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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Twisted Metal Head On (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Twisted Metal Head On marks the long-running car combat series' debut on the PSP. It's slightly smaller in scale and streamlined in approach, but it definitely feels and plays like a Twisted Metal game should. It has similar controls and the same winning feel that's made the previous titles so popular over the years. The large environments and maps are quite impressive, and the game's silky smooth controls, cool weapons, slick visuals, and challenging opponents make for an addictive experience. Even more exciting is the fact that you can enjoy the game solo, or compete against others using both local and internet Wi-Fi connections. Overall, Twisted Metal Head On is an exciting game that should please hardcore fans and casual players alike.

Developers Incognito Entertainment have done an excellent job reviving the Twisted Metal franchise over the past few years, with the release of Twisted Metal: Black on the PS2 along with it's online edition, going a long way in bringing the series back to prominence. Now they've attacked Sony's new PSP handheld and the results are excellent. Twisted Metal: Head On offers the traditional car-combat mayhem players have come to expect from the series, shrunken in size but not intensity. The brutal vehicular battles and cool weapons that players have come to expect are present in TMHO. The game also offers plenty of depth with multiple modes of play on massive destructible environments. Twisted Metal: Head On features 14 vehicles, including familiar favorites such as Sweet Tooth, Mr. Slam, Axel and Roadkill. Each of these characters' vehicles includes a unique special attack along with the usual weapons and speed boosts. At the start of the Challenge mode, players can choose which opponent they'll face, and can also select which of the 13 maps they'll play. This gives the single-player experience plenty of variety, helped along by some excellent maps and level designs.

Twisted Metal Head On's levels and environments are surprisingly expansive, giving players plenty of freedom of movement. These areas are smartly designed and offer an excellent variety of locations. The levels take place in several different areas of the world including Egypt, Russia, Greece, Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles. Each level is quite large, yet simpler in approach than the PS2 versions. Many levels contain secret, hidden areas to explore, in addition to the standard layout. Players will find a number fixed power-up locations where they appear consistently. There are also special vehicle upgrades that you can collect when you destroy one of your rivals. These upgrades can be used to increase your jump height, Increase the damage you cause when you ram another vehicle and add to your machine gun power. In addition, players will find environmental power-ups, which are unique to each level and energy power-ups, which can be used when your gauge is full. In addition to the standard level action, players will also find a number of teleports that unlock a number of cool mini-games during each level. These mini-games include a variety of gameplay modes such as obstacle courses, drag races, jumping contests and more. Each level contains a unique mini-game, which adds to the game's overall deprh even more. These elements combine to create an enjoyable and exciting gameplay experience with plenty of variables that reduce predictability while enhancing the game's strategic depth. The enemies' AI is also quite good, which each rival vehicle attacking the player aggressively with a variety of different weapons and methods.

In addition to Challenge mode, players can face an Endurance mode, where they have to survive as many opponents as possible.Twisted Metal Head On also includes a deep story mode, where players can follow their character through several levels. The game offers plenty of variety as well with several unique game modes and extras. TM's gameplay follows the previous titles, and is relatively straightforward. You are placed on a map with other vehicles and must destroy all of them to progress. Throughout each level, players will find various weapons power-ups and can attack with either standard weapons or super weapons. Each level in the game features a variety of health and other upgrades that appear randomly. During each level, players can locate other characters using their radar, which also shows the location of power-ups. This makes for a challenging game, and it's simple interface and streamlined approach makes for a highly addictive and entertaining experience in single player mode. While TM: Head On's single-player modes are exciting and engaging, the developers have also implemented an excellent array of multiplayer modes. The game supports Wi-Fi connectivity with both local (ad-hoc) and Internet play (infrastructure). These modes support up to six players with both survival and battle modes included. Setting up games is relatively easy once you find a server, and the gameplay itself is just as smooth and fast as the single-player modes. The game's multitude of modes, options and levels gives it a strong replay value, with pick up and play mechanics that should give it plenty of longevity. .

TM: Head On's straightforward controls and minimal interface make playing Twisted Metal: Head On an enjoyable experience. This definitely has that familiar TM feel to it, making it easy to pick up and play for veterans and newcomers alike. Players can use either the analog or traditional d-pad when Steering the vehicle, both modes offer responsive tactile feedback. The weapons system is fairly simple as well, just press and fire. Some of the Special attacks have lock-on targeting systems that are a little tricky to use, making accurate shots a bit difficult at long range. The camera system is excellent as well, making it easy to drive around, while targeting enemies isn't much of a problem. Obviously, the farther away you are from an enemy, the harder it is to destroy them. This can be annoying, but the game's lock-on weapons are much more effective and accurate than the standard machine guns, especially at close range. The game's main menus are easy to navigate, and the intuitive interface makes setting up online games a relatively painless once you're connected to the game's servers.

From a visual standpoint, Twisted Metal Head On look excellent with detailed graphics and an impressively smooth frame rate that allows for plenty of fast, frenetic action. The production values are impressive throughout with elaborate cinemas and excellent music that compliments the gameplay perfectly. The game's level designs are generally excellent, though some areas are more enjoyable than others. Most of the levels take place in large open areas, with plenty ramps and tunnels to traverse. These environments are impressively rendered and come to life brilliantly with excellent light sourcing and weapons effects showing off the PSP's hardware. The design stays true to the series' trademark off-beat style with destroyed landmarks and other grungy environments. Aside from a few dark sections, the visuals are crisp and clear throughout. Overall, the game's graphics are excellent, nearly console quality with an impressive overall look that's both highly-polished and clean, giving it a sleek and modern appearance. 

Overall, TM: Head On is a solid title that marks another entertaining installment in the long running series. Twisted Metal Head On should please casual and hardcore fans with its fast gameplay, excellent level design and challenging missions. It plays beautifully using the PSP's controls while still offering enough action and depth that it should satisfy hardcore gamers. The multiple modes of play offer plenty of depth, with multiple modes, hidden areas, mini-games and more to keep players occupied. The game's structure is excellent with fast-paced action and intuitive controls that make it easy to jump right in. From a visual standpoint, the game makes good use of the PSP hardware with expansive gameplay environments, a smooth frame rate and plenty of speed. Overall, the developers at Incognito have done an excellent job with Twisted Metal Head On. This is an enjoyable game that's both entertaining and challenging. It stays true to the sprit, feel and structure of the previous games but also represents a successful first appearance for the series on the PSP. Twisted Metal Head On is a solid game that deserves a strong recommendation for any owner of Sony's new handheld platform looking for an excellent mix of racing and action.

Grade: B

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