Thankfully Carnage Mode puts Head On back on track. This offers four main events and deals you a different car and track for each challenge. Variation at last. The best event is Deathmatch Derby, which starts you in a circle and tasks you with smashing up the others. Points are awarded for big hits and staying alive, with power-ups available to add a layer of tactics. This is absolutely smashing and never gets old (eat your heart out, Michael Jackson).
Stunts make up a large chunk of Carnage Mode, and are broken into challenges based around the same formula: drive car down ramp, dodge some obstacles, then launch driver at something. Success depends on the angle of launch, direction you're facing, how fast you're going, and manoeuvring once airborne. Tasks include soaring through rings of fire, skimming along water, knocking down pins and so forth. You'll feel like you've tired of Stunts rather quickly, but thanks to the number of variables you're still oddly compelled to keep going.
The other two main events are racing-based. Carnage Race is the first and puts you up against seven others with nothing but a time limit to stop you. Checkpoints extend this a little, but the big points are awarded for a mixture of leading the pack to acquire multipliers, and wrecking the other drivers. The balance is a tricky one to strike. We've always maintained that they're not dodgems but bumper cars, and our smash-and-crash approach worked wonders. We got a gold cup for this one. The other event is Beat the Bomb, which refreshingly has you racing on your own as you struggle to reach checkpoints before the fuse runs out and you blow up.
Given that Carnage Mode puts you in different cars on different courses and keeps the challenges fresh, there is really little to entice you back to the FlatOut tournaments. It makes us wonder why the two were split up in the first place. Bolstering the main game-types is Multiplayer, but regrettably you can only branch out as far as your local network and race three friends on either one, or a collection of tracks in a tournament. We're at a loss over the absence of Deathmatch Derby here. You can also pass your PSP around like a hot potato in Party mode, and take it in turns to out-score each other on various Stunts. There are also Single Events, which do as you'd expect, but with Carnage Mode offering more or less the same thing we have no idea why you would bother.
Overall then, if you can forgive the rude introduction then there's lots to do and fun to have while doing it. Smashing into people is exciting, and made us shout "bosh" (illustrating our complicated emotions). Technically the game makes good use of the PSP, too, with passable loading times and a solid frame-rate despite lots going on and rather complex visuals. But the overriding feeling is that Head On belongs on more powerful consoles. Without the added bells and whistles, its core racing mechanics and their shortcomings are bare, obvious, and will struggle in a genre that is stacked to the rafters on PSP. There is certainly a place for its red-necked charms, particularly for those fed up racing politely, but that place is probably at a reduced price point to soften the impact of its inconsistencies.
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