Twisted Metal Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Feb 14, 2012

It's a fiery blast from the past as Sweet Tooth and the gang return for more vehicular homicide. The Twisted Metal tournament goes online and off this time around, complete with plenty of cars, arenas, and creepy heavy metal vibes.

The Pros
  • Creative modes and interesting character design
  • Strong multiplayer
  • Well-designed arenas and nice array of vehicles
The Cons
  • Pinball physics and extremely old-school design add frustration
  • Single-player mode is lackluster
  • Controls can be problematic and certain level and design elements are poorly executed
  • Unspectacular graphics

Twisted Metal Review:

After a long sabbatical, one of Sony’s most nostalgic franchises is back. Twisted Metal will be instantly familiar to the legion of gamers who spent hours orchestrating vehicular mayhem on their PSOnes. As it turns out, after so many years, very little has changed. Twisted Metal is a game that unabashedly services those old school gamers with its retro, arcade action, but it also unintentionally proves just how far action games in general and driving games in specific have come.

 

 

Anyone Still have a Sweet Tooth?

Although there are plenty of familiar faces (and vehicles) in this latest iteration of the vile Calypso’s carnival of death, Twisted Metal’s single-player focus starts entirely on Sweet Tooth. The campaign shows off the story of this twisted, psycho-killing freak of nature through schlocky, Grade-Z horror movie vignettes. The killer clown recounts his origin and need to find the “one that got away”.

In this case, that means track down one poor girl who escaped from his first, family-killing rampage, so that he can kill her. It’s not exactly a heart-warming tale, but fans of bad slasher flicks will likely get a kick out of the anti-hero focus. For those not obsessed with being a psycho, however, Sweet Tooth isn’t a particularly interesting or engaging character to be, but as the game progresses things expand a bit.

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More to the point, while the creepy cinematics add a little window dressing to the presentation, the actual characters are irrelevant. The game is all about the cars, which are no longer locked to a specific driver. Players can choose three different vehicles in most matches, which can be swapped out in the garage found on each map. Since cars don’t automatically regenerate health, the game can become a race to either find health power-ups or get to the garage before exploding.

Each vehicle has its own signature move, which recharges after use, and a pre-selected main gun. Beyond that, it’s a free-for-all to pick up weapon power-ups. Racing around the huge, usually open arenas looking for things to blow up, while stocking up on a variety of missiles, mines, and other explosive goodies is usually an entertaining, if old school endeavor.

Twisted Metal

Pinball Driving

The problems come into play when dealing with the over-the-top physics that make the cars seem like lead-weight pinballs. The game has an annoying tendency to throw cars up into the air for almost any reason, and the physic effects feel too unreliable and unnecessarily obnoxious. Another noticeable problem is while the focus is clearly on combat, the driving, in contrast, feels outright simplistic.

This shortcoming is especially apparent during the ill-conceived racing events in the single-player game. Early on, the competitors are racing down a treacherous mountain road to make first place, because otherwise it’s instant death. The event is an exercise in frustration thanks to the mix of sloppy, intrusive physics and underwhelming driving mechanics.

Twisted Metal

Thankfully, most events focus squarely on just blowing everyone else up, and Twisted Metal fares much better when it sets its sights on basic destruction. Health bars over each car easily inform their status, and the mini-map lets players keep track of the competition. Each level has tons of destructible elements as well, though it’s remarkably uneven about what can and can’t be destroyed.

The levels each offer a different setting, and most are very creative. The death-trap filled indoor arena, for instance, tasks players with willfully going through swinging spikes to acquire power-ups. The cage match is a nice twist on deathmatch, since it requires players to stay within a specific (and moving) area of the map. On the downside, ice is handled horribly—it makes the cars virtually uncontrollable.

Twisted Metal

Murder with Friends

While the single-player game does a good job of bringing out all the flaws in the game’s design, the multiplayer goes a long way to helping Twisted Metal gain ground. This was clearly meant to be a multiplayer game and while the combat and controls aren’t as nearly as refined as Rage’s car combat, the potential for destruction is far more expansive.

Supporting up to 16 players online, and even sporting two and four-way split screen action, Twisted Metal is the only game in town for widespread vehicular homicide. The levels are diverse and filled with things to discover, the 13 or so cars accommodate virtually any play style, and the game modes range from the traditional free-for-all and team deathmatches to nuke, which tasks teams with capturing the opposing leader, dragging him back and launching him in a missile.

All this destruction is brought to life with an engine that feels serviceable, if not exceptional. Twisted Metal is decent looking, but hardly impressive. The score is a variety of heavy metal tracks, the effects are excellent, and the voice work is decent.

Twisted Metal

A 1990’s Heavy Metal Party

Twisted Metal is a hard sell for those in search of a well-rounded driving game. The game play and physics feel almost as if they were ripped from the original PSOne game, and the genre has come a long way since then. While the single-player game is weak, the multiplayer is mostly fun and creative. It’s disappointing that after such a long wait, the game didn’t evolve more, but fans of the original are certain to enjoy this blast from the past.

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