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When the PSP was in its heyday, I wanted one for two games – Liberty City Stories and Twisted Metal: Head-On. I eventually got a PSP and the games and played them non-stop. Developed by Incognito Entertainment and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Twisted Metal: Head-On was released for the PSP for March 2005. It was ported to the PS2 as Twisted Metal: Head-On Extra Twisted Edition in February 2008 which is the version I played for this review. This version contains some new content and if I remember correctly, new copies came with a code to download the series soundtrack. The biggest downside to the PS2 version is it doesn’t come with online multiplayer but as far as I’m concerned it’s the definitive version of the game.
The Extra Twisted Edition is like two games in one. Not only does it come with Head-On but it also comes with Twisted Metal: Lost which is the unfinished sequel to Twisted Metal: Black. The Extra Twisted Edition also comes with bonus material like the live action ending videos for the original Twisted Metal that were cut before release, commentary from developers of the series like David Jaffe and Scott Campbell, and a Sweet Tour mode where you run around as Sweet Tooth and learn about the series history.
Twisted Metal: Head-On is a vehicular combat game and a direct sequel to Twisted Metal 2. Drivers compete in the Twisted Metal contest run by the mysterious Calypso, and the goal is to drive around various battlegrounds and destroy all of the opponents. The winner is granted anything they wish. Many of the vehicles from Twisted Metal 2 are present, although some did not make the cut like my favorite vehicle in the series, Minion. Even though some of the vehicles return, many of the drivers do not. Each driver has their own backstory and motive for joining the contest and many of the wishes are used against them. The game retains the dark humor present in Twisted Metal 2 and the ending videos are depicted in a comic book style which matches the game’s somewhat cartoon-y presentation and aesthetic. The voice performances are hit or miss but they get the job done. There were no stories written for Twisted Metal: Lost but can you read about each driver and many of them and their vehicles were present in Twisted Metal: Black. There are some new vehicles introduced. You can tell the game is incomplete but it does match the dark and serious tone established in Black which I was never a fan of. And from what I gather, Lost is set in the fictional Harbor City. Despite not being the biggest fan of Black, I did enjoy its gameplay and from the looks of it, Lost would have retained the excellent gameplay and I think it would have been a great sequel.
Whether you play Head-On or Lost, the gameplay is the same. You drive around open battlegrounds and try to destroy all of your opponents. Sweet Tour is an additional game mode accessed from the Bonus Material menu and if you’re a fan of the series, you really should check it out. You get to play as Sweet Tooth and run around an asylum in third-person. You don’t have to worry about any dangers, there’s no action, and the objective is to find all of the Sweet Tooth heads which reveal factoids or information about the series. You’ll get to see cut vehicles, concept art, sketches, and basically learn about the development process. It’s pretty interesting.
Each vehicle has different stats in handling, armor, special weapon, and speed. Just like in previous games, vehicles with little-to-no-armor can move fast but can be destroyed quickly if they’re not careful and vehicles with a lot of armor can withstand more damage before blowing up. Every vehicle can accelerate, brake, drive in reverse, and jump which is no longer an energy move. They also have their own special weapons which must regenerate after use. Vehicles can also ram into opponents to inflict damage. All vehicles except boss vehicles are equipped with machine guns with infinite ammo but they can overheat which I find to be very annoying. You can activate a boost or turbo which drains through your turbo meter and activate energy attacks and moves which drain through your energy meter and energy does regenerate over time. In both games you can freeze enemies, lay down landmines, activate a temporary shield, and fire rear attacks. In Head-On you can also become temporarily invisible, unleash a radial explosion around your vehicle, and fire napalm. The energy attacks and moves can help you get out of tight spots and to perform these in Head-On, you have to press different combinations of d-pad buttons. In Lost, you have to hold the triangle button and can then press the d-pad buttons, each of which activates a different energy attack or move.
Scattered around the battlegrounds are weapon, health, and turbo pickups. Helicopters carrying pickups also fly around and the battlegrounds in Lost will contain health stations. Acquired weapons are stored in your inventory to be used at any time. All of them should be familiar if you’ve played Twisted Metal 2 or Black. You can blow away opponents with power missiles, unleash the swarmer missiles to inflict tons of damage, lay down remote bombs, and environmental weapons can cause environmental damage to opponents. It’s kind of disappointing that none of the weapon pickups are new but the ones present are satisfying to use. In the Story and Challenge modes in Head-On, destroyed opponents will leave behind upgrades like increased armor, turbo, and energy, more powerful special, ram, and machine guns, and a higher jump. Destroyed opponents can also leave behind health and weapons. If your vehicle is destroyed, you lose all your upgrades and will have to re-collect them. There are four difficulty modes and the upgrades can alleviate some of the challenge in Story mode. That said, I would say this is the easiest game from David Jaffe and his crew. That is unless you choose a vehicle with little armor like Mr. Grimm or ATV. Opponents can blow you up in seconds if you’re not careful. Not only do upgrades make things a bit easier but health pickups seem to respawn very quickly so you might want to raise the difficulty to Hard if you’re looking for a serious challenge. I do wish you could turn off the upgrades in the Challenge mode and upgrades are not present in Twisted Metal: Lost. Like all the other Twisted Metal games by David Jaffe, the opponent AI in both Head-On and Lost target you and only you which can sometimes take you out of the immersion. But in Head-On I saw them acquire health pickups but more often than not, they don’t go for health when they need it. When you’re not around, the AI opponents seem to drive around aimlessly.
