Let me say right out the door that boomer shooters are easily my favorite genre of game. Sure, they don’t have the visual prowess of modern AAA shooters, but the understanding of what makes shooters fun at their core is vibrant. New Blood’s ensemble of boomer shooters offers a nice filling, though other indies have managed to hit the spot lately with games like Prodeus (which I fell in love with during my Early Access review). The latest in that line of shooters is Turbo Overkill, coming from indie publisher Apogee Entertainment (Rise of the Triad, Crystal Caves HD) alongside developer Trigger Happy Interactive. But does this cybernetically-enhanced slaughter-fest give great first impressions? Find out in my review of the early access version of Turbo Overkill!
Turbo Overkill is currently only on PC, so the review was conducted through that platform.
An AI’s Quest for World Domination
Turbo Overkill follows the story of Johnny Turbo, a half-human, half-robot hybrid best known as a skilled gun for hire. Bought by an unknown executive, Johnny must descend on the city of Paradise and murder a horde of augmented minions, all run by the tyrannical AI Syn. Like any rogue AI in stories like these, Syn has an unquenching desire to bring an end to organic life and merge man and machine into the perfect being. Except that desire extends to the entire world, so much is at stake beyond a few simple cybernetic soldiers. Whether Johnny can take them down and save the human race is up to you.
While the story hasn’t gone too far just yet, given this is merely a third of what to expect, it’s surprisingly in-depth and engaging. Boomer shooters are infamous for being light on the story beyond the odd tidbit here and there to give meaning to your slaughter. Turbo Overkill, at least in my early access review, has given a background to both Johnny Turbo and the world surrounding him without feeling out of place or tiring. Cutscenes are present for that purpose, but they never feel drawn out or necessary to pay attention to. Though for those of us who enjoy a good story, it’s a nice touch.
It’s complemented by great satirical comedy, acting as a humorous take on much of our society and pre-conceived notions about the future while throwing in nods to other media as well. It feels akin to a futuristic Postal game in terms of humor but sticks the landing more often than not by comparison. I’d be lying if I said the idea of your chainsaw leg stalling and needing to be revved again didn’t get a chuckle out of me, and that’s just one of the many jokes the game throws at you.
If this is a sign of narrative beats we’ll see during the game’s second and third acts, then it wouldn’t surprise me to see Turbo Overkill be lauded as the strongest portrayal of a story in a boomer shooter. It takes effort to get its balance right, and Trigger Happy Interactive is proving more than capable.
Paradise Chainsaw (Leg) Massacre
Given this game is called Turbo Overkill, it’s a sin that I haven’t begun to touch on gameplay at all in this review. With the preliminaries out of the way, I’m happy to say that Turbo Overkill is already proving quite the pleasant surprise in combat with a few kinks that can be worked out during continued development. For the sake of being kind, though, let’s start with the good.
Turbo Overkill’s structure as a game takes the same form we see in games like Dusk, Amid Evil, and even the earlier Doom games in the episodic format. In case you’re new here (in which case, please play all the games I just listed), these games take a three-episode format with a handful of levels each. The early access portion gives us just the first of those episodes, though what’s there is surprisingly beefy. Where most of those games take around two hours per episode, Turbo Overkill has managed to double that length in the first episode alone without feeling too drawn out. They even did away with the save/load system while sprinkling checkpoints which act as a more modern touch.
But where it manages to truly shine is through the agility of combat, taking notes from Doom Eternal in making gameplay fast, and I mean very fast. Arguably boomer shooters bring about extreme speed in a way no other game does. Though Turbo Overkill saw that and said, “hold my beer” resulting in an exhilarating experience. When you get the flow of combat down and learn enemy spawns alongside the best weapon combos, it becomes a visceral rollercoaster ride. Flying through levels and turning everything into a red paste couldn’t be more fun, truly playing into its strengths.
You’re met with an equally versatile and upgradeable arsenal, fit with plenty of tools of the trade. Whether you want the Titanfall 2 smart pistol or a minigun that can transform into a powerful flamethrower, your options are vast. While the early game, unfortunately, doesn’t give you a ton of ammo to work with, once you’re past the first few levels, it imitates the best parts of games like Doom Eternal with weapon switching, ammo scavenging, and crushing enemies in a single slide.
