Twisted Metal first hit the PS1 back in '96, but my personal
favorite was definitely Twisted Metal 2 which followed that
same year. The Twisted Metal series became a hit with a formula
that was both fun and addictive: deathmatching with weapon
equipped vehicles across various arenas, completely without
any of the standard racing elements. While the series fell
into a slump with Twisted Metal 3 and 4, it made a great comeback
in June of 2001 with Twisted Metal: Black for the PS2. The
series has now made the leap to Sony's new handheld, complete
with online play, and makes a pretty strong showing all around.
Like so many of the PSP's launch lineup titles, Twisted Metal
is the evolution of past gameplay mechanics fine tuned for
handheld gaming. Head-On consists of 14 vehicles across 12
arenas, and if you're new to the series, you spend your time
collecting weapon pickups with which to blow your opponents
to the scrap yard. Each vehicle has its own special move that
recharges overtime, and along with several weapon pickups like
napalm and homing rockets, one can pull off a series of special
attacks using street fight like direction combos. For example,
up, down, up will launch a freezing attack, while right, right,
down, down will deploy a temporary shield. These take energy
from a bar, which will refill over time.
The physics in Head-On are light and airy, good enough to
give a sense of speed and control, but mostly focused on moving
fast and flying high. Many of your attacks will send the opponents
flying, which can be half the fun sometimes. The tracks themselves
are well designed with hidden stashes of ammo, bonus areas,
tons of destroyable objects, and an impressive amount of extra
NPCs (Non-Playable-Characters) running around. NPCs such as
traffic on city streets and race cars flying around the race
track really help the tracks feel more complete, and your vehicles
feel all the more powerful.
One of the real draws to this game is certainly the online
multiplayer, something welcomed to both the series and the
PSP. Although the series attempted online play with the freebie
Twisted Metal: Black Online bundled with the PS2 network adapter,
the PSP pulls it off right out of the box. I was able to set
up my account and log in right over the PSP, and up and running
in my first game pretty much right off the bat. While starting
a new game was a bit of a hassle due to the dwindling player
base, once I got a good game going things were perfectly smooth
and played great.
I must admit, Head-On feels a little dated. The graphics certainly
aren't bad, there's plenty of polys, the arenas are large and
well designed, and the attack effects are easy to see even
on the PSP. That said however, certain buildings, the way the
cars get tossed around sometimes, and the overall feel of the
game is somewhat older than the best of the PSP lineup. The
graphics are very good, but I really don't get the feeling
they've got quite as much shine as they could. The intro and
ending sequences will depend on taste, and while rather corny
acting prevails, they do feel like a nice throwback to the
days of Twisted Metal 2.
Honestly, I have even less to say about the sound than I do
the graphics. Twisted Metal's strengths lie mainly in its gameplay.
The music is good enough but completely forgettable, I'd be
hard pressed to name a single track. The sounds are good, and
make good use of the stereo to locate the enemy, though sound
effects aren't exactly revolutionary in the sound department.
The voice acting is just plain b-movie.
There are so many vehicle based titles in the PSP's launch
lineup that Twisted Metal: Head-On is a bit of a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, it's old school deathmatching fun. On the
other, if you're ok with racing elements then you're probably
better off with Wipeout Pure for now. While Twisted Metal:
Head-On hits much of the same sweet spot as Twisted Metal 2,
gaming as a whole has moved on a bit since then and I rather
feel like the bar has been raised. The most evolutionary thing
Head-On brings is of course it's multiplayer, but it's hard
to say how long the player base will hold out.
Once I got games going the online play was smooth and as good
as I had hoped. It's something I desperately hope to see in
future PSP titles over the standard ad-hoc. That said, finding
an open room with a good connection and willing set of players
this long after launch was already getting troublesome. In
a few months, it's hard to say.
If you've never played the series and it's still fresh to
you, or if you're ready for some old school vehicular action,
Twisted Metal: Head-On may well be a great choice. It's not
a visual or audio masterpiece, but the gameplay is solid and
very easy to play. The single player story mode lasts a good
long while each play through, and unlocking hidden cars and
seeing each characters story and ending really makes it worth
playing with every character. It's not the best Twisted Metal
to date, but it's still a solid showing for this old fan favorite
Playing Hints and Tips
- To really compete, you should master the special moves.
Although there are several, you'll be using three most of all:
Freeze Missile: up, down, up
This will freeze your enemy in place for a few seconds, allowing
you to get some good hits in on him or use a close range
special. It'll even home in on them a little bit.
Shield: right, right, down, down
Roughly 5 seconds of protection from all types of attacks.
It's one of the few defensive moves in the game, so use it
well! A well timed shield can make a huge difference, especially
Rear-fire: left, right, down, (fire)
You'll be using this one quite often. This will fire your
attack backwards, great for surprise hits and pursuing enemies.
The best part about it is that it takes absolutely no energy
- When battling the final boss, a head-on struggle is nearly
impossible. Your best bet is to jet around the outside of the
city as fast as your boost will carry you, firing off missiles
and homing missiles using the rear-fire attack whenever it
starts to get near. You can tell by watching your radar. When
the dots line up, fire away. Watch for point values to ensure
you hit, and save the health pickups for when you need them.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
The graphics, while not being absolutely
outstanding, are very good overall. From flame throwers to
homing rockets, it all works very well on the PSP. The physics
have a nice airy arcade feel to them and even online, things
are very smooth. Little touches like the race cars zooming
through the track and the amount of destructible objects help
show the attention to detail.
The voice acting during the endings may
be pretty sub par, but there's nothing altogether bad about
Twist Metal's soundtrack. The problem is simply that it's completely
forgettable, and while certainly passable, just manages to
If you're a fan of the old Twisted Metal
formula, Head-On delivers. It doesn't have the most depth around,
but it delivers quite solidly on the fun. Each car controls
uniquely enough and the specials help make them all worth driving.
The levels are well designed and they're just plain fun, as
is playing online.
The single player story is both lengthy
enough to be enjoyable, and short enough to be played on a
handheld. The abundance of extras, secrets, and story endings
will be sure to have you replaying through several times. The
real boon to addictivity here is the easy to use online play,
and if I was sure of its staying power, I'd rate it even higher.
With no extras coming out so far however, I look for fans who
have been playing since launch to slowly migrate away.