February 1, 2008 // 7:37 pm
- If there's a reason to be afraid of clowns, then Sweet Tooth is it. A murdering psychopath with a flaming head, his character is almost as iconic as the series he originates from. And now Sweet Tooth (and several other recognizable characters) can once again grace your television with Twisted Metal: Head-on: Extra Twisted Edition, an impressively robust port of Head-on for the PSP.
If you're a fan of the series and have been hoping to get more chaotic, car-combat action, you'll be quite pleased with Extra Twisted -- especially if you were fond of the original PSP title. Extra Twisted is a perfect example of an impressive port and the slew of special features included on the disc make this a very appetizing deal.
Let's begin by breaking down Extra Twisted if you're not familiar with its components. As we've just explained, the bulk of the game is a port of Head-on, which runs quite well on the PS2. The biggest additions outside of the main game are the Lost Levels, a set of four levels originally intended for the sequel to Twisted Metal: Black. The levels include Suburban Terror, Stadium Slaughter, Carnival of Darkness and an unlockable stage.
Head-on and the Lost Levels are the majority of the "playable content" in this package. All the other bonus features are really just icing on the cake, including a video documentary, the original (and previously unavailable) ending movies of Twisted Metal 1 and Sweet Tour, a mode that lets you run around as -- you guessed it -- Sweet Tooth. Lastly, there's an art book included, as well as code that enables you to download a Twisted Metal compilation album for free. That sounds like a sweet amount of content for a port.
For those of you who may never have played the original Head-on, feel free to check out our review which discusses the game in detail. Extra Twisted is almost identical to the PSP version so most of the review is entirely relevant. Although it has been stated that Extra Twisted has improved textures and runs faster than its predecessor, we saw very little change when comparing the two versions. If there is any improvement to speak of in regards to the visuals, it's incredibly minor and really doesn't change the overall appearance of the title.
But Head-on is a lot of fun to play, and offers a great collection of characters/cars to work through an impressive number of stages. The design of the levels, while not entirely remarkable, is certainly conductive to fun gameplay sessions and is therefore entirely adequate -- just don't expect to be blown away by anything you see.
All the cars control tightly and (depending on your preference) you should be able to find one that best suits your playing style. Each vehicle has a specific special move to employ, as well as an abundance of commonplace items and power-ups that give a definite edge to the combat. Special moves include explosive boomerangs, fireballs, phantom missiles and other interesting, fun-to-use weapons. Twisted Metal still represents fantastic car combat and that's what you're going to find here.
Although the Challenge and Endurance modes are still present, we should note that multiplayer has been cut quite fiercely in comparison to the original Head-on. You'll only be able to play deathmatch or co-op with a single friend, as opposed to several of them like you could on the PSP. This is certainly disappointing, but two-player is still engaging and a welcome option.
Perhaps the more pressing question is how the Lost Levels hold up. When you enter this portion of the game, you can still choose between Story, Challenge and Endurance like you can with Head-on, except the Lost Levels don't really have a story -- it's just a matter of playing through the three main levels in order and coming out on top. For the most part, the new levels are fun and clearly fit the stylistic motif that Black delivered. Not only are the arenas darker but the characters from Black are also present. I personally prefer the more colorful and vivid presentation that Head-on provides, but fans of Twisted Metal: Black will surely enjoy a chance to see the remnants of Black's ill-fated sequel.
Carnival of Darkness is a particularly enjoyable stage where you can hop your vehicle onto rollercoaster tracks and drive up the side of the level. The general variation between flat road and angled terrain is also pleasing. Overall I enjoyed the Lost Levels, but still have a certain fondness for the content found in Head-on.
The real treat amidst the bonus features is the video material. Both the documentary and the live-action ending movies are fantastic -- just in very different ways. We had a great time watching the documentary, and although it wasn't necessarily spellbinding, it did offer some keen insight into the Twisted Metal universe and the people behind it. The cut endings, however, are pure gold. They're gold because they're so amazingly awful. One should obviously take into account the fact that they were made ten years ago, but they're truly works of cheese and are best enjoyed with a certain respectful sense of humor. We'd like to take a brief moment now to point out the ending for Darkside -- easily our favorite among the bunch. Watch it and you'll see why.
So what exactly are we looking at, then? Extra Twisted is a package that contains a ton of fast-paced, finely tuned car combat with tons of weapons and sweet (over-the-top) characters. But not everything on the disc is going to bode well with you. A lot of fans were excited to take control of Sweet Tooth when Sweet Tour was announced, but the end result is pretty horrendous. We are very much aware of the fact that Sweet Tour is just an unfinished, rough glimpse at something that "could have been," but that doesn't make it good. You only need about ten, maybe fifteen minutes at the most to run through the small linear area and read all the developer notes available -- 29 in all. Yes, Sweet Tour is all about reading and checking out concept art. There's no killing or maiming or even platforming, for that matter. Even though the developer information presented is interesting, the whole thing just feels like a complete let-down.
That car is not in a good place right now.
Finally, it's important to consider that the game's graphics just aren't very good. This may not be important to you if you're in it more for the gameplay, but nothing in Extra Twisted is especially pleasing to the eye. It runs extremely well, but the models and textures are sincerely lacking. Furthermore, the game starts stuttering when you bring in a second player, which can be a bit of a bother, but it shouldn't impair your ability to enjoy the experience.
Let's be honest: we know this is a port, but you're getting an awful lot of stuff for only twenty bucks. And considering the fact that most of the content packed onto the disc is fun to play, there's really no reason for a Twisted Metal fan to miss this one. Those of you new to the car combat genre may find it a little eccentric, but we assure you that driving around at breakneck speeds and firing missiles out of a truck is very satisfying. Ultimately, we'd like to think of Extra Twisted as a pretty sweet deal -- especially if you're a Twisted Metal junkie.
Video can be seen here