Chili Con Carnage is all about style. Not the catwalk and supermodel kind of style but the kind of style where you dive sideways into a room in slow motion firing two handguns at the same time. Or drive a car over a ramp, leap out of the moving vehicle and take out three bad guys with headshots before hitting the ground and catching a sombrero on your head. Put simply, this is one seriously stylish game.
Are you a Mexi-can, or a Mexi-can't?
A sequel to the PlayStation 2 game Total Overdose, Chili Con Carnage sees that game's free-roaming, Grand Theft Auto-style gameplay adapted into bite-sized chunks of action that are perfect for playing on the move. You play as Ramiro Cruz, the son of a police officer on the verge of busting a massive drugs cartel. Unfortunately, as you arrive to present your dad with his birthday present of a box of adorable kittens, a combine harvester crashes through the wall, making short work out of your dad, and even shorter work out of the kittens.
This kind of humour is typical of Chili Con Carnage - the cut-scenes are packed with wacky characters and offbeat humour, and the long-suffering Ram seems to be the only sane person in a world populated by tequila-swigging psychopaths and over-the-top crime lords. It's against this backdrop that Ram sets out to avenge his father's death by battling his way through the Los Toros underworld, one bad guy at a time.
Each level is a short adrenaline burst of action that ranges from escaping a sinking ship to fighting hundreds of guys dressed in bull outfits in a bullfighting arena. As mentioned, style is very important to Chili Con Carnage. Jump in any direction where there are enemies about and everything goes into slow motion, allowing you to fire at multiple bad guys, twist in mid air, or even kick off a wall and perform an acrobatic somersault.
Performing these moves nets you far more points than the standard running and gunning, and you can get even more points if you're wearing a hat, which you can catch from fallen enemies. Another way to score points is by stringing together extra long kill combos. Kill an enemy and a bar on the left side of the screen starts to run down, kill another one before the bar finishes and it tops itself up. Simple. This way it is possible to string out a combo across an entire level leading to an absolutely mammoth score at the end. It's not essential, but it's great fun to try and will keep you coming back again and again as you attempt to beat your score.
Don't you know I'm loco?
Another great aspect of the gunplay in Chili Con Carnage is the addition of Loco Moves. Each of these power-ups lets Ram take down the opposition in a variety of fun or brutal ways, ranging from El Mariachi, a nod to the Robert Rodriguez film of the same name that sees Ram armed with two guitar-shaped chainguns, to El Gimpo, a huge masked wrestler that runs around attacking bad guys with a stick.
The graphics look great on the PSP screen, smooth and colourful, and with cool effects such as explosions and running water. In addition to this, the game boasts a fine soundtrack that complements the game's Mexican setting with some contemporary Mexican hip hop as well as more traditional music, while the sound effects see meaty-sounding weapons jockeying for position with throaty screams and massive explosions.
There are two Multiplayer modes to choose from, Hangman and Fiesta, both of which see you competing against your friends to get the highest score possible. In Fiesta, enemies you dispatch appear on your opponent's level, making their odds of survival that much lower, while Hangman is played on one PSP, and gallows parts are awarded to the player with the lowest score. Both modes are great fun, and the frantic, manic nature of Chili Con Carnage really lends itself to Multiplayer play. This is one game you're definitely going to want to try with your friends.
The main thing that makes Chili Con Carnage stand out though is its unbridled sense of fun. Causing massive explosions and stringing together huge combos... what more do you need?