Hands up who remembers playing Twisted Metal
on the original PlayStation
? It was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable experiences available for a machine that managed to spawn more than a handful of top class franchises, and yet for some reason, despite continued success when it hit the PS2
, it has taken until now, a whopping six years into the PlayStation 3
’s life cycle for Twisted Metal to rear its disturbingly ugly head once more.
Fans of the series were ecstatic when they heard that Eat Sleep Play
were working on a brand new version of the game, and its announcement at E3
in 2010 was greeted with the kind of yelps, roars and thunderous applause usually reserved for celebrities. In truth, Twisted Metal probably is a gaming celebrity of sorts; if you have had the fortune to play one of the earlier games then the fun you undoubtedly had will have stuck with you right through until the present day, and if you somehow managed to grow up without encountering Sweet Tooth and company, then you’ll no doubt have heard about their antics through the grape vine.
In a time when variety seems to be on the wane and everyone is concerning themselves with releasing FPS
after FPS, third person shooter
after third person shooter and sports game
after sports game, perhaps the stage has never been more perfectly set for the return of the madcap shenanigans that only the Twisted Metal series can provide.
Anyone who has played the earlier games will feel immediately home here. From the dated feeling menus to the hackneyed, camply played out B-Movie
style cut scenes and intentionally awful scripting, it’s like the series never went away. While these may sound more like sticks to beat the game with than actual points of merit, the fact is that Twisted Metal carries a logic all of its own. If you’re looking for something serious with an in-depth story line, then you’ve really misjudged this game.
What you’ll get is the kind of darkly humorous, often childishly immature pseudo-horror that really should have been left back in the 80s when the horror movie scene was at its lowest point… or for some, its peak. The storyline, if you could even call it that, is almost embarrassingly bad at times, but the fact that the development team and the writers have intentionally created it that way adds a certain allure to proceedings.
The game’s story mode focuses on three of the most familiar faces in the series, and tells their stories one by one, with the obligatory overlapping of course. It all starts off with Sweet Tooth, the demonic clown looking bugger from the cover and practically every piece of Twisted Metal related fan art you have ever seen. We learn that Calypso
, the dastardly fiend with the power to grant wishes in exchange for mass carnage, has decided to put on another Twisted Metal tournament
, and Sweet Tooth
sees this as the perfect opportunity to learn the location of his long missing daughter, so that he can, shall we say, tidy up some unfinished business.
villain-esque Mr. Grimm
is also looking out for something from Calypso, he’s looking to prevent the death of his father, and in turn prevent himself from going down the road he ended up on. Though technically, if he did manage to do that, then he’d never have been able to enter the Twisted Metal tournament in order to prevent his father from dying in the first place, no? Logic explosion inside our brains right now and we’re not sure why… it’s Twisted bloody Metal for god’s sake.
To wrap things up on the campaign storyline front, it’s the aesthetically obsessed spoiled little bitch psychopath, Doll Face
. She has her sights set on taking over the fashion world, and has decided that utilising Calypso’s unique offer is probably the best way for her to go about it. Well, it sure beats hard work and dedication to the cause we suppose.
For a single player mode, the story mode does offer pretty much what you could expect from a game like Twisted Metal. Events, which are essentially all different takes on the fight to the death scenario, are interspersed with cut scenes which further the development of each character in order to give you additional insight into their lives up until now. They’re delivered in typically B-Movie fashion and, to be honest, they’re actually pretty good for the most part.
However the problem with the single player mode isn’t how the stories progress, or the duration of the whole thing, but instead it’s the fact that the gameplay itself simply feels disjointed. Sure, it’s great fun to pick three badass cars and spend ten minutes laying waste to anything else on wheels, as well as plenty that’s not, as an actual experience that offers longevity, it’s sad to say that things are well past that point these days.
The controls are decidedly last generation, and they really don't do much to help enhance the experience. Games like Twisted Metal these days really need to be pick up and play affairs. You should be able to instinctively know roughly what you're doing at all times, but unless you're a Twisted Metal connoisseur, things feel decidedly alien. Even if you loved the series in years gone by, as we certainly did, it still doesn't feel quite right after years of refinement on gaming control systems.
That's a problem that is gotten around by repetition however, and before you know it you'll be right back in the swing of things, as if the series had never gone anywhere. Unfortunately, there are other issues that cause issues here. The maps, big and detailed as they are, just don't lend themselves to the single player experience. It feels as if all that loving care and attention that has gone into building the settings was for nothing, as you'll spend most of your time speeding through streets, alleyways and dirt tracks at speeds too great to even notice them.
The combat, on which the game is so heavily focussed, is bland and repetitive, often amounting to little more than holding both fire buttons simultaneously and driving behind any one of your numerous opponents until they blow up. There's no satisfaction to be gained here; no sense of achievement from progressing. It all feels like one long, boring grind and that simply isn't fun in anyone's language.
The original novelty that made Twisted Metal
stand out from the rest of the pack has long since been eroded away, and instead we can now see it for what it really is – a slightly iffy, and unfortunately dull single player experience. There’s nothing here at all that is likely to bring anyone back after the first play though, if they even manage to make it that far to begin with. The whole thing just seems so devoid of anything remotely engaging that it’s actually quite a sorry sight at times – and to be honest it doesn’t make all that much sense, given that Eat Sleep Play
has been smart enough not to mess with the dynamics that made the game such a rip roaring success in the first place.
The good news is that all is certainly not lost. We all know that gaming has moved on from being a single player pursuit in the last decade or so, and Twisted Metal is ready to take full advantage of the offer of online multiplayer capabilities. Even though the mechanics remain the same, that is to say the handling is slightly dodgy at times and the control system feels antiquated and clunky, the addition of human opposition is one that salvages Twisted Metal from the scrap heap and actually makes you think “you know what, this may well be what we’ve been missing all these years!”
Okay, not quite. The fact is that while still dated as hell, the gameplay really does start to come into its own once you’ve decided to take the plunge into the online side of things. Initially, the same gripes we had about the single player mode are true. The control system doesn’t really lend itself to the high octane action taking place on screen, and the maps can prove to be a little too large at times (depending on the amount of players in the game), but, and this is a massive J-Lo sized but, once you’ve settled into the game, the fun starts seeping out of every metallic pore in its being.
The online games are surprisingly limited on face value, with pretty much everything you would expect to find here from free for alls to team Deathmatches – those of you with a competitive streak will very much enjoy what’s on offer.
Rather than having an experience completely devoid of any sense of accomplishment, you’ll actually find that you’re drawn deeper and deeper into proceedings as your human opponents gradually bring out the very best in the maps. Map sizes can be adjusted to reflect the amount of players in each game, and the sense of blandness in the large maps is wiped out when you have thirteen other humans all trying their best to blow the crap out of you.
That’s really what the Twisted Metal experience is about, and it’s one that hasn’t changed all that much as the years have passed. Sure, it looks better, although the graphics aren’t really anything to write home about, and the maps are bigger and more detailed, but the experience is much the same – and ultimately that will define how much you get out of this.
For our money, it’s still a little lacking. There’s a huge amount of potential in the IP, and we genuinely feel that Eat Sleep Play haven’t come close to realising it here. What you’re getting is essentially a HD retooling of previous games, as opposed to something that actually feels like it has been purpose built for the current generation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and you will certainly get plenty of amusement from the game if you’re a big online player, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to do something bigger, better and, ultimately, far more memorable.