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'Twisted Metal' Review (PS3)

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal

Photo © Sony
Since the day the Sony PlayStation 3 was announced, fans of "Twisted Metal," one of the most beloved last-generation console franchises, eagerly awaited the return of Sweet Tooth, Axel, and their other favorite characters from the series that turned auto racing into a death sport. It took much longer than anyone expected, but the wait turns out to have been worth it as "Twisted Metal" comes screaming to the PS3 in all its bloody glory in a way that’s sure to satisfy old fans and win over some new ones. It’s not perfect, but the game about an ice-cream-truck-turned-killing-machine never was in the first place.

Game Details

  • Publisher: SCEA
  • Developer: Eat Sleep Play
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Car Combat
  • Pros: Variety of multiplayer options; strong level design; delivering the carnage for which fans clamor
  • Cons: Inconsistent controls; some under-developed game types; weak solo campaign

The best news for fans of the series is that David Jaffe and Scott Campbell of Eat Sleep Play, the original creative team behind the 17-year-old hit, have returned to guide it into the new generation. It’s been 11 years since the release of "Twisted Metal: Black," the last original game in the franchise for the PS2 ("Twisted Metal: Head-On" was released for the PSP in 2005 and imported to the PS2 in 2008). In fact, a downloadable version of "Black" is included on the Limited Edition of the new "Twisted Metal" in a wonderful nod to where the franchise left off.

The conceptual core of "Twisted Metal" is simple — souped-up cars with larger-than-life characters compete in an ultimate demolition derby. Players choose from a series of vehicles with different strengths and weaknesses: Some are faster, some are tougher, etc. The focus of the single-player campaign is the same as the original – win Calypso’s Twisted Metal Tournament. In the old game, that just meant a series of battles where the object was to be the sole survivor, but the developers have thrown in some new game types for the 2012 edition.

The story of "Twisted Metal" is almost non-existent and not all of the new game types work as well as the old standby Deathmatch, so the strength of the game really lies in its multiplayer. If you’re not the kind of player who enjoys jumping online and competing against actual opponents, "Twisted Metal" is not for you. It’s simply not meaty enough as an off-line game.

Gameplay

Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal

Photo © Sony

Drive and destroy. Across a variety of levels from a snowy metropolis to a desert road, "Twisted Metal" unleashes its gasoline-soaked carnage. Players have special weapons that recharge and basic ammunition, but the focus of the game is on pick-ups – weapons and health. Grab a homing missile and take out your enemy before he does the same to you.

While the foundation of the game is still winner-take-all Deathmatch, the developers offer some variety this time such as the level in which there’s a constantly-moving electronic cage. Leave the cage and a timer starts. When it expires, you start taking damage. The addition forces close combat as you can’t avoid your enemy by simply fleeing too far away or risk leaving the cage. In another new game type, the developers have created a death race in which only the player who finishes first survives.

The new variety of gameplay translates to the multiplayer as well. Once again, basic winner-take-all Deathmatch is the main draw, but there are new game types and heavy levels of customization. Pick your driver (a Clown, Doll, Grimm, or Preacher), change your paint job, and choose your weapon loadout. Like the best multiplayer games, "Twisted Metal" plays well for those who want to spend a lot of time fine-tuning their experience, but also features “Quick Online Action” for those who merely want to get the pedal to the floor.

As for character design, the cartoonish personalities and their vehicles are cleverly designed. Special weapons are truly memorable, such as when Junkyard Dog tosses a vehicle he’s towing at the enemy.

The controls are a bit inconsistent at times and the frenetic activity can overwhelm the action. There are moments when eight vehicles are in one area of the campaign when it feels like "Twisted Metal" is just complete chaos. It crosses from visceral to unrefined and I wished some parts of "TM," especially in the campaign, were a little more streamlined and featured less total insanity. And the default vehicle controls take some adjustment. The actual mechanics of the game, like cornering and aiming special weapons, often feel too unpredictable and inconsistent.

Graphics & Sound

"Twisted Metal" looks good, but not great. It’s clear the developers wanted to produce a game that looked very clearly like a relative of the last "Twisted Metal" title you played. But that means a visual aesthetic that doesn’t quite stand with the best vehicle-based games of the ‘10s. The game also encounters some frame rate issues when it gets truly intense.

As for sound, it’s what you’d expect from an explosive action game. Loud metal music greets the players on the opening screen and the aural assault never lets up.

Bottom Line

Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal

Photo © Sony

"Twisted Metal" has legions of fans who won’t care about frame rates and unrefined controls. They’ll just relish the opportunity to finally get back behind the driver’s seat of their favorite racing franchise. While I think there could have been more development to fine tune the controls and game types, all criticism falls away when one jumps into the multiplayer arena and turns the ignition. It may not be perfect, but it’s a bloody ride worth taking.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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