Twisted Metal: Head On: Extra Twisted Edition – PS2 – Review

combat, AKA the genre gone stale, has nearly dropped off the face of the Earth.
Most of these games died off long ago, getting replaced by power-up-heavy racers
(Full Auto) and open-world driving games (Grand Theft Auto). The sole exception
has been the Twisted Metal series. But even that franchise has suffered – we
haven’t gotten a new sequel since the PSP iteration in 2005.

This month
marks the release of Twisted Metal Head-On for PlayStation 2. Those who played
it before may be tempted to skip this console port. But don’t rule out its
entertainment value until you read about the abundance of extras crammed into
the Extra Twisted Edition.


Metal Black 2: The Game You’ll Never Play

All was not
lost when Twisted Metal Black 2 went away. Like any game, the project was
designed in chunks. Four of those chunks – Death Port, Suburban Terror, Stadium
Slaughter and Carnival of Darkness – are the levels that make up the lost
section of the game.

The designs are
excellent, surpassing the depth of the Head-On stages with a larger number of
areas to explore. Each is comprised of architecture that not only looks good but
also makes for a great place to battle. Death Port is the series’ first on-edge
level, and I mean that literally. Stuck out at sea, you have two enormous ships
to cruise through. The layout is great with lots of battleground on top of and
within both ships. Skid off the edge, however, and you’ll be down one life. This
is not a new idea to gaming, but it isn’t something that’s commonly found in
vehicular combat games. Whereas before you’d be dedicated to blowing up your
friends, now you might just want to push them over the edge for an easy win.

Carnival of
Darkness is another wonderful stage and should be included in any future Twisted
Metal titles, albeit with some changes/updates to keep it feeling fresh. The
roller coaster is great – rather than climb another pillar or building, you get
to climb the coaster, score additional power-ups, and take out opponents from up
top. There’s a cool underground area as well, and other hidden passages to find.

Suburban Terror
and Stadium Slaughter fall in line with the series’ previous level designs.
They’re not as interesting as the other two, but both are a fresh take on their
respective styles: urban battlegrounds and arena/stadium combat.


DVD Extras

Most people
don’t buy DVDs anymore for the so-called “extras,” so it’s unlikely that you’d
buy a video game for behind-the-scenes discussions with the series’ creators.
It’s also unlikely that you’d buy a game for live-action ending films (which
would’ve played when you beat the game with each character) that were scrapped
before the original Twisted Metal was released.

But as a bonus
for those who were already going to buy the game, the discussions are quite
valuable. David Jaffe has several eye-opening, I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that
things to say. You don’t get that much honesty from the behind-the-scenes crap
that floods DVDs, mainly because those are created for publicity (hence the “It
was so great working with [Actor X]” hyperbole). This, however, was created to
show us how the games were made.

As for the
live-action endings, they’re on par with the quality of Sega CD’s videos. Watch
one and you’ll know why they were deleted.

On Foot

There’s no
crazy idea game publishers and developers won’t consider. Before Black 2 was
canned, the developers began working on a mode where you could take Sweet Tooth
out of his famous ice cream truck and control him on foot. No cool weapons on
his back. No wheels in his shoes. Just him, his fists and the glow of fire
running off his head.

We’ll never
know exactly what that mode would have played like, but you’ll get to experience
a portion of the developer’s vision in Sweet Tour, a mode you’ll only see in ETE.
Given that the stages and hand-to-hand combat had not been completed, the
developers added 29 Sweet Tooth icons for you to collect, each of which offers
different facts and behind-the-scenes images (photos, concept art, etc.) from
the series.


Look behind Sweet Tooth for a glimpse of the Impound Lot

The first one
notes, “What you see is all that remains of these foot missions. The animation
is crude, the art is not final, and there is little gameplay.” That’s an honest
assessment. Sweet Tooth’s walk is choppy, has only one attack (hold your breath
for this one – he can punch), and there aren’t any enemies to fight. Instead,
you’ll explore the repetitive corridors of an asylum, and climb over and around
piled up cars in an impound lot.

The facts are
more exciting than the mode itself, but there is one cool feature. Toward the
end of the stage you’ll encounter a few traps – such as two giant cogs grinding
together – that the Black 2 developers had planned to include. They’re not
finished so you can walk right past them.

Their look,
however, is very gruesome and evokes thoughts of Mortal Kombat, which is ironic
considering one of the game’s revelations: when the Twisted Metal series began,
they chose hardcore fighting fans as their target gamer for focus tests. The
developers told ‘em, “It’s a fighting game on wheels.” But the testers, who were
used to Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Street Fighter, or all four, were
not amused. They made fun of the game, striking fear in the hearts of everyone
who worked on it. Lucky for them, focus test participants rarely represent the
kinds of people that will (or could) end up buying your game.


The asylum’s repetitive corridors could drive you crazy.
Ironic, no?

Head-On PS2

the new stage added to the Head-On lineup, is an unrelenting blast. It must have
been a joy creating this stage’s castle, whose enormous size is never
overwhelming but always inspiring. You can never be sure you’ve seen it all,
because just when you think you have, another tunnel, portal or secret area
reveals itself. The high pillars and low, bridge- and wall-dominated environment
give players several places to escape death in a close battle. Heat-seeking
missiles can only travel so far. Round a tight corner and the missile won’t make
it past the barrier.

Plus, it looks
really cool. It’s the kind of place I’d want to visit in real life – you know,
if I had a weapon-equipped vehicle and could leave the arena in one piece.

Bonuses Not

ETE comes with
two bonuses that weren’t available for review: an art book and downloadable


A page from the art book.

If you’ve
played the original Head-On to death, the four lost levels and brand-new Head-On
stage might not be enough to quench your thirst. However, the game hasn’t lost
its luster, not even as a port from a handheld to a console (the strangest of
all ports that occur in our industry). It sucks that the technology didn’t allow
for split-screen gaming, so you’ll be limited to just two players. That’ll turn
off some players, no doubt.

But two of the
best Twisted Metal games were also limited to just two players. And though a
full-fledged sequel would’ve been better, it’s hard to argue with the upgrades.
When is the last time you’ve played a port that contained more than a graphic

Scoring Details

for Twisted Metal Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition

Gameplay: 8.2
Twisted Metal:
Head-On retains the three Fs all vehicular combat games need to succeed: fun,
fast and furious gameplay. There are slight differences in the graphics and in
the way the game feels, but you’re mostly getting the same content (plus five
new levels that shouldn’t be missed).

Head-On looks good
on PS2 but not as good as it did on PSP since these 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.

Sound: 6.0
Lots of grunting,
moaning, dark music… Some good stuff here and there, but the majority is just
barely adequate.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
David Jaffe says it
himself in the game: Twisted Metal Black was too hard. Thus, they made this a
really easy, pick-up-and-play experience that any gamer can finish in a day. The
bonuses are fun but only a few of them are well-hidden; most fit with the
mainstream appeal the Extra Twisted Edition is trying to achieve.

Concept: 8.0
This score goes out
to the new content, which shows that the developers are still the kings of
vehicular combat.

Multiplayer: 7.0
Stellar but scaled
back. The Extra Twisted Edition is a blast – a game you’ll want to play
continuously for hours. But it’s limited to just two players, which pales in
comparison to what the PSP edition offered.

Overall: 8.0
Not a must-buy for
everyone, but a must-play for every Twisted Metal fan. You’ll love the
bonus stages, the chat with David Jaffe, and the series facts held within Sweet
Tour. And if by some chance you haven’t played Head-On for PSP, then it most
certainly is a must-buy on PS2.