Review: Twisted Metal
Over the past few days, I’ve been playing David Jaffe’s latest offering in the Twisted Metal series, a franchise which has changed development teams throughout its lifespan and now returns triumphantly with David Jaffe behind the helm. This is the first PlayStation 3 release of the franchise and I was duly excited to get my hands on this destruction derby of gargantuan proportions.
- Worth The Time?Yes, it's Twisted Metal.
- Things LovedI loved the destruction derby feel of both the singleplayer and multiplayer modes. The characters are deep and interesing, and the music is killer.
- Things HatedI disliked the difficult controls, poor voice acting with some characters, problematic online mode implementations, bugs and crashes
- RecommendationIf you enjoyed vehicular combat games like Carmageddon, Burnout and the older Twisted Metal games, this is for you.
- Name: Twisted Metal
- Genre: Vehicular Combat, Action
- Players: 1-16
- Multiplayer: Split-screen, Online
- Platforms: PS3
- Developer: Eat Sleep Play
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R393
- Reviewed On: PS3
Wikipedia loves to classify the Twisted Metal franchise as something which is purely of the vehicular combat genre, which it is for the most part. However, this iteration of the game leans towards a serious attempt at qualifying the motivations of characters for entering the Twisted Metal Tournament, and the background of their lives and wishes to be granted by Calypso, the demonic organiser of the event. The game this time around focuses on three contestants stories: Sweet Tooth, the deranged psychopathic clown, Mr. Grimm, an enraged mass murdering stuntman, and Krista Sparks, known as ‘Dollface’, a former supermodel defaced with a cursed doll mask.
Twisted Metal is divided into three playable sections with each of the three characters telling a different story, with live action sequences inter-spliced between the actual death matches you partake in. From the start, Twisted Metal already offers you three different characters to experience the game as, each with a different vehicle which changes how you experience the combat and driving mayhem of Twisted Metal. I will use Sweet Tooth as an example with which to explain the gameplay.
In Twisted Metal, Sweet Tooth drives an ice cream truck which has the special ability to either shoot a clown-faced missile at enemies, or transform into a giant clown robot. Each special attack has a cool-down period following their use, which means that you can’t rely on continually using that special attack within many of the death matches. This is due to fact that the game requires more than just spanning special attacks. Twisted Metal offers you a variety of different death matches with conditions such as zoned areas where combat can take place, time constraints and special enemies which come at you in the middle of one of the many destruction derbies. These restrictions mean that you have to think on your feet and in Twisted Metal quick reflexes are necessary because everyone else is out go get you.
You have many weapons such as rockets, missiles, freeze rays, exploding remote controlled cars, explosives, shotguns, machine guns and other armaments to take out other players with. The other characters that make up the rest of the tournament drive many different vehicles from standard muscle cars, to trucks, a police car and even a motorbike. All of them have their own special attacks and with the wacky maps you play through you have to take full advantage of the controls and the car at your disposal. What I like about the vehicle selection in particular is that you aren’t stuck driving just Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck.
You can select other faster vehicles and the game provides a car garage in the death matches for you to change out cars when you’re low on health. You can pick up extra health from health trucks driving around. But getting to these trucks becomes a bit tricky because of the nature of most of the maps. The maps can become a maze of streets, debris, tunnels, bridges and in one stage parts of the level start elevating up and down throughout your run. The combat itself is frenetic, explosive and destruction is around every corner. At one moment, you could be gunning down some poor ‘sod’ on a motorbike before you are catapulted by a truck halfway across the map. The bosses in the game are deceptively simple at first, but turn into challenging beasts because the A.I. in Twisted Metal is unrelenting when it comes to boss challenges. Yet I didn’t find the normal difficulty to be that ‘hectic’ in the slightest.
What I particularly like about the game and this can be noted quite clearly in Sweet Tooth’s story arc, was the utilisation of live action footage to bring to life the background story of the character. These montages were serious in tone and I felt them to be a nice break from the cartoony goriness of the combat in the death matches. Many critics and reviewers argued that this broke the flow of the game and gave the game a schizophrenic identity by trying to be a serious game in cut-scenes, and a cartoonish gory romp in the rest of its parts. I, on the other hand, was delighted by the interesting story developments that brought to light the deeper motivations and ambitions of the playable characters in the game. For most people, the focus of Twisted Metal’s appeal is the multiplayer component which is great fun, with different factions and a variety of different modes. Yet in the multiplayer modes it become apparent that the controls for first time players could be perceived as ‘difficult’ and require some getting used to. However, this game offers some serious value. But with many great games there are some negative aspects that need to be brought to light.
In Twisted Metal’s case, I found the online pass implementation to be a bit buggy with the game freezing. This occurred following a boot up of the game whilst attempting to redeem my online pass code from within the game. This was remedied by redeeming the code from within the PSN store. After that, the game seemed to be solidly working and I tried it out by attempting to join some online servers. But I was greeted with ‘connect to server’ errors and the only mode which I could gain access to was the ‘Instant Online Action’ mode. Many players have reported similar problems, especially with older PS3 models and many Slim owners have posted about the online pass issue. A patch has been released to rectify this. Alessandro had pointed out that he had no problems. So this could be an issue that comes down to people with slow internet, or just a ‘luck of the draw’ thing. Nonetheless, many gamers are having freezing problems and crashes with the game.
Otherwise, when playing the game through the instant mode the combat is great and vehicle combat is fun online. Also in the online modes it becomes pretty apparent that the control scheme for some of the vehicles becomes difficult to use because of the nature of the keymapping for controls in the game. This takes some time to get used to to. But I don’t feel that it’s game-breaking. It’s just a pity that these already ‘recognised’ online problems have not been sorted out by Jaffe and his team. It dampens the overall experience of Twisted Metal which has a solid singleplayer experience.
On a more positive note, the game has some of best metal tracks out at the moment and the soundtrack is a metalhead’s wet dream. The voice acting is great for characters like Sweet Tooth. But I found Calypso’s narration from within the game to be a bit irritating. Overall, the audio design is pretty good in Twisted Metal. The visuals are nicely updated from the previous games with greater emphasis on vehicle combat than an actual focus on producing ‘pretty’ character models and textures. Twisted Metal is firstly a game which is focussed on gameplay, and I found this to be refreshing in an era where gameplay design is an oft forgotten area for some developers. With that said, the game has darker visuals than predecessors in the franchise.