Before PlayStation was a household name, I can remember the original system launch; walking into a store shortly after the PSOne hit shelves and seeing a game with a demented clown face attached to the top of an ice cream truck. This game truly screams buy me. Twisted Metal still sits in my mind as one of the defining games of the console, and when news spread that David Jaffe was returning to the helm for this reboot, my excitement could not be measured. Sweet Tooth and his gang have returned to the PlayStation family, but can it possibly live up to the expectations set by its forefathers?
For those unfamiliar, Twisted Metal is a car combat game that involves psychopathic drivers in a contest to the death. Think of it as a racing-fighting game and you get the idea. This tournament is held by Calypso, an enigmatic figure that grants the winner of each tournament their inner-most desires. Of course, it always turns out bad, but contestants continue to enter in the hopes that this year will be different. Unlike past games, though, this TM only features three contestants and, instead, the cars play the role of characters. Sweet Tooth, Dollface and Mr. Grimm are the only competitors along with their barrage of thugs.
The single player portion of the game is broken down into three parts, as you might have guessed, focusing on each one of the combatants. You will take on a series of challenges that increase in difficulty. Speaking of the difficulty, this game is old school tough. Enemy AI seems to focus mostly on you, and challenges are much more difficult early on than you might imagine. Thankfully, this never worked as a deterrent for me. Losing always felt like it was by my hand, and I always wanted to jump right back in. This is a testament to the design of the game never making you feel like death is cheap. Much like Dark Souls, your failure is usually your own fault.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to sit down and go through the tutorial. I know seasoned gamers jump right in without reading instruction manuals (you know those paper things that this game actually does include) or bothering with the basics, but Twisted Metal is different. This game sports some of the most diverse controls, and the tutorial should be a requirement. Classic TM fans will recognize the scheme, but I will be honest, I definitely needed a refresher. There are so many variables and ways to handle situations that you need to really absorb before heading into the game. Simply mashing the gas and fire buttons will certainly end up with your car in flames.
Just as diverse as the contros scheme is the range of weapons. There are so many tools of destruction at your disposal that it is hard to pick a favorite. Each character has a special weapon, and some of those even have alternate functions like Sweet Tooth’s transforming mech. The homing missiles and land mines return, as well as your freeze ability and shields. With so many different ways to play, and utilization of every button on the controller, this game rewards those that invest in learning its intricacies. Some powers are mapped to the d-pad and regenerate over time, while others are pick-ups littered around the world.
Boss battles also play a huge role in the single player, featuring some hulking creations that you have to take down. One particular encounter springs to mind, as you are tasked with taking down a massive pair of monster trucks. These encounters are the highlight of the main game. Live action cut scenes also make a return with mixed results. While the story is manageable, there are some weird choices here and there and some wasted opportunity. I always enjoyed seeing how things played out in these twisted scenarios, but only focusing on three characters kind of limits the appeal. The only reason to switch cars is to cater to your preference, as opposed to seeing how Calypso would screw over yet another competitor.
Of course, the bulk of your game time is not going to be spent playing with yourself. Instead Twisted Metal features multi-player, both online and off, that still rivals the best competitive stuff out there. The online arena is still, as of this writing, having some growing pains with network errors, but when you get into a game, things immediately click. There is an array of modes, but most gamers will stick with either Deathmatch or Nuke mode. Nuke is a new take on Capture the Flag where each side must capture the other team’s leader and then launch them at the other team’s statue. It is actually really fun when you get a game going with a larger group. There is also Last Man Standing and Hunted, but neither of those offers up the raw (deathmatch) or uniqueness (nuke) of the other two.
Visually, the game looks great. The arenas are immaculately designed, and the blistering pace is unmatched on most levels. Sure, the level of detail may not match other games, but the sheer amount of destruction and blistering frame rate more than make up for it. Each car has a unique look and feel, and the weapons and explosions are outstanding. I cannot stress how much I loved the maps, from the sadistic arenas to the outdoor carnivals; this game packs plenty of variety. The voiceovers are well done, even if a bit eccentric at times. The soundtrack really feels like a special playlist from the mind of Jaffe; mixing in bits of heavy metal and other genres that all seem to fit the Twisted Metal universe.
Twisted Metal will always be associated with the PlayStation brand, in my mind. It is one of the core franchises that made the system popular with gamers like me. I have waited a long time for this sequel and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Sure, there are some odd choices such as only including three characters, but the actual game more than makes up for these quirks. If you have ever loved the series, this is a must have. If you missed out along the way, there has never been a better time. It’s yet another top-tier game to add to the Sony stable, and one that fans of competitive gaming would do well not to miss.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.