A one-trick pony that manages to stay entertaining far longer than I would have ever expected, Chili Con Carnage is a passable action title more notable for its absurdity and humor than for its gameplay.
Entirely comprised of the sort of leap-to-the-side-while-in-slow-motion "bullet time" action that's been a common staple since John Woo and Max Payne made it popular, Chili Con Carnage doesn't bring anything new to the table. The third-person action meets the basic requirements, and the nondescript environments featuring "I am a videogame level" architecture lack sizzle.
The game's hero, Ram, can throw himself in any direction and perform impossible headshots with ease thanks to the smooth and efficient targeting system. Although the game sometimes zeroes in on the wrong enemy, most of the time all that's needed is to point the targeting reticule at the desired bad guy, hold the right shoulder button until it turns yellow (almost like a timing minigame) and pull the trigger. Voilà! One less goon to contend with. Repeat this action several thousand times, and the result is Chili Con Carnage.
However, that's not to say the game doesn't have merit. In actuality, the developers have a sense of humor that I greatly appreciated, and the choice to populate the game entirely with Hispanic characters (and accompanying Hispanic voice actors) gives it an interesting flavor. Although some players may see the ethnic stereotypes as offensive, I saw them as purposefully irreverent and found the lack of seriousness (all too common in this kind of game) to be quite refreshing—and before any readers accuse me of being culturally insensitive, I come from a Hispanic background myself.
I couldn't help but laugh when I tossed a loaded piñata into a courtyard and watched a mob of thugs descend on it like greedy buzzards seconds before it exploded. A different pickup allowed me to summon a hulking luchador named "El Gimpo" to bring the beatdown, and yet another pays open homage to Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi with dual guitar cases that spit death. Some gags are a little obvious like the free-roaming chickens in every environment, yet I found it all to be pleasantly tongue-in-cheek, and not at all in bad taste.
Though I admit that Chili Con Carnage's style won me over, my appreciation of its intellectual slant can't erase the fact that its formula of endless headshots is extremely simplistic. Even worse, the difficulty curve can spike erratically, enemies on different elevations are a nightmare to target, and there were a number of times when I felt like the game was barely holding itself together.
For example, I defeated the first boss with exactly one shot. It wasn't supposed to happen that way, but an unexplainable glitch occurred and before I knew what had happened, I was watching a victory cinematic. In another area I kept dying over and over, completely frustrated because I couldn't figure out how to progress. It turned out that the game was glitching again—simply exiting a vehicle was immediately killing my character when it should have been allowing me to go on. Don't even get me started on the final boss; it took me forever to finish the game because I couldn't get a required contextual action to occur.
I love the sass and energy of Chili Con Carnage, but the developers behind it need to spend as much time on polish and balance as they do on comedy. More technical elbow grease and more thorough playtesting would have helped work out some of the kinks that hold it back, and a smoother ride would have easily kicked the experience up a notch. Based on the evidence, I believe that Deadline Games is capable of putting out something more satisfying—but in its current state, Chili Con Carnage is more like chips and salsa than arroz con pollo.