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Chili Con Carnage
Score: 82%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Deadline Games
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Ad Hoc)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Chili Con Carnage. While the name is sure to bring up painful memories of the morning after an all-night eating binge at your favorite Mexican restaurant, it actually the name of the PSPís latest action title, which is sort of a spin-off/ redo of the 2005ís Total Overdose, only with many of the more cumbersome elements stripped out.

Of everything that Chili Con Carnage offers, one of the best is its visuals. Like the game itself, the graphics are stylish and very different from what you would typically expect. Rather than going for something serious, it goes for fun. Characters are blocky and sort of reminded me of the Serious Sam box art and the Digital Max character from the Cox Cable ads. Environments are wide open with lots of opportunity for destruction Ė which is the entire purpose of the game.

Audio is hit and miss. The voicework and dialogue is pretty bad, but to some extent I get the feeling that it is supposed to be. At least, it fits the gameís story and general attitude. Most of the music is made up of Spanish hip-hop, which makes for an interesting listening experience.

Unlike Total Overdose, Chili Con Carnage dumps any and all serious moments and instead focuses primarily on over-the-top, funnier moments. The game begins with Ram, the gameís protagonist, delivering a box of kittens to his father for a birthday gift. No sooner does Ramís father unwrap his gift when a combine comes crashing through his fatherís office, killing both Ramís father and the litter of kittens. And to think, thatís only the beginning. As Ram sets off for a bit of revenge down under, heíll encounter a number of completely madcap crime lords. Not every moment is comedy gold, but there are enough funny parts that youíll find yourself laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Chili Con Carnage also brings in a healthy dose of gameplay. The open-ended gameplay found in the original has been removed, making way for more linear, action-focused levels. At its core, Chili Con Carnage is a pure shooter, with a taste of Max Payne-styled slow motion thrown in. You basically run through levels, shooting bad guys and collecting power-ups. Ultimately, your goal is to tear through levels while keeping a combo meter running as long as you can. It is not impossible to keep the meter running for the entire length of a level, but it does take skill. In a way, it is sort of like a big Rube-Goldberg device involving bullets, bodies, things that explode and chickens.

The metered scoring system is what helps to make Chili Con Carnage a more entertaining game. The basic combat moves are simple, though they can be matched up into Tony Hawk style combos, which help to extend the scoring meter. In all, it makes the game something of a puzzle, since youíre always trying to figure out what to shoot next. Again, it sounds easier than it is. You can also try to grab style points for pulling off really tricky moves.

Multiplayer options are also around, though they only support Ad Hoc connection. The goal in multiplayer is the same as in the single-player game; get the highest score possible before time runs out. While you donít directly fight other players, you can still mess with them by collecting power-ups.

On the downside, Chili Con Carnage isnít very long a game. The entire game can easily be completed in about 5-6 hours, but thatís without trying to max out your score for each level. If youíre a perfectionist, expect to add a couple of hours depending on how quickly you adapt to the analog stick and the gameís technical shortcomings.

If youíre not playing with the intent of racking up a high score or completing other challenges that may pop up during levels, youíre really not getting the most out of Chili Con Carnage. The scoring system is really the heart of the entire game, and where the challenge comes from.

Game Mechanics:
Aiming and everything that goes with it is difficult. Once again, the analog nub proves that it isnít a suitable substitute for a true analog stick, and makes pulling off moves and aiming harder than it should be. A lock-on function is available, though it only works on inanimate objects, which sounds odd but makes sense within in the context of gameplay (well, about as much sense as everything else in the game). The free-aiming mechanism doesnít work very well, and kind of limits the time you have to take your shots. True, it adds to the challenge, but thatís clearly not the intent. You can probably get used to using the analog nub, but the sensitivity is so jacked up, it is ridiculous. Some of the camera angles, while cool to look at, donít help either.

Chili Con Carnage is a good game if you donít go in expecting much and happen to be someone who enjoys perfecting the process for how things are done. Puzzle fans might find something to like as well, though only if you're the action-oriented type rather than someone who likes stacking boxes. If youíre looking for a great story, or long-lasting game, Chili Con Carnage isnít for you.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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