Slight correction/clarification to the LC:
TM3 was where it turned bitter for TM fans. Also that is NOT true about the original team: The original team worked on the first two, then Sony decided to take TM elsewhere and wound up being sorry for it. Then they brought it back to the original team and happily made TM black, TM small brawl (perfect for PG-13 or younger while still maintaining dark humor, albeit in a kiddish perspective), and finally TM head on.
Unfortunately: The original writer/producer died in the middle of production for the game after TM head on. A beta of this is available on the PS2 version of TM head on. However the rest of the team lives on and is still kicking, apparently.
Recap for the rusty and the prospective Twisted Metal newcomers:
The first two games were great and the creativity really shows. I cannot describe it, you'd have to play for yourself and do remember this is PS1 era games for mid-late 90's. In their day they were the fix for driving shooter carnage and brutality. They were for the 90's what GTA games are today.
So Sony maed the first two games with the team at Singletrac studios. Then Sony took it to 989 Studios for the next two. They had improved gameplay in mind... Now 989 studios isn't bad, but it should really stick to 3D sports and/or fighting games, (if it still even exists).
TM3 was overambitious: in some areas it made only a marginal improvement while in other areas (technical on gameplay, and the creativity in writing the story) went completely out the window. Screwed the storyline over too. They improved for TM4 and made a bit of a good comeback for its predecessor's faults and perhaps a few new features and innovations, but this wasn't enough to make it a great game like the first two. Still kind of chintzy. Starting over with the storyline, though a good maneuver, made it a little less appetizing.
Also: *neither* of them included the trademark bloody mayhem fun with innocent bystanders. That was the controversial material that made the first two what they were: The violent crazy games your mom told you not to get. Neither of these two games seemed to have the first clue about DARK HUMOR in their storylines. TM3's storylines were mediocre to poor. TM4 was of comical taste but it just wasn't the same as the first two.
TM Small brawl: Hey, it's a very funny kiddish version of TM 1 & 2. Good for some laughs if you're familiar with the TM franchise. I think this was by the original team for $***s and giggles, but I don't know.
TM Black & TM black online: THIS game is the crowning achievement of the entire franchise to date. IT achieved on PS2 what its predecessors hadn't on PS1. DARK HUMOR: THESE PEOPLE GET IT!!! The original team gave it a new lease on life and a new beginning. The online version from what I understand only merely improved upon TMB by making it online multiplayer capable. I don't have the online version but from what I see, this was only a small improvement.
In ANY CASE: BEFORE you buy the new TM coming out for PS3, you must get TMB first (a real bargain at gamestop right now). The designs for this new one are just like in TM Black. I won't say this is going to be a sequel to it, but it would not surprise me if it had some significant basis in TM black. At least for perspective and, if nothing else, a small taste of what Sony has in store for us.
TM Head On: This game from the best I can tell is of the same flavor as TM black but from a storyline perspective picks up where TM2 left off. If it was rated one of the best for PSP, then I'd recommend it as well. I have it for PS2 but since my PS2 is in storage I haven't played it yet. The PSP version is a little better gameplay wise (so I hear), but PS2 version has bonuses as I mentioned above.