail To The King, Baby
I'm playing through this game under the "Hard" difficulty and by Stage 4, it felt like the most optimal difficulty. It's in the middle of the five given difficulties, ranging from "Easy" to this game's equivalent of "Nightmare" difficulty. The freedom of movement Turbo Overkill provides makes ambushes easy to manage as you have to be standing still in order to die a quick death. The game encourages Turbo to move constantly while lining up enemies to mow them down in a hail of bullets. Occasionally, there are enemies larger and stronger than the run-of-the-mill goon. While these enemies hit harder, these fights are where the gameplay really gets a chance to shine.
This is because each gun in the game has a unique feel while having distinct strengths and weaknesses to make them stand out. The starting pistols are the "jack-of-all-trades" weapons in Turbo Overkill. They have a medium rate of fire, decent accuracy, and deal solid damage. The pistol's alt-fire function allows Turbo to charge one of the pistols, locking on to as many enemies in place, and fires a homing beam at each of them.
Not Exactly A Bald Headed Space Marine
Think of this feature similar to the shooting mechanic in Rez or Panzer Dragoon, although the player has to keep a line of sight as the beams fire from the pistols. If the line of sight breaks, the beams will have a chance to miss, but over-exposure can lead to a hail of enemy bullets. This is the risk-reward that prevents the Pistol from being an auto-target cheat code. It's great for fending off aggressive targets as you can kite them along in a circle while making sure your beam bullet strikes true.
As the levels progress, the player will unlock access to a pump-action shotgun, dual machine guns, and a sawed-off shotgun to name a few. Around the second half of the episode, bigger toys including a minigun that doubles as a flamethrower and a rocket launcher are also introduced.
The Vehicular Combat Offers A Nice Change Of Pace
Aside from the various firearms, players will come across permanent upgrades to Turbo. Turbo Overkill goes full Ghostrunner mode once the player unlocks the ability to run on walls. He can also shoot mini rockets from out his fingers, an augment I'm sure V from Cyberpunk 2077 would love to have.
The pump-action shotgun's alt-fire fires an electric dome that destroys weaker enemies caught in the blast. It can be charged up to three times, spending a total of nine shotgun shells. When at max level, the blast will stun certain larger enemies in place, in which the player can switch to another gun and finish them off. A common theme with each gun's alt-fire is that there's a cooldown period before the gun can be fired again. This is alleviated with a simple trick that Doom players are all too familiar with, weapon switching.
Pressing the "R" button, the player can switch between the previous and current weapons used. Since there is no reloading required, doing so will decrease the delay in which certain weapons can fire again. While this is useful for keeping up the offense while a primary weapon is under cooldown, this makes weapons with a slow rate of fire blistering fast. The sawed-off shotgun is by far my favorite weapon in Turbo Overkill for this very reason plus many more. Of the guns featured in the beginning, the sawed-off deals the highest damage yet "reload" shells after every shot.
Bedknobs And Boomsticks
By weapon switching, the animation cancels and the player can immediately fire once again. The method goes as follows; Shoot once, tap R twice, and shoot again. It's a bit tricky to get the rhythm down but once it's set in place, the sawed-off shotgun becomes a high rate firing machine. Larger enemies that would rip me to shreds can be kited this way, eliminating the threat before it starts. This concept has been around just as long as "bunnyhopping," which is also included in this game. While this is no doubt a powerful method, it would be even crazier if the devs added a way to snipe with a sawed-off shotgun as well, right? Well, you wouldn't believe what the alt-fire function is.
Rather than firing shells, the sawed-off shotgun becomes a sawed-off grenade launcher, lobbing grenades at enemies from a pretty far distance. They deal quite a bit of direct and splash damage, as well as having the added benefit of sticking to an enemy should it land a direct hit. If there was an alt-fire upgrade to purchase immediately, it would be this one. This shotgun can literally do it all and it's only held back by its limited ammo supply. Thankfully, Turbo Overkill not only throws ammo at the player, but the alt-fire grenades don't use shotgun ammo. It's simply on a cooldown, like the pistol's alt-fire capabilities. It's insane and it fits with the chaos this game provides.
There's More Than One Way To Skin A Thug
The dual machine guns have the second-highest firing rate, losing only to the minigun, but excel in accuracy over damage when compared together. The accuracy increases tremendously with the alt-fire function, dropping one of the machine guns in favor of a single one. While a single machine gun will do less damage with a lower rate of fire, it increases the accuracy and lowers recoil over long distances. It essentially turns a dual-wielding Uzi combination into a mini-assault rifle, like going from Tracer to Soldier 76. This has its uses when enemies are far away from the player or shooting above them, as players will need to point in the general direction for the magic to happen.
