Hell On Wheels
It's been a decade since we've had a new Twisted Metal game, so chances are most players coming into this reboot will be rusty if not altogether new to the series. As such, Twisted Metal does little to lull debutants to its peculiar brand of vehicular combat, but those who persist through its complex controls will find an extremely deep revival of the genre.
The story goes that a devil-like character named Calypso will grant people their wish if they triumph in a vehicle-based fight to the death. Unlike previous Twisted Metal games, there are only three contestants this time around, and they're all psychopaths. It's not a particularly smart tale, but it's told with style in live-action cut-scenes with a Grindhouse vibe.
What makes Twisted Metal so hard to come to grips with is the plethora of moves that can be done at any given time. Driving and shooting may sound simple, but once you toss in the abilities to jump, boost, boost in reverse, turbo-boost, pull up a shield, drop a mine, fire an EMP blast, shoot backwards, and sort between multiple weapons and additional firing modes it quickly becomes dizzying. Though initially impenetrable, it's well worth sticking with.
Campaigning For Your Rights
The story mode helps new players cut their teeth on the action, gently introducing the myriad mechanics. Bosses in particular stand out as epic multi-stage encounters as these gargantuan machines morph and throw players into all new scenarios. One giant pig-tailed robot doll tasks players with defeating its minions before dragging one of their brood to a truck where they'll be sacrificed into a wood chipper-like device and come out a missile on the other end that the player must pilot into the boss. This silly, violent, and outrageously fun encounter sums up the best that Twisted Metal as to offer.
It doesn't always hit these highs, though. The campaign is held back by some unfair enemy AI that conspires against human players, while leaving each other alone. Story mode's biggest sin, however, is its racing stages. In theory this nod to Death Race 2000 seems like a good idea for a game about cars with weapons; but unfortunately it doesn't play that way. Between the game's focus on combat and aggressive AI, it ends up all too easy to get blown off course. It's like Mario Kart on meth. Mercifully, there are only three of these stages, but the penultimate level is such a lengthy, grueling race that many players may be prevented from seeing the wonderful final encounter.
If the campaign isn't the best in the world it's because a majority of Twisted Metal's focus is on multiplayer (available both online, split-screen, and any combination of the two). Here's where it takes on a life of its own. When you start seeing veteran players racking up loads of kills with a vehicle you'd previously not given a second thought to, it hints at the underlying depth buried beneath Twisted Metal's blistering core. Each vehicle has a couple special attacks and sometimes their benefits aren't readily apparent. Sweet Tooth's ice cream truck's unique projectile can shoot through barriers, while the exterminator wagon, Vermin, has a very fast recharge rate for its special. While not patently obvious, this stuff matters, and there's no shortage of minutia to master.
Playing against real people also changes the flow of combat significantly. While the AI targets human players, it's not as stubborn about hunting them down. Multiplayer reveals the importance of collecting power-ups as well as when to flee instead of fight. Learning to evade another player through slick driving, mines, or a backwards EMP blast becomes just as important as unloading your arsenal on them.
The Nukes Of Hazard
Ultimately, Twisted Metal is a surprisingly sophisticated multiplayer game buried beneath an unpolished campaign. It can take awhile to wrap one's head around and it could use more game modes, but those burnt out by traditional person shooters will find this resurgence of vehicular warfare a splendid change of pace.
- Balanced multiplayer
- Very deep combat
- Awesome bosses
- Feels unlike anything else out there today
- Clumsy AI
- Not enough multiplayer modes