April 11, 2012, Author: Stephen King
Vehicle combat games are a difficult genre to master. You would think it would be as easy as throwing a bunch of cars and weapons together, and letting the players fight it out. However, this is not the case, as many games within the genre have proven to be unsatisfying. The brightest star out of the whole bunch was Twisted Metal; with its outrageous characters, vehicles and game play style, it was in an instant like for most.
It still has some magic to show off, but are minor changes and a little nostalgia enough?
Calypso! Calypso?! What have you done!?
The story says that Calypso will grant a wish to the winner of Twisted Metal, and each character has their own wish they would love to be fulfilled. As in previous games, any story is really just a wrapper for the car combat. As I stated in my write up of the demo, I think the tutorial is an absolute must for new and old players alike, because the control style is… shall we just leave it at interesting? Actually no, let’s not; it is pretty dated and clunky.
The single-player campaign follows the story of three main characters: Sweet Tooth, Mr Grimm and Dollface. I was a little disappointed to see that only three of the characters storylines would be represented in the game, as previously I had enjoyed completing the game with all the different characters to see their respective endings.
For the most part, the main campaign seems like an excuse to get the player used to the various game types that they will experience when they venture into the multiplayer. When it comes to car combat, the game is excellent; whether you are in a death match, or a king-of-the-hill style match. However, it all falls apart when you are asked to take part in a race.
The idea is to race through a series of checkpoints, with various end points. One is to activate a bomb in all the other contestants’ vehicles, which you will detonate by getting back to another checkpoint. The other is to survive the race until you get to an area where you can fight. I found these types of activities particularly frustrating, due to the controls being a little too loose and arcade-like to achieve the more refined task of hitting checkpoints and tight turns.
Sometimes the game can prove to be rather difficult, but it is made a little easier by the inclusion of life trucks, which constantly roam the levels. Even killing your opponents gives you the ability to run over the driver and passenger (who are now on fire from you destroying their ride), and this will either give you a little health or a random weapon. On top of this, in some situations you pick more than one vehicle and this allows you to be able to switch out your busted-up car for a shiny new one mid-game. It’s essentially the Twisted Metal version of the tried-and-tested life system.
There are a larger mix of vehicles, which you can customize the paintwork on. This now includes a helicopter, which adds in another level of gameplay. You would think that being up in the sky would be an automatic advantage, but they seem to have made a good attempt to balance the abilities. It is also worth noting that choosing your character will no longer limit you to a particular vehicle, so you could have any character driving any vehicle.
Each different vehicle has its own special type of attack, which typically comes in two flavours; Sweet Tooth for example can either turn into a robot car, or fire a heat seeking clown head. To confuse matters (and I guarantee that it does confuse matters), there are not only the weapon pick-ups to contend with, of which there are quite a variety; there are also various attacks that can be performed by using the D-pad. These are not specific to the vehicles, but are the same for all; temporary shields, a freeze beam that will knock out the opponent’s engine, or even mines. Boosts can be used to make a getaway by flicking the Sixaxis controller or double-tapping and holding the square button for a steadier controlled boost.
If the story mode wasn’t enough single-player action for you, then you can boot up the challenge modes. This is really just player versus the computer, but there is a lot of fun to be had here. The more traditional style of Twisted Metal is ever-present in the three game modes you can choose from: Kill All Bots, One on One Endurance and Max Cars Endurance.
The Kill All Bots mode is fairly self-explanatory, as it sees you trying to kill all of your computer opponents on a map of your choosing. The Endurance game types are either one car at a time, or maximum cars at one time. The Endurance modes are endless and will continue until you die.
Do I look like a clown to you?
It seems to me that this game being on the PS3 has very little effect on how the game looks. To be honest the style is rather grimy and brown, which despite being accurate to the way the game is portrayed, I can’t help but feel that it could have looked a little better. The vehicle models are quite basic-looking, but again this could be a stylistic choice. On the other hand, the level designs are vast and interesting to look at.
One of the most interesting things that the game has to offer is the really bizarre cut-scenes that are shown during the campaign. Each character’s story is explained by an opening, middle and closing cinematic. It is a strange mixture of rendered backgrounds and real actors; an artistic choice that works really well with the game’s style.
Ice Cream Man! Ice Cream Man!
