In 1987, The Evil Dead 2 introduced the chainsaw arm. Now, 35 years later – almost my whole life – it chainsaw legs is here finally and I’m glad to say it was worth the wait.
I did not know that one of my legs was a chainsaw in Turbo Overkill until I reached the instructions for the leg chain saw, so it came as a nice surprise. You use it by sliding against enemies on the ground, the chainsaw stretched out, like a baseball player sliding into a base. Aside from that, imagine that these baseball players can somehow slip all the way from one base to the next. That’s the reach of the roller coaster. The ability is introduced in an indoor skate park so you can practice hitting slopes for speed, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be to Turbo Overkill – about two minutes into the game.
Turbo Overkill will be released on Steam Early Access this Friday. It comes from New Zealand outfit Trigger Happy Interactive, which was partly formed by Sam Prebble, the creator of the remarkable Doom 2 vs. Total Chaos. If you have an interest in the wave of 90s revival shooters who have been affectionately dubbed “boomer shooters”, you will recognize Prebble’s crowd. Turbo Overkill gets one kindly shout out from Dusk and Amid Evil publisher New Blood Interactive was a given.
But where Dusk and Amid Evil are reminiscent of the demons and magic of Doom, Hexen and Blood, Turbo Overkill is more Duke Nukem, Quake and System Shock. Its premise sounds as if it was conceived by a mega-church from the 90s, whose mega-churches from the 90s made first-person shooters: Like Johnny Turbo, you enter the city of Paradise to free it from Sight, a sentient AI whose minions have overcome the cyber metropolis.
Retro shooters have paired textures in low resolution with modern lighting technology with great effect, and you can bet that it will rain when you arrive at Paradise, where the moistened concrete base reflects the lights from above. It gets dark and dirty at times until it’s ugly, but the splashes of color look great when they show up – I love the holographic palm trees.
It’s just the kind of setup you would expect from publisher Apogee, which released many of the classic FPSs that recent throwbacks are inspired by, including Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein 3D. The company was relaunched last year by its original founders and has gone all the way back to where it started with Turbo Overkill, which it says is the first FPS released by Apogee in 25 years. (One point to clarify: Apogee and 3D Realms were originally one and the same, but the 3D Realms brand changed owners a few times and is currently owned by the Embracer Group. Apogee founder Scott Miller considers his reformation of Apogee to be its true continuation .)
Like other throwback shooters, Turbo Overkill is unreasonably fast, and blowing Syns henchmen into bloody chunks while figure skating around them with a sawn-off shotgun feels almost perfect if Quake is your idea of a good time. What I am most excited about are the special abilities. I can not get enough of the chainsaw leg, but there is also wallrunning, a grab hook that I have not yet unlocked, “full time”, which I assume is a non-copyrighted version of bullet time from Max Payne (another game originally published by Apogee), and other reinforcements to be unlocked. Without a precession of new toys or glasses, I tend to lose interest in these retro shooting games, even if they do the basics I enjoyed as a teenager admirably. I’m down for the weird abilities or weapons that Turbo Overkill throws at me.
After three levels, my grips are primarily with the levels themselves. For a game that encourages me to lug everywhere on my chainsaw leg, there are surprisingly few downhill in the early rounds. Instead, I climbed up the towers using anti-gravity beams, and then became too ruthless with the sliding maneuver and fell back to the bottom of the level. The whole thing is also video game architecture: meaningless arrangements of rooms and hallways and platforms that are easy to get lost in after falling or circulating too many times.
It’s a sort of classic FPS experience, though I hope future parts of the Turbo Overkill simplify the geometry a bit so I can get away with its mobility. I will forgive that because I also got myself to collect color-coded keys, because it’s hard to mistake a return from the 90’s to include elements from the 90’s game design, but if I have to be honest, wander around textured block mazes looking for keys have not thrilled me much since Quake 2. I mostly just want to be led in a direction that I know is very modern and annoying of me.
Turbo Overkill makes it fun by filling me up with abilities. I enjoy the occasions where I zoom through a series of enemies, off the edge of the platform, momentarily hang in the air like a Looney Tunes character, and then crawl back to safety using double jumps and dashes, which is a part of Johnny Turbo’s skills from the start. And the non-linear, key-centered design creates plenty of opportunities for the extreme optimization that speedrunners enjoy.
@turbo_overkill Emergence turned on in 36 seconds on Murder Machine difficulty lmaoWaster alt + boomer combo OP asf pic.twitter.com/ILry0yj8a0February 26, 2022
In its Early Access form, Turbo Overkill includes the first chapter’s eight levels, plus eight “secret unlockable levels.” Two more chapters are planned for the full game, which the current plan will release early next year. It will be released on Friday on Steam.