When the PSP launched in September there was a noticable absentee from the launch lineup, Twisted Metal Head On, which was a launch title in the US. Driving games have settled in really well with the PSP, and even though the handheld has only been available for a few months there is already a plethora of racing games available, ranging from the bad to the good. Sony have delayed the title and released it further down the track, and we're pleased to report that even though we're nearly burnt out on PSP racing games, Twisted Metal Head On is a worthy addition to your PSP library, just don't expect too much depth from the game.
The Twisted Metal series originally came out for the PSOne but really began to gain popularity when Twisted Metal Black came out for the Playstation 2. The series is all about putting you in an environment with the aim of being the last car standing. It isn't just your vehicle that you can use to eliminate the other cars, weapons are scattered around the area, and you can use them to damage your opponants. It's a really basic concept and whilst it isn't entirely deep; it still remains extremely addictive.
The PSP version is an entirely new game that takes a lot of its ideas from its predecessors. From the main menu you're able to choose from either multiplayer or single player. The multiplayer is a lot of fun, and Sony have even added full infrastructure support. Twisted Metal Head On is officially one of the first online PAL games, and connecting to the network is very simple. There weren't very many people online when we tried the mode, but the game is relatively new so this might be the main reason. Those who don't want to go online can also play Wi-Fi multiplayer, so Sony really have added a wide range of multiplayer options. In terms of modes there are plenty of options, such as deathmatch, so there is plenty of variety.
There are three main single player options to choose from and they include story, challenge and endurance. Whilst this may seem like a lot of modes, there aren't many variations upon the three modes. The story mode is the main mode and basically just involves going through cities and fulfilling the goals, which are generally a case of destroying a certain number of enemies. Each level in the story mode takes place in a city such as Los Angeles and Egypt, and the traditional recognisable landmarks from each place is instantly recognisable. Sure the levels are a little stereotypical but it's great being able to identify with the area straight away.
There are also a wide range of vehicles for you to plow through the levels with and most of these are available from the beginning of the game. Each vehicle has different stats, but they don't really make a difference as the game isn't a test of speed. You're really able to just choose the vehicle that you think looks best, and even more vehicles can be unlocked as you progress.
It's unfair to expect the game to be a deep experience, but we feel a little disappointed that the game is really a very shallow title gameplay wise. It is just a case of driving around and shooting whatever moves, and this can become a little repetitive after awhile. The game is really at it's best in multiplayer and if you're only going to play it on your lonesome it may be best to stick to the console versions.
Controlling the vehicles with the analog nub is a bit difficult as well, as the nub is far too sensitive and it makes it nearly impossible to control the vehicles. The game runs so fast that by the time you're able to adjust your vehicle in the direction you want to go your opponant could be behind you firing at you. In an intense game this becomes extremely annoying and had us swearing at the PSP's screen a few times.
Incog Inc, who developed the game have done well to keep the game flowing without any frame-rate issues, and we didn't experience any slowdown in the title at all. The game can become extremely intense, and we were expecting that the PSP would have a little trouble handling all the action, but we had no problems at all. The game is plagued by some fairly hefty loading at times though, so we guess that if you don't wait in-game then you wait before the game.
Graphically the game looks just as good as it did on the Playstation 2 a few years ago. The environments are fairly large and very interactive which is great. The best thing about the environments is that they are multi-layered, which means there are many different directions that you can go, this may seem like a novelty but it becomes very handy when someone is on your tail. The Twisted Metal series has always been very colourful and keeping with this tradition the characters and levels are all very vibrant.
The character banter becomes fairly repetitive, a lot of the comments made are simply stupid and don't even come remotely close to being funny. We think maybe some of the banter is made to be predictably unfunny, but just because Incog Inc have managed to succeed in this aspect, doesn't mean we should be commending the sound.
The real lifespan of the game lies with the multiplayer mode. The story mode isn't too challenging and after playing through each level a few times you will easily be able to complete the level. If you have a wireless router or will be playing this game in multiplayer then there is real value to be had with the game. The other two single player modes (challenge and endurance) feel more like placeholders, and are only really for if you want to go one on one with an opponant.
Twisted Metal Head On is a spiritual successor to Twisted Metal Black. The game hasn't changed that much, nor is it that different to its predecessor, but if you're after a driving game for your PSP that doesn't take itself too seriously and puts the emphasis squarely on fun, then you can't really go past Twisted Metal Head On. Just be wary that the game play isn't deep by any stretch of the imagination.