Twisted Metal ReviewJosh Vanhorn
I remember how I felt when Sony announced Twisted Metal at E3 2010: giddy, nostalgic, and excited. I've spent so much time with Twisted Metal in the past (the original two developed by SingleTrac), that it's one of the few titles to possess that rare magic that can transport me back to my early teens. Twisted Metal reminds me of split-screen gaming with high school buddies, the death grip on a PlayStation controller while navigating rooftop levels, and of course blowing the robes off the Statue of Liberty. Well, fellow gamers, Twisted Metal has returned with the first title developed specifically for consoles since 2001. And for better or worse, it has not strayed far from the gameplay that made it a household name over a decade ago. This reviewer sides with "better."
Vehicular control is the same as ever: tight and ever unrealistic. Want to pull off a 180 while in midair and fire napalm into a crowd of enemies behind you? Go for it. Need to cut a hairpin turn while cruising along at maximum speed to elude the driver firing missiles from your rear? With the correct timing and the proper use of turbo, easy. Nailing the entirety of the control scheme however will take a little time. The vastness of the armamentarium at the command of your fingers, ready to be launched at any given second in the heat of battle can be a bit mind boggling for the first few matches.
The L1 and R1 buttons will switch between your many main weapons, each one suited for a particular situation. Among your main weapons is a rechargeable Special weapon unique to whichever car you've chosen to do battle in. Pushing triangle will switch the Special to its alternative fire. Some items can be charged to deal greater damage. There are weapons that are absolutely worthless if used from too far away and others yet that lose efficiency if attempted when too near an opponent. The D-pad houses the more strategic options, such as laying mines, shooting freeze missiles, firing your main weapon behind you, and activating a protective shield. Every D-pad option has an alternate fire as well that can be used when tapping the respective direction along with triangle. Hit L1 and R1 simultaneously and your car will leap into the air, allowing you to hurdle walls and gain more air off jumps. There is quite literally an action for every occasion, keeping you on your toes during every second of hectic gameplay.
The single player experience is broken down into three of what I'll call "event lines." Each event line follows a different individual, starting with Sweet Tooth, going into Mr. Grimm and ending with Dollface. All three stories follow a basic premise: reach Calypso by winning the Twisted Metal tournament and be granted the wish your character is so tenaciously obsessed with. Each character must progress through five missions and one boss battle to gain access to the mysterious Calypso, their tale told through extremely dark, grindhouse-style live-action cutscenes along the way. It's ultimately these superb cutscenes that got me through the single player mode, as I found tedium in many of the mission types presented to me, when all I wanted to do was take down my opposition one by one in pure Twisted Metal fashion.
Eat Sleep Play does a great job of having Calypso inform the player of the objective before each mission, so rarely is there confusion as to what it is you need to accomplish to pass the level. Even so, racing feels slightly out of place in Twisted Metal, and the final race of the game turns into more of a frustrating bout of trial and error than anything resembling fun. Also, the AI never really goes after one another, so when you're tasked with destroying large 18 wheelers called Juggernauts that deploy new vehicles every minute or two, again, this can be a deal less enjoyable than your average death match. I felt the same sense of irritation during two of the three boss fights, simply pushing through the missions just so I could view the next piece of the story.
Luckily, the crux of the Twisted Metal experience comes in the form of its multiplayer offerings. No matter which game modes you prefer, whether team based or solo competition, friendly combat against other gamers trumps the AI battles twofold. As is the standard in any multiplayer outing nowadays, there is a leveling system in place and unlockables here to be obtained. They come mostly in the form of vehicles and weapons, though there are a couple killstreak perks thrown in as well. It's nothing as expansive as say, Call of Duty, but it's something to work towards.
A bit bewildering to me was the exclusion of modes such as races and the electric cage matches offered in single player that seemed could have been entertaining if playable in the online mode as well. I also had some connectivity troubles, only being able to join one in about every four games I tried. This seemed to be a widespread problem, as many gamers I spoke to had the same issues. Sony fixed this problem somewhat with a recent patch and new bandwidth servers, but it's still nowhere near perfect.
My hours spent with the most recent Twisted Metal have been delightful for the most part. The multiplayer more than makes up for the short and disappointing single player, and in a world where developers are constantly trying to adapt and appeal to broader audiences, Twisted Metal remains largely unchanged. In fact, with its gruesome narrative, difficult single player (let's see you nab all those gold metals on twisted difficulty), and a more complex control scheme than ever, you could say that this is a Twisted Metal title for Twisted Metal fans. I know I would, and I'm thankful for it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.