Car Combat returns, along with the 90's.
I immediately felt at home when I started playing Twisted Metal. Car Combat has taken a far too long hiatus. Twisted Metal is virtually everything I want a car combat game to be. Over-the-top action, check. 90’s track list to include Rob Zombie, check. Fast as hell 60 FPS combat, check. David Jaffe and his team at Eat Sleep Play have crafted a love letter to the genre, presenting well-balanced gameplay and some of the best action you’ll find on the Playstation 3.
The game’s plot falls into familiar, but still interesting territory. The enigmatic Calypso is hosting a tournament for lunatics. Only Sweet Tooth, Dollface, and Mr. Grimm get a story treatment. The prize for winning Calypso’s tournament of murder is that he’ll grant the victor one wish. Most of these character’s wishes are merely examples of how insane they are. For example, Sweet Tooth, being a serial killer rivaling Jason Voorhees, is to be brought to the location of the one victim that got away. Feeling like something straight out of Tales from the Crypt, these granted wishes have the tournament’s winner face some horrible ironic fate.
The story is told through surprisingly well-produced live action cutscenes, going into a weird amount of depth for a car combat game. These cut scenes don’t approach anywhere near the length of Metal Gear Solid, but the production felt out of place for the genre. However, as goofy as all the character’s backgrounds are, I found myself totally interested in their macabre world that their own insanity crafted. Kind of makes the upcoming movie not sound like a completely awful idea. Some players might be turned off by the lack of characters participating in the plot. However, all the Twisted Metal vehicles are present. But are driven by one of the three main characters and a representative of their gangs.
In the singleplayer, the player can choose from most of the vehicles the game has, and slowly unlock more as the game progresses. One of the new features is picking several backup vehicles. Death in a singleplayer match is Game Over, however, you can minimize that risk by switching out to a new vehicles in a garage that’s present on most maps. However, switching out vehicles doesn’t steer the game away from challenging the player. I usually found myself fighting to the last bit of health to get to a garage.
This shines light on Twisted Metal’s best feature, the amazing balance between the vehicles. As expected, there’s three basic classes of vehicles; light, medium, and heavy. Light vehicles are easy to maneuver and dodge fire effectively, while heavier vehicles get massive bonuses for ramming into enemies and have a ton of armor, but will be taking a lot of heat due to not being very mobile. The game even has a Helicopter, which surprisingly doesn’t break the experience thanks to easy to use targeting and weapon balance.
The singleplayer may be a little light on content, but that may not be a bad thing. Most of the experience other than witnessing the grim fates of the protagonists felt pointless. The game breaks up the action a bit by introducing match types beyond simple deathmatch. Most of these, including the fast-paced cage matches, are a great time. Unfortunately, boss fights are more of a pain that a fun challenge, and the races might be the cause of a few broken Dual Shocks. The races force the player to memorize the “tracks” for success. Racing is conducted on regular maps instead of an actual racetrack. To counter the open maps are various checkpoints the contestants have to hit. It’s easy to fail too soon by falling off a building or missing a jump due to the (normally fun) arcady physics. The fast paced action gameplay translates horribly to racing. It may have been better if there were maps actually developed to accommodate racing. But I would prefer to just shoot dudes. It’s more fun to go through the game in split-screen with another player, but at that point you might as well just do bot matches.
Shooting dudes is best practiced online. That’s where Twisted Metal is. Matches run buttery smooth and offers the same 60 FPS seen in the singleplayer. Game types range from traditional deathmatch to a new CTF-esque mode called Nuke. In nuke, the offense team has to capture an enemy NPC (protected by actual players), bring him to their base to sacrifice, and launch a missile into the enemy’s statue. It takes three good missile shots to take down a statue. But there are a ton of variables that don’t make it that simple such as the opposing team being able to shoot down a missile. Nuke is a fantastic mode that forces cooperation, but doesn’t necessarily require voice chat for success. It’s interesting that Twisted Metal offered a game mode that wasn’t DeathMatch both myself, and the community are getting into.
As of now, the game’s online is suffering from some network issues. It sometimes took me five tries to get into a match. I’ve never had a match fail on me during play. Actually getting into a game takes a few minutes. It’s incredibly frustrating that getting into a game isn’t as quick as Battlefield 3, but is worth it for the insane ludacris combat. The unlock system isn’t as robust as other games of the Call of Duty 4 generation, nor does the game communicate where and how specifics unlocks happen. Some of the back-end online elements seem dated compared to other titles. But that doesn’t stop it from entertaining.
Twisted Metal is a game that requires a high level of commitment going into. The combat takes awhile to wrap your head around and the game has an “easy to learn difficult to master” approach to design. I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t excited at the simple thought of a new car combat game being willing to jump over the few hurdles Twisted Metal throws. For anyone who’s into mayhem, murder, the 90’s, and interested in what David Jaffe’s favorite music is, Twisted Metal’s frantic action is a real treat and a breath of fresh air from first-person-shooters. At no point in this game's development was there any attempt to modernize this beloved franchise. Twisted Metal is a Twisted Metal game, and that's its best quality.