Ahh, the much loved Twisted Metal series, arguably the series that made car combat what it is today. After debuting forcefully on the original PlayStation 10 years ago, the franchise has been through its share of ups and downs. Twisted Metal's history is so complex that it even includes an illegitimate child (Rogue Trip) and a stream of rather poor releases. Somehow, Sony managed to recruit the original folks behind the first two Twisted Metals (and Rogue Trip), secured them permanently and thus Twisted Metal: Black was born. A rebirth of the series, Twisted Metal: Black was everything that Twisted Metal fans had been waiting for since the release of the second. And now, four years after the release of Twisted Metal: Black, the franchise has found its way to Sony's PSP. The folks at Incognito have once again done it…
Visually, I wasn't surprised to see Twisted Metal: Head On boast lush, and very clean visuals. Incognito did it before with Black early on in the PS2's lifespan, and they're doing it again with the PSP. Twisted Metal has always been about large arenas to combat in, so some may have questioned how well the PSP would pull this off. In short, Head On delivers in practically every aspect. The arenas are enormous and draw-in is pretty much non-existent, the textures are smooth and never noticeably pixilated. The environments are enormous and full of detail, the frame rate is fantastically smooth, and the vehicular detail is always admirable. Head On does a superb job of looking just like its PS2 predecessor; even every little special effect from the game's combat has remained preserved. And what's more is that the game's overall image is as smooth as can be; so you won't find aliasing issues with this launch title. Head-On is definitely a looker for a launch title; it stands above a number of PSP's launch titles with expansive backgrounds, such as Need for Speed Underground Rivals and possibly even Ridge Racers. One thing's for sure, Twisted Metal: Head-On is very pleasing to look at.
But how does it play on a miniaturized little unit like the PSP? Not only does it look like Twisted Metal, but it feels exactly like it as well. The core of the game is, of course, its story mode. As always, you choose a car to go through a set of stages with (11 in this case) and along the way you'll run into various bosses, including the final one. The tournament is still run by Calypso, whose claim that he will grant the winner of the tournament his/her wish, is still present. The basics of the game have largely remained the same, as you will note. But Incognito has made a few refinements to the venerable franchise with this entry. For starters, for every opponent you defeat, you will be able to pick up an upgrade relic from atop of his/her burning vehicle. This relic can be an upgrade for anything from life bar, turbo, machine gun fire, jumping height, to defense and etc. Packing on these upgrades during crucial pre-boss levels is a tactic everyone's going to want to use, and it adds an extra amount of depth to the game. Also, Incognito has incorporated mini-stages into every arena and they are accessed via teleporter. The genius behind these little mini-stages is that they are challenge missions that require you to run a special course, be it a maze, a puzzle, or an accurate speed run, under a designated time. You'll be allowed to repeat these bonus stages as many times as you want, and believe me when I tell you that they're pretty tough — although quite addictive. Head-On is also one of the very first PSP games to not just include wi-fi LAN multiplayer capability, but complete online capability. If you have a wireless network setup in your household, or if you can leech off of an unprotected spot, you'll be able to play Head-On with anyone all around the country.
The vehicular selection is a comfortably wide 14. All of your favorites have returned for another showing, and a few new faces have made the cut as well. The 12 levels are all based on various locales that have appeared in Twisted Metal games. For instance, we've got a new rooftop level, a new Los Angeles level and even an all new Paris level. There are quite a number of levels to choose from in the game, so the chances of you getting bored with the selection anytime soon are rather slim; not to mention the level design itself is quite nice. Above all else, Twisted Metal Head-On's selling point is that its fun; a little too much fun. I've plugged in a healthy amount of hours into the game, and I absolutely cannot wait until I get a few wi-fi games going with a few friends.
As far as sound goes, Head-On pretty much sounds like what you'd expect it to sound like. The sound effects are reminiscent of Twisted Metal Black, such as the explosions, missile/rocket launch effects, machine gun fire, tires squealing and etc. Keeping the tradition going, Head-On's soundtrack plays out similarly to other Twisted Metals; in that each arena has a unique song of its own to fit the atmosphere. The Paris track has a nice little accordion in it, the Egypt track has brassy notes, the LA track has a really heavy rock tune and so on. But the music still has its tense moments — a staple for the industry — so don't worry. Just rest-assured that the game sounds as it should.
In the end, it must be said again; Twisted Metal Head-On is fun. There really isn't anything bad I can say about the game, even though it's not a perfect title. What Twisted Metal Head-On is is a great action title and a fantastic launch game that deserves your attention. It'll keep you entertained for hours and hours, and the multiplayer capabilities truly are an absolute blast. Head-On is completely faithful to the Twisted Metal namesake and does pretty much everything right. Again, even though I didn't point out a single flaw this entire review, it just needs to be noted that it's because the game doesn't really have any detrimental flaws. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Twisted Metal Head-On and make sure your friends do the same.