Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition was my baptism by fire, missiles, and explosions. You see, though I've known about the iconic Sweet Tooth, I'd never before taken a spin in his mangled ice cream truck. Because of Twisted Edition's additional content and the series' dedicated fans, I felt it was time to see what I'd been missing.
Outside of Head-On and the bonus levels of Lost, the aforementioned extras are great for Metal fans and greenhorns like me. As a newbie, I looked to them for enlightenment (and entertainment). A lengthy interview with the series' passionate creators brought me up to speed, and inspired me to respect their work. According to them, their games were simple and pure, and too many titles nowadays are not; the latter is true, but I wanted to find out if they were right about the former.
Appropriately honoring their creators, the four complete Lost arenas are both fun and well-designed, making up for their lackluster textures with fantastic architecture.
If you're unfamiliar with Twisted Metal, it can be loosely described as a third-person shooter with cars. You and your opponents face off in a relatively spacious map, which is adorned with secret hallways and power-ups. There's no track to follow, no laps to care about; it's all about drawing blood. A derby-style mash-up can tickle almost anyone's barbarian sensibilities, but that concept alone doesn't give the Twisted Edition a free ride through modern skepticism.
My newfound appreciation for SingleTrac's beloved creation didn't help me cotton on to its controls. At first, I pressed the X button to accelerate, and that was a mistake; it worked, but led me to swerving around recklessly. Since the shoulder buttons were used for weaponry, I searched the manual desperately for a means of taking turns tightly; accelerating with the left analog stick was the solution. Evidently, that was the classic means of control, and only the PSP release of Head-On ever displaced it, but no in-game tutorial forced me to read that for myself. Oh, such woe!
That brought Head-On's intentional simplicity back into the open, right alongside its archaic graphics. During the early PlayStation years, bare-bones HUDs and text menus were acceptable, but three-dimensional gaming has come a long way. The same can't be said for Head-On, which practically comes right out of 1995. Sometimes the artificial intelligence acts just as dated, and it's painfully apparent on the easiest difficulty settings, even though you're struggling with a vehicle that drives like a shopping cart.
Interestingly, the levels of Twisted Metal: Lost weren't such wide-open exposés on the AI's failings. The dramatic, true story behind Twisted Metal: Black 2's cancellation is ironically fitting, considering the grim world that this fictional contest exists in, and how its winners are usually rewarded. (See the corny, live-action endings from the original Twisted Metal if you don't know anything about the competition, and savor their cheesy flavor.)
Appropriately honoring their creators, the four complete Lost arenas are both fun and well-designed, making up for their lackluster textures with fantastic architecture. They're not as unnecessarily open as Head-On's levels, which intensifies everything, yet if you love exploring, there's plenty to see.
You can have even more fun in either game by cruising along with a friend, but this iteration of Head-On shamefully reduces the amount of multiplayer participants to two. The lack of internet play is sadder still, since Twisted Metal has been online several times before, and a human foe will always give you a greater challenge (unless they're using the X button to get around).
If you're tempted to rip through Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition's multiple courses, tantalizing bonus content, or both, keep in mind that it's not for everyone. The purity of its offerings are damaged by their unsophisticated controls and very basic appearance. Anyone craving a smash-'em-up that's darker than Mario Kart may find something enjoyable, but they won't find the Nintendo racer's polish (though they will find a dirtier, sinister sort of beast). While I had an all right time, I'll try the upcoming installation on the PS3 before I consider joining the fandom.