The '90s were a golden age for vehicular combat games like Twisted Metal and Carmageddon. But when the century turned, the over-the-top silliness of cowcatchers and hood-mounted missiles ceased to play. Blame the only slightly more realistic mayhem of Grand Theft Auto. Twisted Metal: Head On—Extra Twisted Edition is the last gasp of the bloody, frequently gratifying genre. The Twisted Metal series saw seven incarnations; this value-priced entry brings the last PSP game to the PlayStation 2, ditches online play, and pads the disc with behind-the-scenes extras and a handful of lost levels from a sequel that never saw the light of day.
The game looks raggedy next to stellar fin de siècle PlayStation 2 games like God Of War 2 and Final Fantasy XII. The killer vehicles fare better when players are behind the wheel: They move deftly and dispense death by way of missiles, exploding gas cans, and machine-gun fire. A tasty second layer of special moves is buried beneath pick-up-and-slay controls. The series' destructible levels were mind-blowing in '95 (I just knocked over the Eiffel Tower!), and they still manage to deliver diminished thrills, though dull, frustrating boss battles slow down the main game's flow significantly. More fun are the handful of Twisted Metal: Lost levels, which eschew story for straight-up action. The disc's weirdest inclusion, more fascinating than fun, lets players explore a never-before-seen area on foot as the evil clown Sweet Tooth. There's no game to play in the unfinished asylum and junkyard, so the developers scattered production notes and concept sketches throughout. More video games should have supplemental materials this engaging.
Beyond the game: Play Calling All Cars! on the PS3 to see a next-gen take on vehicular mayhem by Twisted Metal designer David Jaffe.
Worth playing for: Twisted Metal's developers shot live-action endings for each character in the 1995 original, but scrapped the potentially embarrassing scenes. The super-cheesy clips preserved on this disc are the video-game equivalent of Troll 2.
Frustration sets in when: Trimmed-back multiplayer is a kick in the gut. But the PlayStation 2 never was all that great for deathmatches in the first place. The add-on modem and the PlayStation 2 multi-tap peripheral required to play four-player games were, and still are, a hassle.
Final judgment: A nostalgic road trip, stuffed with game-design inside baseball.