Speaking of the minigun, it shreds through enemies like a lawnmower but it's a tad difficult to control outside of mid-range. With a press of the button, once the upgrade is unlocked, it turns into a flamethrower that razes enemies in its path. This is the best way to deal with a large crowd if you want to watch a spectacle unfold. Even though I still swear by the sawed-off, there are far too many toys in Turbo Overkill not to play with.
Turbo Overkill Requires Precision Jumping And Shooting
The enemies themselves can become overwhelming, swarming the player in waves as they enter a room for the first time. For the rooms just before the end of a level, these intensify to the "finale" where the player has to survive waves as they are locked in a room. Many arena shooters have this formula, but it reminds me more of Serious Sam because of the enemy types. While there are unique enemies ranging from beefy shotgun users, drones, and these creepy minion dudes. I don't know the name of the enemy types, but these little guys come in droves, swarming to the player's location and ripping them to shreds if they are too slow. They are fun to kill, much like the screaming headless bombers in Serious Sam, but they are equally as annoying.
In the later levels, the enemies go from easy and less in volume to rooms piled with threats. I replayed the first level to collect the tapes and chips I missed, only to realize how quick it was to clear. It's truly the "E1M1" of Turbo Overkill. Like classic and modern DOOM, there are hidden secrets players must find to unlock secrets in the game. There are three cassette tapes and three computer chips on each level. Collecting three tapes will unlock a bonus level and collecting three chips will unlock a "cheat." For the latter, these modify the game in some capacity, usually based on humorous effects from the 90s. Can't be a retro-inspired title without a Big Head Mode, right?
There Are Many Secrets To Explore And The Rewards Are Promising
Unfortunately, half of the chips will remain a secret to me until April 22nd, so for the later levels I'll find out around the same time as everyone else what secrets this game holds. That's the cool bit, although there are only eight levels so far, we are promised at least sixteen more. Much like the classic shooters of the past, the game is split into "Episodes." The first episode, featured in this build and in Early Access, contains the game's first eight levels. The second and third episodes will be released at a later time, but if this much content is in Episode 1, I can imagine how crazy the later episodes will be.
One of the things I feel the developers should tweak is the hitbox detection for powerups. There are power-ups in this game in the form of bonus health, armor, and beneficial status effects. The latter are only accessible in certain parts of a map, but it's usually when the game demands the most from the player. There's one section during one of those "finale" sections where a power-up that increases movement speed and firing rate is perched on a balcony. The player will need to use a jump pad to land on the balcony, grab the power-up, and mow down the enemies that bar my path.
Glitches Aside, Turbo Overkill Is A Fun Ride
The problem here is that the player has to be pretty darn close to the power-up to grab it. This wouldn't be a problem if the jump pad made it easy for the player to overshoot their jump. If the power-up's hitbox was extended just a bit vertically, the player could pick up the item without having to try again and again. Most of my deaths in this section came from getting shot at while trying to do this simple thing. At a later level, collecting an airborne chip left me in the same predicament. Again, the fix is simple so it doesn't break the game, but it's something to be mindful.
There are some other glitches that I've come across, including enemies despawning at random. This would happen sometimes after death, which I found peculiar at first. Of course, I thought nothing of it and actually took it as a blessing since it allowed me to get past a spot I had trouble with. On a later level, this happened yet again and it would be my undoing. There was a jump pad that would only activate if the surrounding enemies were defeated. Since there were no enemies to kill, the pad remained inactive, meaning I had to restart the level. Fortunately, this was at the beginning of the level, but it made me cautious about dying in the future.
To Be Continued...
What am I saying? I died at least 20 times after that. And that's a good thing. Turbo Overkill pummels the player into submission after lulling them into a false sense of security the first few levels. By the end of the sixth level, I wasn't sure if I completed one level or five-in-one. There were sections that required equal amounts of platforming skills as shooting skills. I was thankful I realized how to weapon switch and bunnyhop, otherwise I would have spent twice as long getting slaughtered.
Eventually, I did clear all seven levels in the review build, as the coveted eighth level taunted me ahead of time. I'll stick to my variety of guns and my chainsaw leg. The Hard difficulty is Turbo Overkill's best middle ground. It's not too difficult yet not too much of a breeze. It's spicy, but a mild alluring spice that makes you want to devour more.
I hadn't mentioned much of the story outside of the beginning of this review because lets be honest, this isn't what you're here for. Fans of shooters that allow you to jump, dash, and slide through enemies unhinged and without pause in goblets of blood will enjoy Turbo Overkill. I cannot wait to see what Trigger Happy Interactive does with this title in the future as well as the thrilling conclusion to the first Episode.
Turbo Overkill launches in Early Access via Steam, on April 22nd.