Twisted Metal - Limited Edition|
Weíve been pretty excited about the new Twisted Metal game ever since Sweet Tooth rolled up onto the stage in his ice cream truck at the end of the PS3 press conference at E3 in 2010. Here we are almost two full years later, and we are finally getting our hands on this ultra-violent, car-combat, arena racer; not that there is much racing going on. Twisted Metal has never been about speed or getting from start to finish ahead of the rest. This game is all about survival of the fittest, or at least the best equipped.
It seems like forever since I played a Twisted Metal game. I actually had to dig up my old PSP review for Twisted Metal: Head-On just to realize it has been nearly seven years since I had blasted Sweet Tooth into oblivion. The latest game, simply titled Twisted Metal, is apparently a next-gen reboot of the series rather than a traditional sequel; not that there was ever enough story to carry across multiple games. But that is all about to change. Twisted Metal not only includes some of the most outrageously insane car combat ever seen on a gaming system; Eat Sleep Play is also telling some stories in this game Ė some serious R-rated horror stories right out of Tales from the Crypt that will have you scrambling through the various events just to see what happens next.
There are three stories actually, the first dealing with everyoneís favorite psychotic ice cream man, Sweet Tooth who is searching for his daughter, the only survivor of a murderous rampage. The mysterious Calypso, host of the Twisted Metal event, promises one wish to the person who can win his tournament, so Sweet Tooth, the caring single dad he is, signs up, but knowing how these wish-fulfillment things always turn out (and without giving away any spoilers), things canít possible end well. But rest assured, you are about to learn more about the history of Sweet Tooth than you could possibly imagine.
After Sweet Tooth you can then explore the exciting backstories for Mr. Grimm and Doll Face, all in similar story-driven paths that take you through various challenges and events. This is where variety kicks in, as Twisted Metal has a lot of unique events to keep things fresh along the way. You have the traditional deathmatch, which can take place in a small town or a larger city or a specially prepared arena loaded with traps, or one of my favorites; a deadly sprint race where you drive along a winding stretch of treacherous road to reach a trigger station that activates a bomb on everyoneís cars, then you race back to the starting line to detonate the bombs. Only the first person back survives. Electric Cage Matches require you to fight inside a glowing perimeter that is constantly moving around the map. Every second outside the cage deducts precious seconds from your Grace timer and when that runs out...well...don't let it run out.
And then you have the Juggernaut events. I despise these as much as I grew to love them. In these events you have a heavily armored semi-truck (like the one in Death Race with Jason Statham) rolling around the level dispensing fresh competitors every few minutes. So not only do you have to deal with the pack of five opponents that you start off with, if you donít take out that truck pretty fast you can find yourself going up against twice that many soon enough. And since there are only a few vulnerable spots on this behemoth itís like trying to shoot a missile down the exhaust port of the Death Star just to kill it. Juggernauts don't appear on the map and they have all sorts of defenses like dropping bombs, making them very hard to kill. Iíve had some Juggernaut matches last as long as 30 minutes.
Before most events you will need to decide which cars you want to use. Yes, you get to pick any three vehicles from the available line-up and more are added as you win matches, defeat opponents, and earn XP to level up. Each vehicle offers its own pros and cons, with preset weapons and a secondary sidearm you can configure as well as maneuverability and special attacks. So if Sweet Tooth morphing into a Transformer-style battle bot isnít cool enough, you can try driving a motorcycle or even doing battle with the Talon, a new helicopter armed with a minigun turret.
Once in the match these cars act as tag team replacements so if you are unable to find a health power-up or drive up onto the mobile health truck you can just go back to the garage and switch to any of your other vehicles. Stored vehicles will slowly repair while in the garage but not too fast, so you canít really abuse the system. Whatís interesting is that you are no longer restricted to just one signature vehicle per driver and neither are the other racers, so donít be surprised when Sweet Tooth finds himself facing off against another driver in his own ice cream truck.