The Twisted Metal franchise has always had a good soundtrack to the chaos, and the newest outing is no exception. There are some amazing little guitar tunes that set the mood to murder for you; my personal favourite being the menu music that has since been burned into my eternal soul. The original game music compositions are crunch-heavy guitar riffs that are really in-keeping with the game stylistically.
As if the original music wasn’t enough, there is a pretty good selection of licensed music to further set the mood. An interesting mixture of rap and metal definitely works well with the combat. I have to say that driving around like a maniac while listening to N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” is pretty awesome!
The vocal work within the game borders on the right side of cheesy, which I think works very well in juxtaposition to the new serious tone that Twisted Metal is now following. The narration works excellently at maintaining the creepy theme of the game, which results in a nice balance between funny and messed-up. The character voice acting comes across as genuinely creepy, especially Sweet Tooth. He goes through long diatribes about how he murdered his family, and how much he regrets not being able to kill them all. The way portions of this dialogue are spoken is truly unsettling, which I absolutely adore. It really hammers home Twisted Metal’s new approach to the story.
Welcome to the destruction derby!
If you and a friend would like to work your way through the story of the game together, you can do that, however, don’t expect anything different from the single-player experience. Not that I expected it to be an entirely different campaign, but it seems like they have missed a trick by not creating any co-op specific content.
Nevertheless, it is really fun to have a friend help you out with the enemies, especially when you are not particularly good at the game (like me). After playing through the majority of the campaign with a friend, I was annoyed to find that I was unable to pick up from that point in the single player campaign and had to start again. Only a minor fault, but I still thought it was worth a mention.
Then there are the standard multiplayer modes split into team and solo games, such as Deathmatch, Last Man Standing and Hunted. The Deathmatch mode is the same as any other game, where you can either play solo or in a team to achieve the highest amount of points by eliminating the enemy.
The Last Man Standing game mode is actually very similar to Deathmatch in that you are attempting to kill all the competition. The difference here is that you have to be the only vehicle left before the clock runs out. If multiple enemies remain, it is a draw. Once again this can be played on a team basis, or every man for themselves.
Hunted is a game type which involves a player being singled out for everyone to attack. You get points for killing the hunted player, and then you become the hunted yourself. This can also be played as a team game.
The most interesting game type in the Twisted Metal arsenal is Nuke. It is sort of like a perverted Capture The Flag, but with an added twist. Each team has a giant statue, and the object of the game for each team is to destroy their opponent’s statue. How do you go about doing this? Well, first of all you must locate and capture an enemy leader by running them over. At this point the enemy will be brutally dragged behind your vehicle as you try to find the launchers. Now, the idea here is to sacrifice the enemy leader to the launcher in order to fire a nuke, which you will then pilot into the opposing team’s statue. Teams take turns and defending and attacking, and the team with the highest score wins. Okay, have you got that?
It is a lot of information to take in, but truthfully this is the multiplayer mode I had the most fun with. This mode in particular feels like it was designed with the 16 player online features in mind and is a magnificent piece of original content. It certainly stands tall by comparison to the other online game modes.
Each multiplayer game will earn you XP, so that you can rank up and unlock different weapons and custom weapon skins. To me this has just been tacked on to fall in line with the modern online game. There is no real impetus to really bother with the XP, and if I am honest, the game would probably be better without it.
Your wish is granted…
I have waited a long time to play this game, and when I got a shot at the demo I was even more excited. However, after extensive playing, it feels like the series hasn’t quite gone in the direction I had hoped. There is a little bit of me that feels like the things I liked from the previous games, they have changed; and the things I didn’t, they have kept the same.
One of the greatest barriers to playing is the dated control system, which despite the nostalgia, is a royal pain to get used to. I’m not sure why the decision was made to leave the controls in this way, but it certainly does not work in the game’s favour. As for the online, it may be up to personal preference, but I always thought that Twisted Metal was at its finest when being played by people in the same room, and maybe that’s why I don’t quite have the affinity for the multiplayer that I thought I would have. The online community also seems to be relatively sparse already, making matchmaking a little difficult at times.
That said, I had a lot of fun with this game. It has some serious weak points, but for the most part it’s enjoyable, dark, and gloriously twisted. For the fans of Twisted Metal, this game is a must, and for those of you looking for a bit of raw car combat, it may scratch the itch. There is a wide variety of content available on the disc, which will keep you occupied and entertained.
However, proceed with caution; there are a lot of issues which could become frustrating to the newcomer.