Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition

Too Twisted

Eat, Sleep, Play does Twisted Metal fans right by releasing a kick ass quasi-sequel.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 16, 2008
I don't know what it is about the development process that's so damned fascinating, but I suppose it tugs at the same parts of my grey matter as seeing behind-the-scenes features on DVD; there's just something about getting a change to peek behind the curtain to see something in a more raw state, and when it's a product crafted by some of the best folks in the business, it's even better.

Whatever the reason, Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition does a damn fine job of scratching that could-have-been itch. Sure, it's got an updated, slightly prettier version of the PSP version of Head-On, and it's certainly a decent port in its own right, complete with a new level, but for me, the real treat in the $20 package is the peek at the unfinished guts of the follow up to the amazingly good Twisted Metal: Black.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to short change either the original Head-On or the PS2 update (which, admittedly, shows its PSP roots, but definitely has a smoother look -- both in terms of textures/models and the overall framerate, which is a right and proper 60fps), but I think the darker tone of Black spoiled me a little. The bright, cartoonish look of Head-On coupled with what felt like PS one-era splashes of colored lighting and the general feel of a portable game didn't really hook me.

Luckily, everything about the second half of the Extra Twisted Edition's package did. You've got four Lost Levels that would have made up the sequel to Twisted Metal: Black (dubbed Harbor City) , the only-spooky-if-you're-a-spaz story of dev team members dying in a plane crash mid-development, which caused the game to be shelved until a note on the anniversary begged them to release the game (the actual letter is available to anyone who beats the Lost Levels on the hardest difficulty), and a crapload of special features.

To me (again, I'm the kind of dork who eats up special features on DVDs), the extras are the real reason to pick up the game. Along with a voucher to download a soundtrack collection and an art book, there are 29 little factoids about the series are scattered around an unfinished on-foot level from Harbor City featuring Sweet Tooth that was understandably scrapped (though the animation is good, the collision and platforming bits are obviously early -- to the point where you can clip right through the traps in the game and stand on top of invisible floors covering would-be pits o' death), there's a meaty retrospective on the progression of the series that offers some hilarious bits of info on the early days (car combat with... food?), and some peeks at the FMV mini-movies that served as the endings to the original Twisted Metal. Directed by none other than Dave Jaffe himself, they're every bit as awesomely bad as you'd hope.

There are a couple of ways of looking at the Extra Twisted Edition: on the one hand, you could approach it as a PSP port-up with the online play lopped off (weird, considering Twisted Metal: Black Online was one of the games that helped launch the Network Adaptor add-on for the PS2) and some extra levels. The other approach is to view this as something of a $20 care package to fans of the series -- a bunch of behind-the-scenes DVD-style extras that just happen to have a full Twisted Metal game included. Or, if you're the reasonable type, you could fall somewhere in between.

Either way, if you're a fan of the series -- or even just someone who wants to witness the pinnacle of the car combat genre from the folks that created it -- this is a no brainer. Few games allow as candid and open-armed a tour of just what went into making a series as this. It's absolutely worth every cent, and I can only hope that Eat, Sleep, Play's future efforts are this packed with information about the process. After all, there are a bunch of us out here who will happily eat this stuff up.
The Verdict