GAME NAME: Twisted Metal
DEVELOPER(S): Eat Sleep Play
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 3
GENRE(S): Car combat
RELEASE DATE(S): February 14, 2012
Scrappy. Underdog. Heavy metal. Those are the words Twisted Metal co-creator David Jaffe once used to describe his car combat games. It doesn’t take more than a handful of hours with the latest entry in the series to see that those are proper descriptors of this fast-paced, explosive, and insane demolition derby. Twisted Metal has been around since 1995. It’s the longest-running PlayStation exclusive, and this latest entry marks the first time in over 10 years that a Twisted Metal game has been developed solely for a home console, the last instance being Twisted Metal: Black in 2001.
Twisted Metal for the PlayStation 3 has been dubbed a reboot of the franchise, and there are certainly signs of that in the game’s Story mode. The game tells the stories of Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Dollface. The three tales follow immediately after each other, forming one large story. While this format is pretty cool in theory, it never really feels like any of the three characters (or Preacher, who shows up here and there) are linked in any meaningful capacity.
Thankfully, the three stories are all pretty good. Despite being a reboot, at times it feels as though Twisted Metal is a direct follow-up to Black. Sweet Tooth’s character, for instance, seems largely unchanged, and there are several nods at Black throughout. One thing that was a bit of a letdown was the exclusion of additional characters. Part of the fun in previous Twisted Metal games was playing through Story mode with different drivers and watching their tales of ambition unfold as they attempted to win the contest and have the mysterious Calypso grant them one wish.
While Story mode has been stripped down, the gameplay of Twisted Metal has been refined, and some notable changes and enhancements have been made. The series has always had a strong arcade feel to it. The driving mechanics are fast and intuitive, and blasting enemies with projectiles is as easy as collecting power-ups and tapping the fire button. It’s simple, and it works. And thanks to the explosive design of the game, the traditional style that the series is known for continues to hold up especially well.
Twisted Metal brings back classic weapons such as homing rockets, fire missiles, and napalm cans. These are scattered throughout the game’s maps, and it is in your best interest to collect plenty of firepower so you can take out the competition. Each of the vehicles also has a special attack, which has two forms. You can toss taxis at enemies using a pick-up truck, launch a dude in a gurney with dynamite strapped to his chest, or unleash a deadly flamethrower attack.
The variety in the special attacks is quite remarkable, and you should have no trouble finding the vehicle and special that are right for you. Speaking of vehicles, Twisted Metal features an incredibly robust collection of rides. There are plenty of options to deal destruction with, many of which are readily available, and others that can be unlocked. Smaller vehicles are pretty fast and are good for outmaneuvering opponents, but they’re fairly weak overall. Meanwhile bigger vehicles are super sturdy but are tougher to control. There are also vehicles such as the Meat Wagon, which offer a balanced medium. To add to the variety, there’s even a playable helicopter in Twisted Metal.
While the concept of a demolition derby with guns and explosives doesn’t seem too complex, the game attempts to add some nuances to the formula. While it succeeds for the most part, there are a few rough patches in several aspects of the design. Story mode, for example, throws in a few objective-based stages, not all of which are welcome additions. The most painfully brutal events are the races. There’s really no place in a Twisted Metal game for racing stages, and because the vehicles are built for battle, the racing feels wonky at best. It’s a cool idea, but it fails to deliver a worthwhile experience.
Another addition that’s hit-or-miss is the new cage match, also present in Story mode. Here you must do battle with your opponents while staying within the confines of a large energy cage. After a few minutes, the cage moves, and you must drive to the next designated area before your grace period ends. Once your grace period runs out, your vehicle will begin to take damage. While this addition doesn’t feel as tacked on as the racing, it doesn’t add anything remotely meaningful. Story mode could have been, for all intents and purposes, a basic mode with nothing but standard battles and a few bosses, and it would have been much more enjoyable.
The flaws in Story mode definitely stand out, but thankfully, the main selling point for Twisted Metal is its online multiplayer. You’re likely to never return to Story mode once you clear it the first time. The online multiplayer, however, is a completely different story. Twisted Metal almost plays out like an online shooter, with the glaring exception being that you control armed vehicles as opposed to soldiers or aliens. There are plenty of options, loads of maps, and players always ready to blow stuff up online.
Twisted Metal includes 16-player Deathmatch, which is your standard kill-everyone-for points mode. You can also participate in Hunted mode, where players must attempt to take down the hunted. Upon killing the hunted, you earn one point and become the hunted yourself, so everyone will be gunning for you. Killing other players while being the hunted awards you an additional point. To round things out, there’s a traditional one-life Last Man Standing mode, where the victor is the sole player who didn’t meet an untimely and violent end.
The newest addition to the series is Nuke. This team-based mode is a variant of capture the flag that’s fittingly violent. Teams take turns playing offense and defense in multiple innings. As offense, your team must capture the enemy leader and sacrifice him by loading him into a launcher, which is activated after a meter fills up. Once you’ve sacrificed the enemy leader, a missile launches into the sky, and you must guide it to your enemies’ statue in an attempt to destroy it. As defense, you pretty much have to prevent any of this from happening by working together with your teammates to destroy your opponents.
While it’s certainly unfortunate that developer Eat Sleep Play omitted the classic storytelling for multiple characters from past entries in the series, players will be glad to know that another staple remains intact: local multiplayer. You can get together with a group of buddies and blast each other to bits in split-screen competitive play, and Twisted Metal even supports LAN multiplayer. This is a game that’s fun to play with friends, so it’s great to see a classic mode such as local multiplayer fully supported.
Graphically, Twisted Metal isn’t the most powerful game on the PlayStation 3. Here’s the thing about this game, though: You’re driving around crazy fast and blowing so much crap up the entire time that it’s not like you really have time to observe everything. Of course, there are a number of nice touches. Levels are massive and offer a ton of destructibility. Practically everything in your surroundings can be blown up, crushed, or destroyed. Houses can be driven though, innocent pedestrians can be run over, and large buildings can be explored by crashing right through the walls. There are also other more impressive and specific features in the environment, such as a Ferris wheel which can be forcefully removed from its structure. Suffice it to say that watching it roll away is pretty damn awesome.
The sound design in Twisted Metal is spectacular. Loud explosions and wild screams can be heard as you unleash devastation across the game’s many maps. Additionally, a strong soundtrack adds to the overall experience. You’ll hear great music from Rob Zombie (and White Zombie), Iggy Pop, N.W.A., and Ghostface Killah. There are also some original tracks that fit right in with the heated action and are a treat to listen to. If you’re not digging the game’s music, you can use a custom soundtrack with any songs saved on your PlayStation 3.
Twisted Metal does a lot of things right and only gets a few things wrong. The package is almost entirely enjoyable. With the exception of the questionable Story mode decisions and a few connection quirks that occur while trying to join online games, Twisted Metal is a strong offering for gamers looking to unleash hell. It’s hard to tell where the series will go from here. Story mode left a lot of possibilities open for a direct sequel, but from a gameplay perspective, you have to wonder if the series can really evolve any more.
Even despite the massive familiarity, Twisted Metal is by far the best example of car combat, and it is the best iteration in the series, as far as gameplay is concerned. Some individuals may argue that this isn’t a huge leap forward for the series, but really, how much can you add or change in a car combat game? Eat Sleep Play has done a mighty fine job of refining the series’ mechanics and providing a tight car combat experience. The Story mode may be lacking, but the game more than makes up for that with its addictive and enthralling online multiplayer.