Third-person action games rarely work on PSP. There aren't enough buttons to go around and thanks to the absence of a second stick, controlling the camera is a nightmare. Even Vice City Stories, currently the best of the genre, suffers from a wonky camera and stilted controls. But, somehow, Chili Con Carnage works like a charm. All the controls are sensibly placed and the camera always seems to be able to keep up, even when you're flipping backwards over someone's head and stealing their sombrero.
Yes, as you've no doubt already guessed, Chili Con Carnage is a sort-of-sequel to PS2's Total Overdose, the Latin-flavored action game where you went about nicking peoples' hats and performing preposterous acrobatic stunts. Chili recycles a lot of the levels and assets from its PS2 predecessor, but with new missions and a structure tailored more to handheld play. Instead of being a free-roaming GTA clone it's now a series of short missions. But that's no loss because the best bits of Total Overdose were the shooty bits, not the sections where you had to drive all over the town looking for things to do.
Jumping about killing people is the game's brainless highlight, which is mainly down to that control system we mentioned earlier. Your man Ram will leap in slow-motion, or if you're next to a wall he'll run up it and perform a gravity-defying flip. You can fire from almost any position and you're marked for style, earning points for every flourish of acrobatic prowess, or for killing multiple enemies in one combo. And you get bonus points if you're wearing a hat while you do it which, while ridiculous, is enormously entertaining as well.
And although the free-roaming bits have been chucked out, there's still fun to be had with vehicles. Cars strewn around the level can be driven about, but their main purpose is making things explode. In the first mission you have to destroy three fertilizer towers. You could shoot them, but the most effective method of destruction is driving towards them, then diving away in slow-mo. The car careers into the towers, exploding gloriously as you roll away unscathed. Or you could just use the motors to run people over and reverse over their heads.
It's funny too. Overdose had its moments but Chili is full of genuine laughs, including an incredibly irreverent intro in which your father - and some kittens you'd just bought him for his birthday - are crushed beneath the spinning threshers of a combine harvester. OK, so laughing at tequila-slugging Mexican stereotypes might make you feel like a bit of a pig, but it's all in good fun. The soundtrack's also top-drawer, featuring classical mariachi music and contemporary Latino hip-hop by licensed artists, including the brilliant Delinquent Habits. Get a combo going and the music kicks in, which gives you an incentive to keep them going.
New to PSP is a series of challenges between missions that test your skills, from clearing a level of enemies to performing a list of certain moves within a time limit. They're a decent enough distraction, although they serve no practical purpose and you're given the option to skip them altogether, which you'll find yourself doing with alarming regularity. Other than that, though, Chili is very similar to Total Overdose and anyone expecting a brand new game will be disappointed.