Review by Sour
"It's time to go Head-on!"
The success of Twisted Metal: Black left critics and gamers drooling for a Twisted Metal: Black 2. Unfortunately a large part of the development team died in a plane crash and so the game was canceled. The fate of the franchise hung in the balance, but it would continue to move forward, the franchise anyway. Twisted Metal: Black 2 was invariably canceled and we'll never see such a game. The next game in the franchise, Twisted Metal: Head-On would come into existence, replacing the poorly-received Twisted Metal III in terms of where it belongs in the time-line. As such, it should be known that this game is the "true" Twisted Metal III. Twisted Metal: Head-On was originally released for the PSP but was eventually ported to the PS2 with several upgrades including some bonus modes and a graphical overhaul, as well as exclusive bonus content.
Story: 10/10: The plot remains largely unchanged from Twisted Metal III and it's predecessors. A mysterious and powerful man named Calypso has invited several select individuals to take part in a tournament of vehicular combat that spans the globe. The tournament's stakes are high, as losing will cost you your life. Whomever is the last man (or woman) standing is granted any one wish by Calypso himself. However, often, Calypso will grant the wish in such a way that it will do major harm to the winning contestant, most often fatally so. However it may not always bode well for Calypso either, depending on the character. For instance, if I myself were to win, I could ask to be granted a million dollars. As I walked out I'd be likely killed or mugged for the money. Or if I wished for eternal youth, I'd be stuck in a baby's body forever. The theme of the series has always been "be careful what you wish for", and this game goes right along with that. Sometimes the character gets exactly what they want though, typically if their wish is for something bad to happen.
Game-play: 10/10: Much like the story, the game-play is largely the same. Upon starting up the game you can choose from one of several vehicles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (Armor, speed, special move power, etc.). You'll then be pitted in a series of arenas in story mode, in what can be described as essentially demolition derbies. There is a twist though. Every vehicle gets weapons. You can drive around each arena and pick up various weapons to add to your arsenal. You can then scroll through them and use whichever ones you want, so long as you have it in stock. Each character also has their own special weapon, which is constantly re-stocking or regenerating. The special weapons are often tailored to meet the design of the character's vehicle or their personality. Everybody also has a pair of machine guns mounted on each side of the car. These guns are weak and when used too much at once, they overheat and must cool down before they can be used again. However the machine guns have unlimited ammo so sometimes it can still help when bombarding an enemy with attacks as you can simultaneously fire the weapons picked up and the machine guns. You also have a special energy bar off to the side that gets used up when entering a specific button combination in battle that allows you to execute special actions, such as jumping, tele-porting, shooting a weapon from behind, or activating a shield around your car. I also really liked the boss characters in this one, one of them being a spoof of the Griswalds' hillbilly cousins who live in a mobile home. The last boss fights are akin to that of Twisted Metal II.
In addition to the single-player campaign, there are several different modes to choose from this time around. You can team-up with a friend in co-op to really blast your way through the game. Or you can select Death match, which will pit you against another human player if you're feeling competitive. In the options menu, you can see any movies that you've unlocked such as the intro movie, character endings, and the credits. You'll also have a special menu that will allow you to view certain bonus materials that weren't in the PSP version. The Playstation 2 version also lacks online however, so both games have their flaws. For instance, there is the Sweet Tour, where you play as Sweet Tooth, locked an asylum. He escapes from his bindings and must find an escape. Along the way you'll find factoids about the franchise up to this point and some concept art. There's also a documentary that's available to view about the history of Twisted Metal and Twisted Metal: Head-On. There are a couple of new single-player modes as well such as endurance and challenge. Challenge just pits you up against five other vehicles of your choosing and endurance is a one-on-one match until you die. You can also play levels from the canceled Twisted Metal: Harbor City, a feature exclusive to the PS2 version.
Graphics: 10/10: Once again the team behind the Twisted Metal franchise delivers in the PS2 era. The graphics are simply fantastic and have been largely upgraded from the PSP version. The PS2 version also runs at a faster framerate of 60 fps. All of the games cinematics are now cell-shaded which is pretty cool, and they still somehow made the game feel pretty dark. The game's endings are now done in a comic book-esque style, a callback to Twisted Metal II, though this time it's been done even better as sometimes the drawing moves on the same storyboard, for instance, Sweet Tooth slightly adjusting a side mirror on his vehicle. The vehicle models all look fantastic as well and look better than the PSP version, where they look a bit blockier, ala the first two games in the franchise. The programmers did an excellent job here and lets hope that the good visual quality returns in future games.
Audio: 10/10: The composers tried something a bit different for this game as far as the soundtrack goes. It's pretty much all techno or electronica, rave-type music. It's still pretty dark though which captures the atmosphere of the franchise. They have really catchy beats here and it's kind of cool for a change of pace. The voice acting is done pretty well, though Calypso didn't sound as menacing as he usually does. It was still a good effort on his part, they just could have chosen someone with a voice that was a little more suited for the character. Everyone else sounds great and they fit the part, especially Needles Kane (aka Sweet Tooth). The sound effects are on par with other games at the time, nothing really stands out. All in all they did a pretty good job and the music is both different and excellent.
Overall: 10/10: They definitely did the right thing by replacing Twisted Metal III with this game. It has a deeper plot and the game is far more inspired overall, especially in terms of level design. I still would like to see professional artists recording for this series again but it hasn't happened since Twisted Metal 4. The soundtrack they used though was great and overall it's as fantastic as Twisted Metal 2, 4, and Black. If you love the darker games in the series then this is the game for you.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 03/16/10
Game Release: Twisted Metal: Head-On - Extra Twisted Edition (US, 02/05/08)
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