By Colorwind 1 Comments
- Vehicular Combat
- Developed by Eat Sleep Play, SCE Santa Monica Studios
- Published by Sony Computer Entertainment
- Available on PlayStation 3 [played]
- Released on 2012-02-14 (PS3)
The original Twisted Metal gave birth to the vehicular combat genre. A wacky yet dark cast of characters would do battle on the streets of Los Angeles with cars equipped with missiles, machine guns and more for a chance to meet the enigmatic Calypso, who would grant them one wish, no matter how extravagant or impossible. It was a wonderfully fast paced and destructive experience that I loved and with six sequels already under its belt, the series has now gotten a reboot with a new story and a new faction concept. While the concept and mechanics that made the series successful are still engaging and exhilarating to play, some of the new ideas unfortunately fall flat.
Calypso, the head of Calypso Industries, is holding a Twisted Metal contest. Same as every year. The winner will meet Calypso and have one wish granted to them, whatever it is their heart desire. Story mode tells the tale of Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Dollface, as well as Calypso and the Twisted Metal competition itself. Their stories are demented and gruesomely entertaining, as the people in this contest are unhinged to say the least. However, unlike other Twisted Metal games, there are only three characters in this game, making the story woefully short, and the reveal about Calypso and the contest is quite different from previous games in the series, which will put off some longtime fans of the series. You don’t even get to choose which character you play as first, which is unfortunate as the first story is ultimately the strongest.
Regardless of the complaints with the actual content of the story, the presentation of the story and the game in general are top notch. The stories are all told through stylized live action cutscenes that clearly drew influence from movies like 300 and Sin City but from a more horror-themed perspective. The cutscenes all look really nice and are well acted, especially the voice acting. Graphically, the game runs at a solid 60 fps and the environments are huge with bright warm colors sprinkled across the mostly dark, cold colored landscapes. Unfortunately, while the cars and environments have a lot of detail to them, a lot of the textures are muddy and low res. Twisted Metal 2012 displays in 720p and it seems that the game is actually a bit more graphically ambitious than the PS3 can handle.
Twisted Metal’s soundtrack is full of licensed hard rock and classic rock tracks as well as original compositions. Driving around blasting other drivers while Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” plays feels a bit surreal but cool nonetheless. However, if you want your own music, there is an option to change to a custom soundtrack via files on your PS3 hard drive. The sound effects are effective in expressing the insanity onscreen but still miss the visceral feel that this game could have had, as car crashes and such don’t feel as impactful as they could. From a technical standpoint, it should be noted that load times in this game can be kind of long, especially when you first load up the game. In fact, this game does have a tendency of getting stuck while connecting to the online servers.
Twisted Metal plays a lot like the previous games in the series. You drive a car equip with various weapons and use them to destroy the other cars in the battleground. However, different in this version is the idea of factions. As I mentioned before, there are only three characters in this game. As such, when you play Challenge mode or Multiplayer, you will pick either Sweet Tooth’s Clowns faction, Mr. Grimm’s Skulls faction, Dollface’s Dolls faction, or the Preacher’s Holy Men faction, who is a character from the story mode. You then pick a car each with their own stats and special weapons that can also be customize with decals, paint jobs and sidearm weapons. Characters are no longer bound to their cars so Dollface can drive Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck if she wants. I’m not a big fan of this change from a story perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, this doesn’t change the gameplay too much except for some weapons being fired by either the driver or a henchmen riding shotgun.
Once you’ve picked your faction and car, you are thrown into a warzone, shooting missiles at other combatants, crashing through buildings, and speeding across roads at break neck speeds with little to no regard for self preservation. The action is frantic, and at first, you may think that you don’t have the reflexes and skill to survive even a minute. This overwhelming chaos can be intimidating and the overly complicated controls don’t help. Widely used maneuver commands and special attacks are done in unintuitive ways. Even after playing through the story mode, I still was forgetting how to do things. Clearly the developers ran out of buttons to do commands with so thankfully, there is a tutorial mode that show how to do commands, as well as how to play the various multiplayer modes.
As convoluted as the controls are, once you do get the hang of them, you’ll find that Twisted Metal 2012 makes you feel like a badass. This is thanks to the concept of the gameplay being easy to grasp: shoot the other cars until they explode. You soon will be sliding around corners, jumping over barriers and blasting unsuspecting drivers. The maps add to the enjoyment as they are expansive and have various pickups that give the game a level playing field similar to Unreal Tournament. And of course there are the destructible environments. It’s awesome to careen through a supermarket, or completely destroy a house or even a entire building, even if some buildings aren’t destructible and it can be difficult to distinguish which ones can and can’t. Ultimately, this is arguably the most visceral Twisted Metal has ever been.
