PAX East 2022: In Turbo Overkill, there’s nothing too fast

Turbo Overkill is the classic definition of an indie game that’s been polished to a reflective shine. Its detailed, neon-drenched cyberpunk city is a beautiful setting, and its OST is full of tracks anyone could laugh at. But, even among many indie games of the same quality at PAX East, Turbo Overkill has managed to stay stupidly badass and ridiculously fast.

Turbo Overkill was originally announced in September 2021 and had a prominent place in the Steam Next Fest. It launched in early access on April 22, but for anyone who hasn’t played the game yet, it’s an aptly named first-person shooter pushing everything including the speed of the player, up to 11. Your character is a stereotypical gloomy, brooding man who smokes cigars, runs around with his guns, and has a chainsaw for his leg. It’s the ridiculous energy of Turbo Overkill and it doesn’t stop at all levels.

At the same time, Turbo Overkill doesn’t feel like a radically new game. Its DNA is a mix of basic old-school shooters like DOOM and Wolfenstein, but with some solid upgrades. Each of the weapons in the game comes with a primary fire mode and a more destructive alternate fire mode, for example. Using alt fire for dual pistols allows players to mark three targets to blast, while the main character twirls another pistol in their free hand. Each level also offers a number of movement options that vary the combat a bit more. When fighting in open areas of the game, I danced around enemies with a double jump and two dashes, while spraying them with bullets from above.

The design decision to make everything in Turbo Overkill be an over-the-top badass was one of the biggest, according to game developer Sam Preble. The “mostly solo” developer of Turbo Overkill, as he describes his stance, didn’t want a single moment in the game to feel like it was ripped from a crossover between all the action movies of the 80s and genre-defining retro shooters.

“I had a philosophy early on of, ‘If it’s not badass, it’s not okay in the game.’ I love prototyping, so there are so many mechanics that have gone through Turbo, but above all I like to experiment.”

I used dual pistols, a Doom-esque shotgun, and a minigun to take down enemies in the Turbo Overkill demo.

But more than anything, when Sam was doing Turbo Overkill, he wasn’t thinking of others. “I mostly did it because it’s the kind of game I want to play. Some games just feel too slow to me, so I figured I’d bump the speed up to ridiculous amounts. Yeah, c really is the game of my dreams.”

The end result of Sam’s experimentation and excessive need for speed is a first-person shooter that simply won’t let up. Turbo Overkill’s levels are like the levels of any other retro shooter, only faster and bigger. Cybernetically disfigured enemies swarm the player, begging to be blasted or turned into minced meat with a single chainsaw-driven slide across the ground.

Players can also upgrade their character’s various boosts, making them even faster or adding new ways to kill enemies. A wall jump effectively allows them to jump four times while another upgrade creates small explosions each time the player lands after falling from a great height. Everything in Turbo Overkill can be made deadly, presenting the terrifying problem/thrilling prospect of having too many ways to kill enemies.

This kind of good problem will probably get worse over time. Early access to the game only allows players access to its first episode. Two more episodes are slated for release before the end of the year, with the third marking the game’s full launch.

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