Twisted Metal has a very special place in our hearts. It was one of the first 3D games we played and also to this day, remains one of the best. A friend had been one of the lucky few to be granted a PlayStation for Christmas and had saved up to buy the game. It was the only disc he had and we would put hours and hours into just smashing each other to pieces.
No pressure then for this PlayStation 3 reboot of one of the most important franchises on the console. It has been a long time coming but Twisted Metal is finally here.
So what is Twisted Metal first of all? Essentially a car-based shooter, it is part of a now non-existent genre of games that was home to classics like Carmageddon and Interstate 76. You basically drive around arenas with various vehicles attempting to smash and shoot each other into several hundred little pieces. It’s not much more complicated than that really, presumably why its been so long since we have seen a game of this type, just because things have moved on so much since.
It is nice once in a while however to just get back to basics. Forget motion controllers, varied story arcs and super-high-quality graphics, instead just blow stuff up until you can’t do it anymore.
Twisted Metal does try to employ some sort of story behind the madness but, quite frankly, it's not even necessary. The reason for the destruction is out of a tournament put on by someone called Calypso. This evil man has decided to offer up answers to the bunch of nutters that enter his tournament. The story is told in three separate parts which follow the series’ most iconic characters as they try to make sense of the world around them. Take Sweet Tooth, for example, he is doing the tournament to find his daughter.
The story is completely forgettable, however, despite having beautifully put together cut-scenes. It just doesn’t matter and the action is so addictive that you want to skip everything just to get to the car battling. Well we did, anyway. Those who really follow the Twisted Metal universe will find enough story here however.
What makes Twisted Metal such a great game is how over the top it tries to make everything. Nothing in the game is done quietly. The second a level loads, you have the likes of N.W.A blaring out through the in-game music, hundreds of missiles flying towards your face and a car tearing along at 100 miles an hour in front of you. It is complete and utter overload and we love it. In fact some of the best bits are when the combat itself just completely breaks down. That feeling of imminent doom when ten cars have you rammed against the wall and are pelting you with rockets - it's unfair but it feels great.
So how do you play it? Well as you probably guessed from our review so far, Twisted Metal is not a complex game. You hold square to go forward and then basically keep your finger permanently pressed on L2, this will ensure you are firing machine guns at all times. Rockets and special attacks are handled with L1 and R2, steering with the left stick. There are some unique moves you unlock later on that require two button inputs but nothing ever gets particularly complicated.
This is a good thing because the combat in Twisted Metal takes place incredibly quickly. Your car, no matter how big, is capable of stopping on a penny and can turn itself around on a sixpence. It also appears to be able to carry hundreds of missiles and bullets and switch between them on the fly. Once you have nailed the controls and playing technique, then most of the game is spent tearing around flinging every possible piece of weaponry you can imagine at opponents.
Carz n Gunz
Apart from you secondary weapon and special, every other piece of explosive in the game is obtained as a drive over pick up. Some are simple missiles, others, like the ricochet, are remote-controlled cars. Each requires time to master and will, once you have it nailed, make you just that little bit tougher to kill.
Each vehicle, no matter how small, can take an immense amount of damage. Some people will play better as a motorbike or sports car, scooting around and getting in close range shots whenever they can. Others will do well as pickup trucks or police vans, taking a lot of damage but being able to dole it out as well.
You can switch vehicles during a match once its health gets low, so we tend to mix things between quick and slow to see which works best on which game.
The diversity of vehicles on offer is huge, as is the special weapons they have. Take Sweet Tooth, he can transform from ice cream van to flying robot. Alternatively there are things like Reaper, a motorcycle with a chainsaw special weapon. Pull a wheelie, and it will catch fire, and do extra damage. Never, ever does the car combat in Twisted Metal get stale, simply because you have so many different vehicles to choose from.
Special credit also needs to be given to the boss battles, which are very inventive. Each vehicle you fight, without spoiling things, requires a play tactic totally different from the normal game. Clever stuff, and it breaks up the single player that can, at times, get a tad repetitive, particularly given the later levels are so tough and you only have a single life to play with.
At Twisted Metal’s core is its multiplayer. Online is there, of course, but the real joy comes from taking on friends in the same room as you, using split screen. This is a game that you need to be able to shout at the person next to you while playing, it works perfectly with four friends smashing each other to pieces.
The web-based suite works well enough and has a basic Call of Duty style unlock system. The more you play, the more you are rewarded with stuff. New cars, skins and even techniques all end up making an appearance. The game also runs flawlessly online, which is really important with something as fast-paced as Twisted Metal.
So Twisted Metal gets it right on the PS3. A brief wobble on the control front and not quite as much vehicular variety as previous games, but it is great none the less. Where it shines is with what the PS3 can do for something like Twisted Metal. That simple car combat is still there and just as fun, only this time it looks about a hundred times better and you can play people from around the world.
We would have liked to have seen a few more risks taken with the formula, but ultimately Twisted Metal does what it says on the tin. This is a game for those who enjoy the most basic of PlayStation-based pursuits. Forget everything you normally want from a game and instead go back to the PlayStation’s heyday. Sometimes simple really is best.