Twisted Metal is, as the included documentary in Twisted Metal: Head On - Extra Twisted Edition notes, a surprisingly underappreciated series. The original release was an early PlayStation one title that went on to sell over a million units and eat away innumerable hours of gamers’ productivity. I, like so many others, become hopelessly addicted to the original, wild characters mixed with heavily modded vehicles and fantastic levels. The enclosed areas offered numerous routes and obstacles for intense combat while a rooftop level hinted at just how exhilarating the then-new generation of systems was going to be. Despite there being seven titles in the series, it has been quite a while since the last console release, Twisted Metal: Black Online, was released. The almost-comically-long-titled newest entry isn’t the sequel to Black that we’ve been waiting for, but it is a solid release that gives PlayStation 2 (PS2) owners something new to play while they save up for Sony’s newest.
Twisted Metal: Head On was originally a PlayStation Portable title released in 2005 that tried to replace Twisted Metal 3 by continuing off from 2 instead of 4, and utilized the Black engine. This isn’t a carbon copy port, however, as online play has been removed (disappointing but understandable) and the engine tweaked to bring it a little closer to PS2 standards. Head On, for those that left off with the original or have since forgotten the mechanics of the series, continues the fine tradition of strange characters riding around in supped-up vehicles – ice cream trucks, hummers, giant monster truck … wheels – trying to blast the hell out of each other. Defeated opponents leave behind car upgrades – higher ramming damage, stronger weapon attacks, jump enhancements, and so on - that can be stored to make the hardnosed survivor a killing machine; though they will disappear if killed. There are even bosses battles and the occasional option of getting to choose which level to fight in.
There is more, of course, since a slightly enhanced port wouldn’t be too much more than a novelty. Aside from the fact that Head On is actually good, there is a plethora of bonus content that stretches all the way back to the original. Undoubtedly, the best of the extra content is the collection of campy full-motion video endings from Twisted Metal that were removed prior to its release. These are fantastic, complete with mid ‘90s film grain, and are lovingly mocked by the clips’ director, and one of the series’ creators, David Jaffe. The included documentary of Jaffe and company is also worth watching; the original development team’s thoughts about the decline of the series after 989 Studios was given the reigns is surprisingly candid and they all offer the kind of insight that fans of a series gobble up. The team also contributes art and tidbits of info as part of Sweet Tour, a dropped on-foot sequence that has Sweet Tooth hoofing it around an asylum, discovering floating cartoon Sweet Tooth heads – this is very rough content that was included, as stated, as simply showing some interesting bits fans never got to see. Another bit that fans have yet to see, but will enjoy a great deal, are Lost Levels, those levels from the aborted sequel to Twisted Metal: Black. These are fantastic, especially a carnival level that has a roller coaster wrapped around the level’s perimeter and various rides dotting the fair grounds. Topping it off is a code to download a soundtrack.
The only bit I didn’t care for was some story about members of the development team from Black’s sequel being killed in an accident and a noted supposedly penned by them showing up at Sony, begging for their work to be released. I have no clue how much of this is true, but I did uncover enough of the note by beating the Lost Levels to realize how little I cared. There is a secret message, of course, but this is a bit of a hackneyed way of going about it. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t really fit in with the package either.
The only real complaint I had was that the computer wasn’t especially challenging. Aside from Sweet Tooth’s boss form bringing some serious pain in Head On, neither it or the Lost Levels will provide too much of a challenge. I was particularly surprised with the latter, seeing as how beating the levels on hard is the only way to view the supposed developers’ note in its entirety. In Head On, the computer wasn’t overly aggressive and frequently ignored health, which was a bit of a letdown. I also experience audio dropping out at points in Head On, though I didn’t experience the significant framerate drops that I have read about from others. As the series has been known for its multiplayer, most won’t mind these due to the two-player action delivering, but I also like doing my car killin’ by my lonesome and some AI tweaking would’ve gone a long way. Still, with an MSRP of $19.95, this is a great deal, AI’s momentarily lapses in reasoning or not.
Overall: 8/10Twisted Metal: Head On - Extra Twisted Edition is well worth the money for both the gamer that is enjoying the previous generation on a budget and for those that have upgraded to the current Sony standard. The AI could have been tweaked to be a bit more aggressive, ridiculously overpowered boss aside, but that’s the only problem with the gameplay. The graphics won’t wow, but the extras certainly make up for it. Fans of the series will get a kick out of all the included bonus material while everyone else will enjoy the fantastic car combat.