Twisted Metal Head-On PSP Review

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.

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