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Turbo Overkill early access review: a retro-inspired FPS that never lets up

I can't stress this enough - you have a chainsaw for a leg

Turbo Overkill is a retro-inspired FPS that's still in early access but already feels complete. Not in the sense that is has nothing left to give, but that it feels ready to give even more. It's a rip-roaring blast through a cyberscape that doubles as a skatepark for your chainsaw leg. And amidst the sick grinds and spilling of guts you're drip fed weapons and power-ups that only serve to keep the momentum ticking over. You won't concentrate on anything harder in your lifetime. That's a guarantee.

In Turbo Overkill you play as Johnny Turbo, a cyberman who's returned home to Paradise, only to find it's been overwhelmed by a rogue AI called Syn. The place has been overrun by augmented meatheads and girthy abominations, all of which wish to rip your chainsaw leg from its metal socket.

Then again, you have a chainsaw for a leg. Pop a slide and you'll extend your chainsaw appendage like a whirring mandible, and chew through enemies with ease. When Apex Legends came out and did the whole slide downhill thing, everyone was like, "All FPS games need a slide like this!!" Johnny Turbo's chainsaw leg is the answer, except it answers to nobody. It elevates the typical FPS slide into one that reeks of attitude and petroleum. Trust me, those same people who wanted Apex's slide will amend their arguments to "All FPS games need a protagonist who can slide AND protrude a leg fitted with a chainsaw and/or other sharp, rotating implement!!"

Later, you get the ability to fire missiles from your wrist and salute the explosions with a flourish of the middle finger. A grappling hook (incredibly, a close second to the chainsaw leg) acts as a gap closer. See a flashing yellow wall? Yep, that's a runnable wall for your pleasure. The game bolts powerups onto your cyberbod at just the right pace, topping up the momentum whenever there's even the slightest inkling of a dip.

Browsing an augment for micro missiles in Turbo Overkill.
Find Augments in Teratek chests or purchase them from vending machines and you can pop them on at Splice stations scattered across maps. One lets you emit a huge explosion whenever you plummet from a height. Another means you gain armour whenever you mince an enemy with your chainsaw leg.

Turbo Overkill seemingly never lets up, and it's the way it maintains momentum that separates it from other retro-FPSes. Paradise not only looks the part, with its neon billboards and shiny streets, but it also provides the perfect playground for you to flex your metal muscles. Whether that's carefully placed platforms and boost pads that'll send you whirling into the air, or a sudden change from open arenas to twisting tunnels and literal skateparks built for chainsaw ollies. You're tasked with finding coloured keys, but you might have to, say, purge areas of some colossal gunk before they release their grip on previously locked doors. Even in early access, the level variety is ceaselessly entertaining.

Johnny Turbo spray dual uzis at enemies in an arena that's constructed by rogue AI Syn.
Easily one of my favourite levels, this. Shoot the surrounding scenery and it'll shatter into pieces, revealing that it's all a construct by Syn. Ammo and health packs lurk in its crevices, which act as a reminder to always pay attention to your surroundings. Three hidden cassette tapes and tech chips lurk in each stage, too, but who knows what they actually do.

The same goes for the game's weaponry. You start off with a pair of magnum pistols that spit bullets at pace. It's not long before you're wielding dual uzi's and a sawed-off shotgun and a mini-gun and another shotgun. But wait, there's more. Collect coins from the corpses of your many victims and you can upgrade your weapons to grant them a secondary function. Suddenly, your arsenal effectively doubles with a right-click. And they're not just gimmicks either. You'll genuinely use the pump shotgun's electro-bomb-thing to stun enemies and make them vulnerable to double damage. The mini-gun's flamethrower function coats enemies in a damage-over-time tick, which makes it great for softening up chunky lads.

Not that there's always chunky lads to take apart. Surprise, surprise, the game has a number of different enemies that wish to kill you, yes, but also help keep the momentum shuffling in another fleshy direction. That flexible arsenal is necessary because you can't stick with one weapon for more than say... three seconds? Little goblin-slashers that ambush you in hordes demand a mixture of chainsaw leg and big boom, while leaping electro-frogs need unpicking through well-timed dashes, double jumps, and a tirade of shotgun shells. Sometimes the environment caters to your needs. Drones with exposed brains demand you use a bounce pad to float up there and turn their IQ into I-doo-doo. An aquarium's see-through tanks help you locate enemies despite the level being a sodden sandwich of corridors and claws.

Johnny Turbo flips enemies off after firing a barrage of missiles from his wrist.
Special mention goes to the game's music too, as it takes the classic metal backing and spins something suitably cyberpunk out of it. It's always refreshing to hear a retro-FPS that hasn't opted for a white noise of thrash metal.

There are moments of frustration, though. Sometimes enemies will deplete your health bar in seconds if they manage to land a single missile or ambush you in a dimly lit room. Occasionally, the game's checkpoint system can be a bit stingy too, warping you back quite a way if you die. Still, it's nice that whatever you bought or found before you turned to goo stays with you no matter whatever happens.

But who actually cares about my small niggles with checkpoints and difficulty spikes, when Turbo Overkill drenches them in blood and flips you off? This is a retro-FPS that commands your attention from the moment you step into the razor-sharp shoes of Johnny Turbo. Genuinely, you won't concentrate on something so hard in your life. It's an all-consuming delight that's – yes, let's remind ourselves – still in early access. The thought of the devs dousing Turbo's soles with more nitrous is joyous.

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Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Reviews Editor

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.