Sprinting and sliding as an offensive strategy may seem out of place in a first-person shooter, but in Turbo Overkill, where you have a chainsaw for a leg, it’s the perfect way to introduce yourself to a room full of mutant baddies. I went hands-on with the action title, which combines the look and feel of classics such as Doom with some of the mechanics of modern hits like Titanfall.
It must have been a daunting task to try to create a fun and cohesive experience from video game influences spread across nearly three decades, but, as I discovered in my hands-on demo at PAX West, Developer Trigger Happy Interactive may have just done that with Turbo Overkill.
Turbo Overkill is an homage to the two founding titles of first-person shooters, Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Sam Prebble, one half of the two-person team at Trigger Happy Interactive and my guide through the demo, is perhaps best known for Total Chaos, a mod that converted Doom II into a gorgeous and original survival horror adventure.
That intimate knowledge of the classics is on full display in Turbo Overkill. Enemy-filed corridors, limitless storage for increasingly oversized weapons, key cards, health pickups — it’s all there. They even recreated that big pixel look of the era. Beautiful lighting effects and smooth action are the only giveaways that this game is being created in 2021 and not 1991.
The world of Turbo Overkill is a futuristic cyberpunk dystopia in a city subjugated by an out-of-control A.I. Your character, Johnny Turbo, is an imperfect amalgamation of flesh and machine. Johnny is a bounty hunter, hired to shut this A.I. down.
I went into my hands-on demo expecting the gameplay to match the retro visuals, and I could not have been more wrong. Movement was nothing short of explosive. In an instant, I was sprinting around the first level, double-jumping and wall-running like I was playing Titanfall. Enemies fell to my ridiculous arsenal of pistols, shotguns, and mini-guns. Each weapon has an alternate fire, turning a sawed-off shotgun into a grenade launcher and, in another clear Titanfall callback, allow the pistol to lock onto several targets before automatically firing perfect headshots.
The beginning of my playthrough was straightforward. Enemies were simple gun-toting goons. I was introduced to an arena shaped and styled like a skate park, with ramps and quarter pipes spread around. Jumps, wall runs, and slides all add to your speed and momentum. As your momentum increases, so does the damage of your chainsaw. In short order, I was careening around the arena, kiting my enemies like the pied piper until they were neatly lined up before turning them into my own crimson waterslide.
The movement feels like a natural evolution of the classic Doom formula. You still travel through corridors and arenas, but at high speed and with an incredible amount of verticality. Secrets and collectibles will give you some incentive to travel off of the beaten path, while-over-the-top enemies look for increasingly violent ways to cut your life short. Dodging and speeding around enemies is exhilarating, but it doesn’t compare to the absolute glee of cutting right through them as you activate a tactical slide, extending your chainsaw leg to turn rows of enemies into pink chunks.
One section I encountered had a large group of enemies all gathered around watching a stack of CRT monitors. A mini-gun sat behind them. A tap of the alternate fire button and that mini-gun became a high-powered flame thrower, perfect for barbecuing this squad of goons. As I pressed forward, the enemies started firing at me from all around at various elevations. The level became a three-dimensional bullet hell as I used my high-speed traversal to look for gaps in all the incoming attacks while I unloaded my arsenal on my adversaries. It was thrilling.
Later levels had me leaping across a series of boats, shooting armies of blade-armed cyborgs and massive hovering meatheads with mini-gun and buzzsaw hands. Enemies are aggressive and push to surround and kill you quickly. It was challenging, and I died a few times, but the tight, responsive controls made every encounter seem fair. Fast load times had me back in the action quickly, and each failed encounter felt like an action puzzle to overcome.
This was still an early build of the game, with quite a few features not yet ready to demo. The final release promises arm-mounted mini-rockets, grappling hooks, slow-motion “hero time,” upgrades, and an optional modifier to make the game harder or more over the top when it comes to PC, Switch, PS5, and Xbox in 2022.