You know an FPS is good when you have so many fun guns to shoot that you realize you've been neglecting your right leg, which happens to transform into a chainsaw. It's a guilt I felt constantly during my demo for Turbo Overkill (opens in new tab), a new indie FPS bursting onto the scene with gunplay so good that Doomguy should be sweating.
Do I keep popping brains with the two standard magnums that double as Smart pistols from Titanfall (opens in new tab)? Or maybe I switch to the pump shotgun that, when right-clicked, can be triple-pumped for a huge AoE blast? The answer is, as always, to keep shooting what you're holding until you're out of ammo. It's a lesson burned into my brain by Doom Eternal, a game that feels spiritually linked to the neon-drenched cityscapes of Turbo Overkill.
Game director Sam Prebble, who got started in games making Doom 2 total conversion mods like Total Chaos (opens in new tab), tells me that Turbo is his "dream game"—a fast-paced FPS rooted in retro shooters that also takes "a lot of mechanics from other games I enjoy." After two playthroughs of the excellent half-hour demo, I'm wondering if Prebble and I have been having the same dreams.
The "great artists steal" approach is how protagonist Johnny Turbo ended up with the slide from Apex Legends (empowered by a chainsaw leg), the wallrunning from Titanfall, and Doom Eternal's double midair dash.
With so many movement options, I was worried Turbo Overkill would prove that there is such a thing as too much mobility in an FPS, but that quickly faded. Turbo's arenas are vast, often vertical battlefields that cater to its movement tools.
One of my demo's earliest fights took place in a concrete skatepark straight out of Tony Hawk with ramps perfect for slide-slicing straight through 12 tech-zombies in a row. Next up was a port dotted with boats and long-range enemies that fill the sky with bullet-hell laser orbs—a showcase for the double jump and dash. Wallrunning is familiar and fun, though it's limited to marked walls that appeared during brief platforming interludes between fights.
If you played Doom Eternal, you'll quickly acclimate to Turbo Overkill's punishing combat. Enemies hit hard and come at you fast. Spend a single moment standing around instead of running, jumping, or dashing away from incoming fire and you'll lose half your HP.
The true potential of my chainsaw leg emerged during Turbo's hardest moments. Sliding through enemies was often a better tactic than trying to dash or jump around them, especially because it's wicked fast and chains effortlessly into other moves. A half-second of carving through zombie flesh is a surprisingly welcome respite from the chaos that resets my position and organizes hordes of chasing enemies together to be quickly insta-gibbed by my shotgun. There's technique to it, too—the speed and distance of your slide depend on your momentum heading into it. Give yourself a healthy head start or a slope and you drift like a hot knife through butter.
The two levels in my demo were lightly challenging with the occasional death caused by my own hubris, which is exactly how I like my FPS difficulty. Turbo may even prove to be a bit meaner than Doom over time, considering it doesn't have glory kills that guarantee extra HP or a magic ammo-spewing chainsaw. You're stuck with whatever health packs and ammo boxes are lying around.
I appreciate Turbo Overkill's commitment to never giving you a boring gun, even if that means feeling occasionally overwhelmed by choice. Every gun has an alt-fire that completely changes its behavior—the double-barreled super shotgun expands into a sticky grenade launcher, the minigun's barrels unhinge to reveal a flamethrower, and your magnum uncontrollably rattles like a box of nails as it locks on to every head in the room. As someone who drooled over that one transforming Deathloop shotgun (opens in new tab) so much I used it for most of the game, I'm a sucker for meticulously animated flairs that make already cool videogame guns memorable.
Modern touches are important to Turbo Overkill's look, too. As much as I like a good throwback shooter, games that merely mimic art styles from 25 years ago do nothing for me. Turbo evokes early 3D shooters with its low-poly environments, character models, and bloody gibs, but throws in modern lighting, bright reflections on shallow puddles, and slick first-person animations.
So far, I think it threads the needle well—Turbo Overkill is unmistakably modern, but it looks enough like shooters of old that you could argue it's the rose-tinted glasses vision of what cutting-edge '90s graphics looked like in my dad's head (your mileage may vary). The style is eye-catching, in any case, and I'm eager to see it applied to other environments.
If there was an award for "vertical slice demo of the year", Turbo Overkill would run away with it. I'm thoroughly sold on its vision for the next great ultraviolet FPS, now it just has to stay this good throughout its first chunk of levels. As has become something of a trend with boomer shooters, Turbo Overkill will release episodically. Each episode will have eight levels, and Episode 1 is coming sometime in 2022. As much as I'd like to show restraint and chew through all 24 levels at once, I'll definitely be there on day one.