When playing by yourself, you’ll be in either the Story Mode or Challenge mode. Story Mode is the story-driven mode that uses a six match format for each character, each of which have special stipulations such as staying within a safe zone, the use of garages to switch out cars, or racing the other cars to a certain finishing area or objective. Challenge Mode allows you to play against AI bots on any map for a one off match. There are three different battle types, and eight maps to choose from, as well as an option to play in smaller sections of the maps. The different objectives in Story mode do help diversify the combat and it’s enjoyable to replay the missions for high ranked medals and unique experiences. However, Challenge mode is ultimately the most enjoyable when you want to play by yourself with no frills or special conditions.
Unfortunately, one of the most troubling issues with the single player aspect of Twisted Metal 2012 is the AI. The AI tends to attack you exclusively if you are in a certain radius, going so far as to make their way to you without attacking anyone else. I did several tests to make sure of this and its disappointing that the AI was designed in this way. It really puts a damper on the experience when playing Twisted Metal by yourself. Another problem are the boss fights in Story mode. They’re way too long and are way too convoluted. The Iron Maiden fight is particularly bad and I found myself raging, just begging for it to be over. I mean, nine different sections? Really? Who’s the masochist who designed this? I WANT NAMES!
Unfortunately, I was unable to test out the local multiplayer or the LAN play and was only able to play three matches of Deathmatch online as there are not that many people playing this game online anymore. However, there are seven modes to choose from online, experience points can be earned to unlock cars for use online, and there are various options to filter and change your matches. From my time online, the matches I did have were responsive with no lag and no connection errors. Although I was no where as good as those I played online with, I really enjoyed the experience as a lot of the AI issues and story mode concerns were wiped away. No glitchy AI preying on only me, no disappointing story arcs, no convoluted bosses. Just pure Twisted Metal mayhem at its finest!
It’s then I realized that the main issue with Twisted Metal 2012 is that while the main concept is still a lot of fun, the game itself doesn’t seem to know that. At every turn, the offline game seems determined to distract you from that core experience as if it wasn’t enough. All the extra stuff makes the game feel like it wasn’t confident enough in its roots and it’s a shame. It makes for a game that’s weighed down by unnecessary baggage. The strength of this game is really its multiplayer as all the baggage is stripped away for a more pure experience. Too bad there’s almost no one online…
For nearly every match you finish in the story mode, you are rewarded with either a new sidearm, a new special attack, or a new car. Finishing the story mode in normal and hard difficulties will earn you new decals, while Twisted difficulty earns you a laser pistol sidearm. However, if you are good enough to finish Story Mode in the Twisted Difficulty with all Gold medals, you’ll earn the Warthog car, which looks like it did in Twisted Metal Black. Other than that, that’s it for in-game content. However, due to the nature of story mode, you need to really enjoy what the Story mode has to offer. The struggle that would be involved in dealing with the prejudice AI just gives me shivers and threatens to put an ugly scar on my love for this franchise.
Add on the trophies in this game, which has you playing a lot of multiplayer – something that’s becoming more and more difficult to do – and completing the story mode without dying (!) and this is definitely one of the more difficult games to Platinum. To be fair, there isn’t a lot of actual objectives to complete, just ones that take a lot of time but Twisted Metal 2012 is still a hard game to complete and should only be done by the most hardcore completionists or those who really enjoy this game.
Finishing the story mode will take you around five hours, which isn’t that much. Therefore, the value of Twisted Metal 2012 depends on how much you value multiplayer. However, as of October 2014, not that many people are playing this game online and most of the match types are Deathmatch. Therefore, your purchase will REALLY depend on whether you have a friend to play with you. Also, Twisted Metal 2012 requires an online pass, that must be bought separately for $10 if you buy it used or rent it. That’s a lot of caveats for a game at full price. Luckily, Twisted Metal can be bought for $20 on the PSN store and I got my physical copy for $20 at Walmart. I would recommend renting this game to see if you like it, but if you do decide to buy it, spend no more than $20.
Twisted Metal 2012 has a lot of great aspects to it but fails to fully embrace the simplistic fun the series is known for. What’s here is still a good representation of what makes the game fun but is hampered with convoluted controls, frustrating challenge, and little content that only serves to dissuade newcomers from getting on board. This is not a bad game; this isn’t even a bad Twisted Metal game. I’m still playing it as I’ve been able to find the fun this title has to offer. However, this is one of the lesser titles in the franchise and it does miss that special something that made this series great.