Twisted Metal : Head On

Review

posted 4/7/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
Platforms: PS2
David Jaffe has become a modern game industry celebrity with the success of his God of War series, but it’s easy to forget where he got his start. He gained his first real fame with the Twisted Metal franchise on the PS1, a series of arcade-style car combat games with a gritty, heavy-metal attitude. In 2005 Twisted Metal Head On was released for the PSP and was a moderate success, proving that the franchise still had steam. Like so many other successful games for the handheld, it was ported to the PS2 as Twisted Metal Head On: Extra Twisted Edition. PS2 ports can be hit or miss, but with Jaffe and his team handling the transfer, this port turns out to be a worthy remake of the PSP original.

Extra Twisted is essentially a director’s cut of the PSP game, but it’s also a love letter to diehard Twisted Metal fans. The game is packed with extra material and series nostalgia; even the old school players might be surprised by all the goodies Jaffe and his team have snuck into the package. You get the main game from the PSP version, with story, challenge and endurance modes. The graphics have been cleaned up a little with better effects and crisper textures, but the map design is still solid and a new level, Transylvania, has been added to the original list. All of the characters, from Sweet Tooth Mr. Grimm, are included, along with their signature vehicles.

The polished PSP levels are just the beginning, though. Extra Twisted includes four levels from the unreleased Twisted Metal: Harbor City, re-titled Lost in Head On. The game was scrapped after six of the development staff died in a place crash, so it’s a nice nod to the fans and a salute to the developers that their work finally gets to be enjoyed. The Lost levels were intended to be interconnected, but that feature has been removed for their release in Head On. As a result, they feel a little sparse and don’t contain enough weapon powerups to keep them hectic and fun.

In addition to the main game and the Lost levels, the development team tossed in some really nice bonus material that makes the game feel like a special edition DVD. There’s a 30 minute documentary where the series’ creators talk about the history of Twisted Metal, how it was conceived and the events that led to the more recent entries. A rough tech demo for a scrapped third-person mode lets the player explore an asylum as Sweet Tooth, where they can read commentary and look at concept art. More of the series’ history is revealed in the cut ending movies from the very first Twisted Metal game. These were live-action scenes shot for the character endings, and they’re pretty campy by today’s standards; Jaffe even comments in the documentary that he’s glad they were cut from the first game and he’s a little embarrassed about them. They might not be the proudest moment in Jaffe’s career but they’re a nice addition to the overall package.

As if the goodies on the disk weren’t enough to sate the hardcore fans, the package also includes a small art book and a code to download a Twisted Metal soundtrack from the official website. I have a feeling Jaffe and crew had so long to port this game that they decided to throw in everything but the rusted, dented kitchen sink. It makes me wonder why they didn’t flesh the third person mode into a full game, or polish up the Lost levels and maybe add to them.


Extra Twisted is everything and more that a Twisted Metal fanboy could want in a port, but it doesn’t exactly push the series all that much. Even with the updated visuals, the remake isn’t up to snuff with recent PS2 titles. The graphics are on par with the series’ first entry on the PS2, Twisted Metal Black, but Extra Twisted doesn’t sparkle like Resident Evil 4. For a PSP port it’s impressive how good it looks, but it’s still apparent that the game came out three years ago and overall the graphics are mediocre. The port also doesn’t support online play, which seems a little cheap considering that Black was eventually online-enabled. However, with the PS2’s online services winding down, it’s understandable that the developers left the feature out. Extra Twisted does feature split screen multiplayer for both the Head On and Lost levels.

As for music and sound, the game has the same heavy metal soundtrack that the series is famous for, along with a few pieces tailored to the theme of the levels. The music for the Lost levels is noticeably lower quality than the tracks for the Head On levels—it’s repetitive and a little annoying. Considering that the Lost levels were unfinished anyway, their music is probably filler. Most of the vehicles and weapons sound as they did in older games, which isn’t too fresh but at least it’s consistent.

In fact, consistency is probably the defining aspect of the gameplay. Just like in every other Twisted Metal game, you’ll be driving around in beefed-up cars, shooting at rival cars with machineguns and a colorful assortment of explosives. That theme permeates every mode; in story, you’ll pick a character and use him or her in every level until the game is complete. In endurance, you fight against cars until you are killed, arcade style. In challenge, you pick the arena, opponents and customize a couple more options, and then engage in the same gameplay. The story mode has no cutscenes, voice acting or other character development between levels, and the objective is always to destroy a set number of the enemy cars.

For Twisted Metal fans, this consistency is a great thing. You’ll be getting the same tried and true gameplay you’ve always loved, with a ton of great extras thrown in. More casual players will probably enjoy the car battles, but their repetitive nature might get a little stale without the added nostalgia. If you already have Head On for the PSP, the extras might be worth buying the remake, depending on how serious of a Twisted Metal fan you are. At $20, Extra Twisted Edition is a good buy in any case.


C
If you like the Twisted Metal series, then Head On: Extra Twisted Edition is a no brainer. It’s a great remake with lots of cool extra content. That said, the gameplay is a bit shallow and outdated by today’s standards. Extra Twisted is a good bargain, even if it’s a little long in the Sweet Tooth.


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