The single player in both Head-On and Lost come with three game modes – Story, Challenge, and Endurance which returns from Black. The Story mode is where you pick a vehicle and battle through nine battlegrounds, eleven if you include the boss battlegrounds. After defeating all of the opponents in specific battlegrounds, you can choose the next one. You do have lives and if you manage to defeat the opponents in each one and the bosses, you’ll get to see your driver’s ending video. There are no ending videos in Lost but beating the story mode does allow you to view a letter sent to Sony, supposedly by the deceased game makers. The boss battlegrounds in Head-On are where you battle bosses which consist of multiple phases. Dark Tooth returns as a boss and after he’s destroyed, you’ll get to take on Tower Tooth which is a massive tower-like vehicle. You can unlock the boss vehicles to drive and Tower Tooth can only be played in the Challenge mode and in one specific battleground. It’s kind of disappointing. The Challenge mode is where you can choose a vehicle, opponents, and battleground and battle it out for fun. The goal in Endurance is to survive as many opponents as you can.
There are vehicles and battlegrounds to unlock in both Head-On and Lost. In Lost, they are unlocked by beating the Story on the different difficulty modes. In Head-On, they are unlocked by completing various minigames which can be accessed from specific teleporters in the battlegrounds. The minigames are all trial and error and some can be very frustrating. I’m not a fan. You’ll have to drive through obstacle courses, a gauntlet, race opponents, there’s a top-down shooter one, and they each have different requirements for unlocking things. Completing them and meeting specific requirements will not only unlock vehicles and battlegrounds but also grant you extra lives, your health can be recharged, and you’ll be able to keep the weapon pickups acquired during the minigame. You can also be rewarded with cheats.
Head-On will take you to different locations around the world including Los Angeles, Paris, Egypt, and Tokyo, among others and Lost is set in the fictional Harbor City. There’s only four battlegrounds in Lost, one of which needs to be unlocked, and they all have the same kind of dark and dreary atmosphere. You’ll battle in the suburbs, stadium, carnival, and port. The battlegrounds in both games are big and somewhat destructible. The unlockable Death Match battlegrounds in Head-On are smaller variants of the story ones. Destroying things can reveal paths to new areas. You’ll come across teleporters that will teleport you to different areas of the battleground and some take you to minigames. You’ll get to drive off ramps, have to avoid some hazards like crushers, and you’re always free to basically drive anywhere you want.
The first two Twisted Metal games have kickass soundtracks. The first one is full of excellent heavy metal inspired tunes. Unfortunately, the soundtrack in Head-On is nothing like it. There’s an awesome metal tune heard at the main menu but the rest of the soundtrack is not anything like it. Some of the songs are okay and most of them fit in nicely with their respective battlegrounds. I just prefer blasting heavy metal while I’m blowing shit up. The soundtrack in Lost seems to contain some upbeat tunes but nothing really memorable in my opinion. Honestly, I was expecting to hear more dark and ambient stuff. The sound effects in both games are good. You can hear projectiles whizzing past your vehicle, weapons and explosions sound loud, and you can hear the vehicles roaring as they drive around. Other than some noticeable pop-in, the visual presentation in Head-On is full of color and has a cartoon-y comic-book style much like Twisted Metal 2 did. Lost retains the dark and dreary washed out presentation that Black had. But if you were into the tone and atmosphere of Black, then Lost definitely nails it. The vehicle models in both games look good and contain some neat animations. You’ll see different parts of the vehicles move and transform when you switch weapons. Furthermore, vehicles will show visible damage during battles and there are some cool visual effects accompanying the action. Explosions result and sparks flying through the air and missiles leave behind colorful smoke trails. On the technical side, the gameplay was extremely smooth but I did encounter some bugs. The music and certain sound effects would cut out every so often and I witnessed opponents get stuck in the environment from time to time.
I love Twisted Metal: Head-On and I think the Extra Twisted Edition is the best way to experience it. It’s like two games in one, it has the style of 2 and Black, and plenty of behind the scenes content that any Twisted Metal fan will appreciate. I like how Head-On continues the style of 2 complete with the dark humor while retaining the gameplay of Black. Basically, Head-On feels like a more vibrant Black. It’s also much easier. Lost feels like a continuation of Black in all categories. It’s just as dark, dreary, and depressing. If you liked Black, you’ll like Lost and it is a shame it was never finished. Head-On is one of my favorite entries in the series. I was very happy when it came out because I wasn’t a fan of Black and this felt like the modern Twisted Metal game I was hoping for at the time.
I would absolutely recommend Twisted Metal: Head-On Extra Twisted Edition to fans of the series and the vehicular combat genre. It’s one of the ultimate vehicular combat games you can play and one of the best in the Twisted Metal series. If you’re a fan of Twisted Metal 2 and Black, there’s a lot to love here and if you get the PSP version, you can play it on-the-go. But there’s more content to enjoy in the Extra Twisted Edition, making it the definitive version. Definitely check this out if you haven’t already.