marino's Twisted Metal: Head-On (PlayStation Portable) review

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Best Multiplayer Launch TItle for PSP

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Much like Ridge Racer, Twisted Metal has been a staple for Sony's systems.  The original Twisted Metal was an early system seller for Sony, and Twisted Metal Black, released in 2001, brought the game back to it's glory days after 989 had destroyed the franchise with parts III and 4.  If you aren't in the know, Twisted Metal (1, 2, and Black) was created by Dave Jaffe, who you should know is the creative mind behind God of War.  He may have a dark and...well...twisted mind, but it makes for some great games.  Twisted Metal: Head-On doesn't convey the same sense of depression that Black did, but rather goes back to the glory days of TM2 with a colorful nature.  There's not much new here but the game has been translated excellently onto the PSP.  You get over 15 characters/cars, all of which have stylized comic book ending scenes with full voice-overs, as well as a surprisingly packed online mode.  You don't have to be a veteran to love this game.  If you own a PSP, and especially if you have friend(s) with one, you should pick this one up.     
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As stated before, Head-On is more colorful than the sinister Black which we last saw on PS2.  It looks and feels alot more like Twisted Metal 2 than any of the other entries.  The cutscenes have a cel-shaded look, yet fit the game perfectly in it's classic comic style visuals.  The in-game graphics aren't going to wow you, but the sheer amount of stuff going on without slowdown is amazing in of itself.  The car models and textures could've been better, but if it was between that and framerate issues, I'll gladly take the dulled textures and long draw distance.  Much like past games, Head-On features many real-life locales such as Paris, Greece, Tokyo, and many others, but with a different take.  The best thing about the levels is how much of them can be destroyed.  Many secrets lie within each level, and you definitely won't find them all on your first run through.     
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If you've played TM games before, you know what to expect.  The D-Pad or analog stick serves as your steering as well as gas and reverse.  This may take newbies a minute to get used to, but vets will feel right at home.  The face buttons allow you to cycle weapons, brake, and the ever important Turbo.  L fires your chosen weapon and R fires your machine guns.  The D-Pad also serves as your means for special moves such as jumping and freeze attacks.  If you haven't played TM before...where the fuck have you been?  Seriously though, if you haven't, car combat games have a lot more in common with FPS's than they do with racing.  You're careening around city streets picking up power-ups, health, and specials in order to take out your adversaries.  It's pretty straight forward and translates well to the PSP.     
Head-On is another example of a game that sounds alot better with the headphones.  It's not bad without, but once you use the earbuds, you won't want to go back.  The background music is basic, but it gets the job done.  The voice-overs are histerically bad, but that was obviously intentional in a dark, comedic sense.  The explosions and other collision effects sound good as well.     
Replay Value 
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The story mode for each character will take you less than an hour, but there's about a dozen characters to play as, plus a few more that you unlock along the way.  The real replay value comes through multiplayer as with any Twisted Metal game.  You can play up to 6 players via Ad-Hoc, which means people within a short range of you.  This method runs very smoothly and is alot of fun.  The second method is online through a hotspot.  Again, you can have up to 6 players on a game.  It was horribly unstable the first day, but playing it this morning I was able to play a few games without getting booted.  The menu system online is especially surprising.  It's almost set up like Xbox Live as you create a handle, then choose whether you want to browse active games, or do a Quickmatch search for the type of game you want to play.  Usually there are four lobbies for different regions, but Eastern is always the most full.  On average there are 30-50 people online playing, which is plenty since only 6 can be in any given game.  Another surprise is the amount of game types.  You have your basic Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, but there is also Last Man Standing, Fox Hunt, and Collector.  The last two are scavenger hunt type games that add a welcome variation to the gameplay.  The server admin can also alter many of the in-game options, such as turning off different HUD features (radar, weapon count, etc) or limiting the types of weapons available.  It's really set up nicely, which was definitely unexpected for one of the first online PSP games.     
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If you've honestly never played a Twisted Metal game, or you're an unlucky soul who tried to jump in during III or 4, you're missing out.  Twisted Metal is one of the most raw fun games ever made.  It's one of those games that anyone can play.  I don't want to say it's mindless fun, but it kind of is.  That doesn't take anything away from the fact that it's a great game.  The story mode is rather shallow, but the multiplayer aspects, both online and off, completely make up for it.  If you have a PSP, pick up Twisted Metal.  You won't be disappointed.     
*** This review was written for shortly after the release of the game. ***

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