Twisted Metal: Head On - Extra Twisted EditionESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Category: Combat Racing
Developer – Eat Sleep Play
Publisher - Sony Computer Entertainment
PS2 Memory Card - 88KB save
After a lengthy absence on a home console, Twisted Metal comes back to the PS2, and the one thing gamers can count on in the long running series is sheer carnage, and that is back as well. Developer Eat Drink Play, which is headed by David Jaffe, the original creator of the Twisted Metal games, has brought the slightly demonic and truly twisted demolition derby back for one more offering on the PS2 with Twisted Metal: Head On - Extra Twisted Edition. Sweet Tooth and company have been around since the early days of the PSone, but after Twisted Metal Black there has been very little action in the highly action charged series. However all that is changed now as the PS2 gets some ‘Twisted’ loving once again.
Although Twisted Metal: Head On touts "enhanced" graphics I have to say that this game looks much like a PSP game ported to a PS2 for play on your home TV. It’s not that the graphics look bad or ugly, however we’ve seen much better on the PS2 and I couldn’t help feeling little let down. Technically speaking, most of the game runs along at a solid frame rate until the action gets too heavy. The graphic engine tends to slow down and display clipping with unnerving frequency during these times and it will disrupt your gameplay experience. On a more positive note the game’s textures and draw in are quite good, and I was particularly surprised at the particle effects and lighting that are well implemented.
The game’s geometry still seems to be around the PSP level and when blown up to 640x480 you can begin to discern the finer details with ease. One thing I found strange, unlike the PSP version that was presented in 16:9 widescreen format, the PS2 version is stuck at 4:3 with no widescreen option at all. So gamers with huge high definition televisions will have annoying black bars running up and down the sides. I actually played with my aspect ratio and stretched the image on screen to fill in these bars, but be forewarned it does distort the image somewhat. It can be a good way to fill in the screen but it does so at a cost. Twisted Metal: Head On supports a 2 player split screen that can get a bit crowded and tough to look at, but overall it ran quite well.
Overall this latest entry into the Twisted Metal series looks pretty good on the PS2 but not as good as it did on PSP since the visuals appear more impressive on a smaller screen. The lost levels are wonderfully designed but, since Black 2 was never finished, their visuals aren’t on par with the original Twisted Metal Black.
The twisted Metal soundtrack is actually fairly good. I found I was bopping my head along with some the upbeat music and catchy tunes. It does have some of the flailing guitar riffs that a game of this nature should. The mix of music is good and not overly repetitious either. The sound effects are also equally well done. All the vehicles in the game sound pretty different from each other, which is good thing as you can definitely tell if you are in car or truck. Most of the effects are of crunching metal, busting glass, and screeching tires and it is all done very well. That being said it’s really nothing we haven’t heard before. Overall there is not a lot to be disappointed with in the audio department as it gets the job done with solid results.
Twisted Metal Head-On was a PSP launch game that came out in 2005; unfortunately the three-year gap has not changeed the gameplay at all. That being said blasting cars to smithereens in all kinds of locations from around the world is as fun as it ever was. Head On focuses on the arena based car combat that the series is famous for, and for the most part it does so pretty well. Unfortunately performance issues plague the classic gameplay with poor frame rates that hinder one’s control at inopportune times. More than once I found I was losing precious armor points that that led to a premature explosion resulting in my death. I would think that the move from the PSP to the PS2 would hide some of the limitations from the handheld and it does, but it comes at a cost undoubtedly taking some of the fun out of some the game. Hardcore fans of the series should be able to look past some of the frame rate and control issues but newer gamers may have a little trouble adjusting to the shortfall.
For the uninitiated, the core gameplay found in Head On is pretty much the same as that found in every other Twisted Metal game. You drive around gathering weapon pick-ups and blowing opponents into oblivion. The arena if you will, takes place in large somewhat squared off environment which usually features a ton of hidden areas which hide choice power ups and weapons. There are also a handful of mini-games scattered around each level that can be accessed by driving into circular portals on the ground. The bulk of these mini-games however delve into more specific carnage, almost making you destroy opponents with particular weapons. The PS2 controller is pretty well mapped out and it is easy to learn the basics right off the hop.
There are several modes of gameplay in Head On, along with a ton of hidden and unlockable stuff to do and find. The following are the basic modes of play:
1. Story Mode - drivers choose their vehicle and progress through a series of arenas;
2. Challenge - Drivers choose their vehicle, arena, A.I. controlled enemies, then go off to battle.
3. Endurance - Drivers take on an endless onslaught of A.I. controlled opponents until the end.
Head On allows you to choose from different destructive vehicles. Each vehicle is armed with serious firepower, turbo boosts and each has a unique devastating specialty attack. The standard vehicles are those of Roadkill, Shadow, Mr. Grimm, Sweet Tooth, Thumper, Spectre, Twister, Outlaw, Grasshopper, WartHog, and Axel. There are also unlockable vehicles which include those of Mr. Slam, Crimson Fury, Hammerhead, Cousin Eddy, ATV, Dark Tooth, and Tower Tooth. There is no doubt that fans of the series will recognize many of these names. Should you not don’t worry, you eventually will.
As mentioned, there are different arenas which are based on real life locales. These battlegrounds allow you to unleash mayhem in a variety of different areas including Paris, Egypt, Tokyo, and Los Angeles to name a few. There is also a bonus level exclusive to the PS2 version. Your carnage is created by a lot of different weapons. You can collect an arsenal of weaponry to deliver explosive attacks on opponent vehicles, including such weapons as homing, fire and power missiles, machine guns, ricochet discs, napalm, remote bombs, and swarm missiles. You can also finish off opponents and collect Upgrade Power-Ups to enhance vehicle and weapon performance.
Also included in the game case is an extra disc filled with all kinds of Twisted Metal footage. I like the fact that none of this stuff was left to unlock in the game and is easily accessed whenever you want. Some of the highlights of the disc include such things as documentary footage from a fairly engaging David Jaffe (lead developer), but the real payoff comes from the inclusion of the original full-motion video ending movies from the original Twisted Metal. Mind you their appeal may be lost on people unfamiliar with the series or uninterested in mind-numbingly horrible cinemas. Other treats include, a detailed art book, a free soundtrack download offer, and all kinds of behind the scenes videos. As a result, gamers have a pretty nice little package of everything Twisted Metal included on the bonus disc.
You would think any new Twisted Metal entry would support online play. I suppose given the PS2's diminishing standing in the gaming world, especially for online multiplayer mayhem, it should not be a surprising exclusion. That being said, the PS2 stills sells incredibly well, even outselling the PS3 in many markets. Head On only allows two people to go head to head on the same screen. Not that big of a loss considering that's how it was done in the first two (excellent) games. But this is a let down for a gamer like myself being used to, and really wanting, an online component to every game I buy. Oddly the PSP version was optimized for online game play, and to remove it for the PS2 version was a mistake.
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