Game boasts cheap graphics, even cheaper price

An old PSP game jumps to PS2 with mixed results.
Courtesy of Eat Sleep Play

“Twisted Metal,” the PlayStation 1 classic, personified the new mature direction in which Sony steered the gaming industry. Thirteen years later, a bunch of hackneyed characters blasting each other in vehicles to the backdrop of cheesy rock music doesn’t have quite the same impact.

First, an important detail: “Twisted Metal: Head-On Extra Twisted Edition” costs $20 right out of the gate. While such a low price might reflect a lack of confidence in the game’s quality on the developer’s part, the fact remains that you, the gamer, stand to benefit here.

The original “Head-On” helped the PSP’s launch pick up steam in 2005, and “Twisted Metal” was, at the time, a sight to behold. On the PS2, the only things to behold are poor graphics in just about every aspect, including lighting, geometry, jaggies (visible pixels along graphics’ edges) and textures.

Also missing from the package is the online multiplayer feature, which the PSP version included. The developers of “Twisted Metal: Black” even released an online version of the game for free in 2002, so the exclusion of the feature here is puzzling.

Otherwise, “Head-On” brought its entire deep and challenging car combat gameplay intact. Much like your average first-person shooter, success in “Twisted Metal” depends on map memorization. It’s important to know the locations of weapon pick-ups, health packs, turbo tanks, destructible walls and so forth.

A vehicle’s primary missile weapons and secondary machine guns must be augmented with special abilities such as freezing an opponent in place, temporarily creating a shield around the vehicle or firing weapons from the rear. Such abilities require different button combinations, highly reminiscent of modern fighting games.

At a glance, it’s easy to write off “Twisted Metal” as mindless carnage, but outsmarting your opponents with more than sheer firepower always plays a key role in victory.

New to the series are mini-games that suck players away from the action for a few minutes to perform tasks like ramming taxicabs, driving against traffic on a racetrack and completing obstacle courses. Typically, controlling these mini-games is a pain, and the situations can be wildly unfair depending on the vehicle being used. They’re neat ideas but more trouble than they’re worth.

The other half of the disk, titled “Twisted Metal: Lost,” consists of four never-before-seen levels from the ill-fated sequel to “Twisted Metal: Black.” While just as fun as the “Head-On” levels, they aren’t anything special.

“Sweet Tour,” an unfinished version of an on-foot segment of “Twisted Metal: Black” that allows players to walk around an asylum as the series’ insane clown poster child Sweet Tooth, has some novelty value, but there’s nothing to do here beyond finding bits of concept art from previous games.

Eat Sleep Play also included a brief video chronicling the history of the “Twisted Metal” universe, with series creator David Jaffe giving lots of insight into the struggles of developing the games.

But the best bonus material has to be the movies with endings lost to the original game. These hilariously campy and poorly acted scenes bring back memories of a time when full-motion video on CD-based games was all the rage.

While the thought of a new “Twisted Metal” game on PS2 likely excites no one, I must reiterate: this game only costs $20. Gamers could do a lot worse for that price. And that price ultimately makes the game recommendable ­— but only barely — to fans of the series. Now how about a “Twisted Metal” for PS3, huh?

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