Twisted Metal has become a mainstay of the
industry since launching in November of 1995. The series lost its original developer after
the first sequel, and things quickly spiraled downward until Incog (War of the
Monsters, Downhill Domination) stepped up for Twisted Metal Black. Online
play was the best thing that could have happened to the series, and that stays true for
the PSP version. It's the single player experience that has been completely ignored.
Head-On is a throwback for the series, ditching the dark, rainy environments of Black.
and regrouping the original games for a throwback series of stages. The classic levels,
including Paris and the infamous destruction of the Eiffel Tower, are included. The same
goes for the controls, allowing for those quick 180-degree turns that were missing from
some of the sequels (and made them unplayable in the process).
Single player doesn't offer much of anything besides a loose story mode (just basic stage
progression), endurance, and deathmatch against up to five AI opponents. It's necessary to
unlock more stages and not much else. You can now upgrade your vehicle, include the
standard machine guns. You'll lose it all if you die, and not doing so is tough (on
anything other than easy) when seemingly every special weapon has the ability to home in.
Avoiding contact with a missile is luck here, not skill.
The same will obviously hold true for online play, only it's a little more entertaining.
Two players can barrel through the story mode cooperatively, or join a team or fight solo
in a basic deathmatch. It's nothing new or original, just solid fun that you know you
would've wanted in the PS One original had it offered the capability.
The stages are all constructed well, and this is level design that hasn't aged in the
least. There are moments where they do seem to be too large, spacing out combatants and
forcing the player to rely on radar. That's fine as this gives you time to explore the
depth each one offers which includes countless secret areas to discover. Flying off a roof
is also far more satisfying and raining colored missiles is farm more fun than the usual
face-to-face meetings as well.
The new graphics engine isn't especially impressive, just a nice piece to show off how far
we've come from the early 32-bit era. The more colorful tone of the game is a change of
pace from where the series was headed, and that's either a disappointment or a refreshing
revert back. Particle and explosion effects come off much better than they would with this
style. The car designs are captured perfectly and the ability to destroy your environment
makes the otherwise mundane single-player enjoyable. It also maintains a steady frame
rate, regardless of how many people have launched weapons.
The soundtrack in Head-On is one of the best of the series, suitable to each
stage, mixing in orchestrated pieces and rock. It's strange, but it keeps with the game
action, atmosphere, and intent. The explosions and other on-screen carnage comes through
wonderfully with a proper set of headphones, just not so much with washed out quality of
the PSPs speakers.
If you have the necessary pieces to compete online, then this is a must-own title. If not,
look for a rental, bring it home for a day, and you can see everything it has to offer. It
certainly offers up classic car combat you would (and should) expect from the name Twisted
Metal, just not enough to make it a worthy purchase outside of an online arena.