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November 23, 2005
Twisted Metal: Head On - Review
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We're in L.A. Wood eh?
Twisted Metal: Head On was a US launch title for PSP back in March of this year, but it’s not until this month that we have seen it released in Europe and Australia. The staggered release was probably caused by the glut of car racing games that has plagued the PSP since its launch. Those familiar with the concept of the Twisted Metal series can skip over this paragraph – you already know what the series is about, and Twisted Metal: Head On does nothing to change the formula. Basically you drive around in a car, unleashing an assortment of weapons, including, but not limited to missiles, bombs, and napalm. The aim of the game is to simply blow the crap out of your opponents, before they blow the crap out of you. Nothing too cerebral here... but it’s always the simple games that are the most addictive.

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Some nice explosions!
The bulk of the game is the story mode, although the word ‘story’ is used quite loosely. Effectively you choose from one of ten different players, all with a range of specialties, and vehicles of choice and then simply blow up your opposition, steal their talents, blow up more cars, and then progress to the next arena, where the idea follows on. The incentive to follow story mode, and uncover secrets in their levels, is the myriads of unlockable hidden goodies, ranging from car upgrades, special attacks, to new characters. In addition to the story mode two free modes are available: Endurance and Challenge. These are more suitable for a quick few minutes of play, with the same amount of options, but limited to destroying one enemy per match.

Where Twisted Metal: Head On really shines however, is in its multiplayer aspect. Ad-hoc multiplayer supports up to 6-players and, for the first time in Australia an online infrastructure mode, which also supports up to 6-players. This was the first time I have had the chance to play online, and I have to say it was a rousing success. Very little lag was experienced, and playing was relatively easy and a whole lot of fun. The lobby also allows chatting. I was quite impressed by the online play, and I really hope that this feature is utilized more frequently in upcoming titles. Rounding out the multiplayer options is the game share feature, which allows 2 users to play a demo from the one UMD. It’s a pretty painful way to share the game as it takes a good few minutes to wi-fi it out and back (as users of Burnout Legends will attest to), but it’s nonetheless welcome.

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That's gonna hurt!
Apart from graphical tidbits I will expand on later, if I had to pull aside one aspect of the game, it would be its relative ease, most annoyingly in its reliance on automatically homing weapons, which makes the whole affair little more than roughly being in the sights of an enemy and pressing fire. The requirement, or option for more precisional input would make the game a bit more challenging, and engaging.

Twisted Metal has always featured a pretty slick trademark visual presentation, and its still here, although a little restrained. The PSP is an ideal console for the Twisted Metal series, and overall graphically it doesn’t really disappoint. Everything looks pretty good, but it won’t set any break any benchmarks. Although everything is fully 3D rendered, there is a static-ness to the backgrounds that is mildly disappointing. For want of a better sentence, it just doesn’t feel terribly ‘alive’. While the game does include some shadow effects, lighting and lens flare effects are unfortunately minimal at best. It’s a pretty small quibble, but one that always improves the immersiveness of a game.

I’m pretty happy to report that there are no real problems with the frame rate, its fairly steady stuff. Only when I had four other cars on screen - two in the process of exploding, and another being rammed - did I see any dips. One aspect which continues to impress on the PSP is the quality of cut scene animations, and Twisted Metal Head On has the best I have seen yet, featuring some very high quality, cel shaded scenes. A very nice touch.

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The game can be electric!
Sounding more like a live action Marvel comic book (i.e. ‘Boom’ ‘Crash’ etc), Twisted Metal: Head On doesn’t tax the system too much. There’s a whole gamut of sound effects resulting from the myriads of on board weapons, and resulting explosions. The in game soundtrack is pretty cool and featuring a variety of styles, ranging from rock tunes, to blood pumping orchaestral. Although said soundtrack isn’t likely to offend, the option for custom soundtracks wouldn’t have gone astray here. In short, everything sounds like it should, but a few more features would have propelled it.

Twisted Metal: Head On is one of the better games to be make it over to PSP, in that you can pick it up, load into a game quickly and play for just a few minutes. Too many games are starting to come out which relies on players time for long matches, but with Twisted Metal: Head On there is enough here to provide short bursts of play, whilst also rewarding longer bursts.

Review By: Ben Gourlay

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GRAPHICSSolid looking but nothing terribly special. The Twisted Metal visual trademark is also quite restrained.
SOUNDPretty nice effort here, but nothing taxing the system to the limits. Adequate music but unfortunately no custom soundtrack.
GAMEPLAYQuick learning curve, and dynamics are relatively easy to handle. Short play options are well executed.
VALUEA solid offering, but I don’t guarantee its long term replay value.
OVERALLWhile it lacks a few of the frills there is enough here in Twisted Metal: Head On to validate a purchase from fans and smash ‘em up aficionados.

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