Game: Twisted Metal
Developer: Eat Sleep Play
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 Only
For the past number of years, comebacks have been en vogue, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. When Mr. Barlow rounded up his merry band of vocalists, the world doubted if they would reach the heights they once had, but Gary and Co. have proven that success is all that Take That knows. Other comebacks haven’t been as glorifying, just look at the original poster-girls of “Girl Power” for that.
Video games are beginning to follow suit. Recently, the 1993 PC classic Syndicate received a complete new makeover as the series was rebooted, and you can add the upcoming Tomb Raider and DmC to this ever-growing list of game series’ that are trying to make themselves relevant again in this ever changing medium.
PlayStation’s longest running franchise is Twisted Metal. The game that once sat on a pedestal at Sony HQ hasn’t been seen on a console since 2005 with the PSP title, Twisted Metal: Head On. You have to go back even further, to 2001 and the universally praised Twisted Metal: Black, to find the last game in the series to appear on home consoles (excluding the 2008 port of Head On to the PS2). The game has history and pedigree but can the series that first saw a release 17 years ago translate into the video games market of 2012? Is Eat Sleep Play’s self titled comeback album more Mark Owen or more Mel B? To be honest, it’s really an amalgamation of the two.
STORY: Every once in a while, a man by the name of Calypso holds a competition in which participants must compete against a number of other combatants in a bloody, gory affair known as Twisted Metal. This competition sees the contestants man cars that are equipped with various weaponry. The goal; kill everyone to become the winner and have your one wish granted by Calypso.
The campaign mode may disappoint a few Twisted Metal diehards as it doesn’t have separate story arcs for multiple characters. Instead, you have the opportunity to play as Grimm, Dollface, and the series mascot, Sweet Tooth in a Pulp Fiction styled intertwining fable. As the number of playable protagonists is limited, it’s a nice touch that Sweet Tooth and the rest of the crew aren’t locked to a single vehicle. Seeing Grimm rock the police themed squad car, Outlaw, might be a little strange to see, but it varies the gameplay within the campaign mode. The sick and twisted heroes have nice, silly back stories and their individual arcs show their motives for wanting to win the tournament. However, the length of each character campaign is lacking massively; you can finish the single player mode in a comfortable 4 hours.
The cutscenes are also rather peculiar. Twisted Metal is from a bygone era, live action cut scenes are also from a bygone era, but that doesn’t mean that in 2012, when the car combat game is back, that Sega CD styled cut scenes are welcome. The effort put into these FMV sequences is unquestionable as they look as good as they can without blowing anyone away, but their inclusion is most definitely a cause of cogitation. Put simply, why? More focus should have been put into the graphics and how good the vehicles and environments look rather than making sure Dollface’s make up was just right.
GRAPHICS: The environments within are very destructive and the maps are all quite vast. The action on screen is full of explosions and hectic, frantic madness, so not much has changed in Calypso’s tournament of death. Graphically, not much is different either. Similar to a HD collection, the 2012 version of the car combat game looks an awful lot like its predecessors. Now, in saying that, there isn’t an awful lot wrong with how Twisted Metal looks. It’s fine and has no glaring inconsistencies, but it many ways, it does show how far video games have come in 10+ years. Some certain maps are more appealing to the eye as particular areas eerily resemble others. All the vehicles look nice and show damage well as your health bar decreases, but I can’t help but think that if more time was put into the graphics rather than the over-the-top cut scenes, Twisted Metal might’ve had more impact in the visual department.
AUDIO: The soundtrack to a Twisted Metal title can only contain one thing; bad ass music, and that’s exactly what its got. The in-game audio covers all bases. There is some old school rap from N.W.A, some metal from Sepultura, and some newer rock tracks from the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and AC/DC soundalike, Airbourne. All of the licensed tracks slot into the carnage beautifully and only add to the mental gameplay.