All of this is wrapped together in a wonderfully diverse set of levels, each offering something unique alongside great visuals. While these levels don’t offer the extreme variety of Titanfall 2’s campaign, a game I consider a masterclass on level design, it does well in understanding how those games keep the level design fresh. Whether it be in individual arena design, verticality, or unique mechanics for specific levels, it knows how to keep players engaged and excelled in its opening hours. I’m scared about how much they could innovate on what’s already there, though I suppose that’s a good thing.
As said earlier in this early access review, a handful of rough edges could use fixing before Turbo Overkill’s full release. The first, and most importantly, is a revamp of the augment system. Currently, you earn currency from defeating enemies which can then be spent on augments you find the blueprint for. These can be attached to your limbs, which can augment Johnny’s abilities. The game offers plenty of augments to go about your slaughter, though these augments often don’t alter gameplay in meaningful ways. A few do, but when your strongest chainsaw leg augments just give health and armor, it doesn’t do enough.
My other issue will likely be considered controversial given the game’s style, and that’s to bring a melee weapon to the table. Before you get up in arms, I feel this could be implemented without taking away from the focus on ranged weapons. It would also help fill the niche of finding yourself close range without any good way to chainsaw slide. Perhaps through a cybernetically-enhanced katana that could be upgraded with interesting abilities. This is just food for thought, though.
Despite the few issues I have, Trigger Happy Interactive has done a fantastic job at ensuring there’s plenty in Turbo Overkill’s early access and ensuring, as my review puts it, that said content feels incredible. It’ll be great coming back once they push this game out to see just how much they shook up in development, and I hope to see my few kinks worked out. We’ll have to wait and see.
Cyberpunk Cityscapes at Their Finest
This being a cyber-centric game and all, Turbo Overkill takes its artistic roots from games such as Ghostrunner, Cyberpunk 2077, and others in style though in a lower resolution to match other games of its kind. The advertisement-filled grungy cyberspace feels inspired at times, but its retro style lends its own identity. Though with that being said, the lower resolution and vibrant lights can be difficult on the eyes. That’ll depend on the type of person you are at the end of the day though.
What I can say is great, no matter what though, is the visual effects. Guns sound powerful on their own, though the ability to turn enemies into showers of dark red pixels sells the power of each shot. It might sound tiring after a while, though something is refreshing about electrifying an opponent before turning them into a red paste. Despite the nature of vibrant colors being a central part of Turbo Overkill, it also does great at distinguishing slower-moving projectiles against the environment for a welcome clash.
The strongest part of Turbo Overkill’s early access presentation though comes in its soundtrack, bringing together two genres in a beautiful match for my review. Rather than sticking to a single genre of music, the game mashes together heavy metal and hard synth to produce a strong layer of background music for various battles. Take the track Halfmetal Hero, for example, which is an instrumental inclusion for a boss fight. Both composers Nikola Nikita Jeremic (Destiny 2, Cyberpunk 2077) and Gribblesnap (a new composer to the scene) did the game’s music justice, and I’m excited to see what they produce next.
Verdict: Turbo Overkill revels in the excessive nature of its world and combat to bring a unique feeling shooter off to a great start. With one of the strongest story premises we’ve seen of boomer shooters, a wonderful atmosphere, and fast-paced gameplay, there’s so much to love in what is a third of what we can expect. There are a few kinks the team needs to work out before pushing the game to its full release, though Turbo Overkill’s chainsaw of destruction proves it’s ready to take the boomer shooter genre by storm.
- Surprisingly good story premise
- Great satirical humor
- Nice innovations on the "episodic" boomer shooter format
- Beefy amount of content for early access
- Extreme speed works great in tandem with weapons
- Plenty of weapon options available
- Stellar level design
- Nice retro visuals
- Good weapon sounds
- A great blend of metal and synth tracks
- Could use a melee weapon of some sort
- Augment system needs a full revamp
- Some locations are a tad hard on the eyes