Personally, it took me a day or more to warm up to the single player game. The combat was just too insane and out of control from the very first level. Here I am trying to get reacquainted with the controls (and learn the new ones) and cars with magnets are sucking me to their bumper and ramming me into walls and through buildings, and rockets and missiles are flying everyone and I'm getting knocked into low orbit. Thankfully, not all the AI is out to get the human player, but it sure seems that way at times. I was constantly using turbo to sprint across levels to get some distance, then try to peel off one car from the chaos and work on him until dead. There really is a tactical art to playing this game, or at least winning it.
My biggest issues were with the controls which just plain sucked. I eventually adapted enough to tolerate them but even after 20+ hours of solo and online gameplay I am still not comfortable with them. The sticks move your car and your camera while Square is your gas/turbo and circle is your brake. The X is your handbrake, allowing for super tight turns; even spinning in place. While there are a few variances in the handling of cars versus trucks vs bikes, all of the cars drive and control like twitchy tanks. Just try to drive up into the back of a moving health truck Ė it is so frustrating.
The D-pad gets you access to gadgets like mines, shields, freeze, or rear fire, while the triggers cycle through available weapons and fire them. You can lock targets with R3 for some weapons and others have their own annoying auto-lock. There is a huge arsenal of weapons; everything from remote-control car bombs to guided rockets and swarm missiles. The EMP weapon is my least favorite since Iím the one always getting hit with it and find myself mashing buttons to restart my car while everyone else is bearing down on me. And that is another complaint. There isnít enough car damage inflicted by simply colliding with a car. If I ram a motorcycle with my truck and slam him into (or through) a wall, they should take some damage.
Thankfully, you wonít always be at the mercy of the AI since Twisted Metal now supports online play for up to 16 people as well as 2-4 player split-screen across a variety of exciting and challenging modes. Naturally, all of your progress in both single and multiplayer events is logged and ranked on global leaderboards, although I did get tired of always placing 40,001, which I assume is so bad itís unranked, in the story events. At least I am better against real humans, and the online play is surprising fast and reliable once you get past the lobby. The more you play the more XP youíll earn which all contributes to new cars, weapons, skins, and even special tactics that can shift the balance of power in your favor.
Fans of the franchise are going to love Twisted Metal but newcomers to the game may be spooked by the twitchy controls and the overwhelming combat right out of the gate. There is a nice assortment of non-interactive tutorials that explain the cars and modes as well as some live-training excercises. The story mode will take you 8-10 hours to complete depending on how good you are and how fast you can take down the Juggernauts. And once that is behind you prepare for the endless possibilities of Challenge mode and plenty of multiplayer carnage for split-screen and online as you start questing for some truly difficult trophies and top spots on the leaderboard.
Visually, Twisted Metal is an enigma. You have these awesome live-action cutscenes that will captivate you from start to finish, but once in the game Twisted Metal is already showing its age, as this looks like a two-year old game. The car models are great, which I guess is whatís really important, but the levels, while nicely designed, are simple maps with simple architecture, basically there for your destructive enjoyment since nearly every building on the map can come down if you hit it hard enough. It wasn't until I climbed into the Talon and started flying around that I saw the sheer size of a few maps. Special effects are pretty awesome with rocket trails, explosions, and some great effects for the various arena traps. The game only runs in 720p, which probably helps the framerate but reveals some jagged edges in places; not that you'll notice once you start tearing around the levels and the motion blur kicks in.
The audio is fantastic with some killer heavy metal tracks that may have you tweaking the sound levels so you can hear them better. Itís been awhile since Iíve heard Judas Priest in a video game, and if you want, you can always use your own custom tracks. Most of the sound experience is revving engines and lots of gunfire, explosions, and crashing sounds with the occasional vocal taunt or pre-event narration from the creepy Calypso. The voice work in the cutscenes is flawless, with Sweet Tooth sending more chills down my spine than Pinhead from Hellraiser.
Great cars, large arenas, inventive game modes, a rewarding upgrade path, and blindingly destructive gameplay ultimately win out over finicky controls. The more you play the game the better you get and Twisted Metal is one game youíll want to keep playing for a long time to come. Plus, if you act now, you can grab a copy of the Limited Edition, which comes with a Sweet Tooth multiplayer skin for the upcoming Starhawk game and a free download code for the 2001 classic, Twisted Metal: Black; a great blast from the past, now upgraded to work on your PS3.