Sweet Tooth is back, kids! That means one of PlayStation’s most popular franchises in history is back in business, and bigger than ever. It’s been 11 long years since the Twisted Metal franchise saw a real entry in the franchise with Twisted Metal Black, so the new PS3 release is greatly overdue. The announcement at E3 2010 was met with universal high praise. Would a game with such a large hiatus between games do well in today’s community, or would it be met with criticism and rejection?
For those who’ve never played a Twisted Metal game before, the name of the game is car combat. Players choose from a roster of cartoonish and psychotic vehicles and characters to fight against each other all over the world. The Twisted Metal Tournament is held annually by (who else?) a bored billionaire with supernatural powers named Calypso. Calypso gathers participants in the tour by promising a wish to be granted by whoever is the last man standing once the event is over. The kicker here is Calypso’s reputation of having a sense of humor when it comes to actually granting those wishes. For example, a character in a previous game wished to be transported to Hell, and Calypso granted his wish by teleporting him to Hell, Michigan.
Whereas the previous games had separate stories for up to about 15 drivers or so, the new game chooses to focus on only three individuals and their path through the Twisted Metal Tournament. Those folks are Sweet Tooth, an insane and possibly schizophrenic man in a clown mask and a flaming head who snapped one day and decided to use his ice cream truck as a means for murder instead of delivering delicious frozen treats. Sweet Tooth’s wish is to find his daughter so he can finally kill her. Dollface was a former supermodel, paranoid that other models were always working against her in order to knock her out of the competition. After a horrifying car accident that left her face scarred, she was forced to wear a mask that’s been somehow permanently attached to her face. Her wish is to become the world’s most famous supermodel. Mr. Grimm is a guilt-ridden motorcyclist who turned to a life of crime after witnessing his father, who was a daredevil, die in a brutal motorcycle accident as a child. Grimm’s wish is to travel back in time and warn his father not to take the jump that ultimately killed him.
The story is just like a Twisted Metal game should be. Dark, sick, horrific and, well, twisted are all perfect ways to describe the game. It’s very easy to tell the live action cutscenes in the game come straight from the morbid mind of David Jaffe. It’s one of the selling points of the game.
The amazing story comes with a price, however. Aside from being a touch on the admittedly expected short side, there are a few levels that are absolutely infuriating to grind through. You’ll quickly learn to hate the Electric Cage matches, which require you to stay in a specific section of a given map, or you’ll quickly lose health. Thankfully there are only two of these matches, but it quickly becomes a mechanic in a couple of the boss fights. A later match requires you to somehow destroy two heavily-armed semi-trucks, called Juggernauts, while fending off 5-8 other vehicles that are only trying to destroy you. All of this is on the smallest map in the entire game. It’s this sort of configuration that almost requires the player to retry endless times or find a “cheap” way to confuse the AI. I personally opted for the latter.
All of your standard game types, in both single and multiplayer, are here, with a few newcomers. Each mode features your standard Deathmatch, tasking you with simply destroying everyone else until you’re the last man standing. Single player also has the aforementioned Electric Cage match, races that work unexpectedly well, and exhilarating and unique boss fights. Multiplayer also has a more traditional Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Hunted (a VIP game type,) and my personal favorite, Nuke. Nuke is a game type that sees players destroy a certain target on the map in order to capture a faction leader. Dragging this leader behind your car, a sacrifice is made to a roving truck moving about the map. This launches a missile that must be steered into the enemy team’s statue. The winning team is the one that completely destroys the enemy team’s statue.
Twisted Metal is clearly meant to be primarily a multiplayer game, and the multiplayer is built very well. There are a ton of options to be able to customize your experience exactly the way you want it to be. Offline can be played with 2-4 player splitscreen, and online hosts up to 16 players. It should be noted that, at the time of this writing, it’s been incredibly difficult to actually get connected to any matches online. However, a message on the online’s main menu says the developers are well aware of the issues and are working on getting them fixed. So I suppose I can’t fault the game too much.
Thankfully, since online multiplayer is a bit under the weather at the moment, there’s plenty to do otherwise. Besides being seemingly one of the only games that actually has the ability to play splitscreen, of course the lonely gamers can take advantage of playing against bots as well. The bots provide quite a bit of a challenge, meaning the game will never be something to pop in if you’re ever looking for something to play just to pass the time. Every time I played the game I was on the edge of my seat within a minute of the match starting.
And why wouldn’t I? The level of destruction and excitement has been turned up way past 11. Most buildings actually have destructible walls, opening up to highly detailed interiors, often laden with awesome power-ups and traps. Your jaw will literally drop the first time you ever set your wheels into Black Rock Stadium, a mechanical coliseum of death built by Calypso for the sole purpose of lowering the odds of survival against all who find themselves trapped within.
Veterans of the series will also be happy to know that the soundtrack completely lives up to franchise standards. The same electronica, old-school rock, metal and, of course, Rob Zombie. However, should you have a desire for something a little different, the game also supports custom soundtracks, so you can create a playlist of your own music that goes perfectly for a symphony of destruction. Personally, I created a mix of Slayer, Testament, Machine Head, Judas Priest and a bit of classical music for irony’s sake.
I’ve seen a few people across the internet lament about the controls. True, the classic controls for Twisted Metal games is a bit odd, and it’s this control scheme that you’re left with at default the first time you fire it up. Do yourself a favor. If you’re familiar with most other driving games of recent, then you’re probably more used to using the triggers for acceleration and braking. If this sounds like you, go ahead and go to the options so you can switch the control scheme to “racing.” It makes infinitely more sense than mapping the guns to the triggers and acceleration/reverse to the right analog stick.
What’s a bit disappointing to think about is the future of the game, let alone the series. David Jaffe himself said there are no plans for any DLC. Since Eat Sleep Play is now in ruins with Jaffe gone and much of the development team gone, the future of Twisted Metal looks bleak. Without giving too much away, the end of the story mode leaves things open for more development on more characters, but it doesn’t look like that’ll ever happen. Even Jaffe himself said he wishes to work more on casual games than what he’s best known for, so it doesn’t look like more games are in the future anyway to elaborate more on what it looks like everyone wanted to happen. It should be noted that none of this went into consideration for the game’s final score for this review, but it’s enough to certainly impact your decision if you’re unsure the game deserves a spot on your shelf or not.
What is here, however, is a fantastic game that I recommend to old and new fans of the series. Twisted Metal doesn’t just address concerns that a car combat game may not be for this generation anymore, it lights the concerns on fire, crashes into them, explodes them with missiles and launches them into the stratosphere. Aside from being a bit too challenging at times and having a few easily-fixable technical issues, Twisted Metal will go down in history as one of the greatest PlayStation exclusives since the last one 11 years ago.