GAMEPLAY: To try and describe how to play Twisted Metal, especially to someone that is inexperienced in the vehicular combat genre, is like describing Twitter to your grandad. It’s near impossible. The control scheme is rather convoluted at first glance, even during the tutorial, and takes a bit of trial and error to truly grasp. The main area in which Eat Sleep Play’s title shines, is obviously the classic Deathmatch style of play. The player versus everybody else in vast maps that are ripe for destruction. A variant on this mode is the Electric Cage events where you must stay within a randomly spawning green enclosure. The player has a limited amount of time that they can be outside the cage (to collect weapons and health or by just being bashed out), but once that time has elapsed, the car’s health starts draining. This mode is fantastic and is a great addition in the title. Also, within the single player, each character campaign has a boss which all add their own unique twist on gameplay. One of the bosses in particular is rather difficult but ended up being the most satisfying; once they were dealt with.
The same can’t be said for racing. The cars in Twisted Metal and long range races to the finish line don’t mix very well. One untimely error and you’ll have to hit that restart option. The chaos can overcome the screen and, in the blink of an eye, a vital corner has been missed and you’re facing an uphill battle that generally doesn’t end well. The Juggernaut stages are also hit-and-miss. Juggernauts are large trucks that spawn new enemy vehicles in timed intervals. The idea is to destroy the unforgiving trucks before you have a full scale four wheel war on your hands. The trouble is, the Juggernauts are like sponges, the damage they can take is incredible and while trying to fight off other regular vehicles, the process of repeating after numerous deaths becomes tedious.
Vehicles you can choose from are well balanced on the whole and all have their place with some being better in particular events than others. Cars that are lightning fast lack some durability, like Crimson Fury, whilst some compensate for their slow speed with an impenetrable shell; the Darkside truck is a prime example of this. The choice on offer accommodates all kinds of players. The Talon helicopter is a new addition to the Twisted Metal line-up and works well too. It doesn’t break the game in any way as there is a glass ceiling to every level and ground vehicles can still aim at the poorly armoured chopper with relative ease.
There is a long list of weapons available to players, with each car also having two special weapons, specific to their vehicle. The aiming is automatic, but is flawed in many ways. Sometimes it can jump to a vehicle the player doesn’t want to aim at, even when the car that’s meant to feel your wrath is closer than that one the game has suddenly decided to aim at. The weapons’ effectiveness is also brought into question as, like the controls, some of the fire-power is over complicated and unneeded. The napalm blasts and ricochet RC car are among the over thought weapons in your arsenal that require far too many button presses to set off. In the fast paced environs that Twisted Metal is in, this doesn’t work. There are many weapons to choose from by cycling through the ones you’ve picked up on the map, but sticking to the more simplified ones like a homing missile is advised.
MULTIPLAYER: The lack of a pick-up-and-play aspect hinders the local multiplayer, as the controls don’t lend themselves to a new player too well. Some fun can be had with local once your couch buddy has gone through the training though. Twisted Metal supports LAN multiplayer, but it’s the online direction that the player will likely choose for some entertainment. Not all of the single player modes are included, the great electric cage events and the sub par racing aren’t available. Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, Hunted and Nuke are the available choices. Deathmatch is self explanatory, Last Man Standing is deathmatch with only a few lives and Hunted is where one player becomes…duh, “The Hunted”. Nuke mode is really the shining light here.
Nuke mode involves two teams that have two separate leaders. These leaders act as proverbial “flags” in a game of Capture The Flag. You must capture a leader and bring him to a device which will use his flesh and bone to construct a missile, which can then be directed towards a massive statue of the leader. The object is to destroy the statue. This is great fun and by far the most interesting mode of the bunch. It must be said that at time of writing, there are some issues on the servers, with poor connections and difficulty getting into a game, but once you are in there it will leave you gleefully staring at your telly for hours and hours.
LONGEVITY: The single player campaign won’t have you coming back for much more once you’ve completed it, which won’t take you too long. Some events in that mode will have you pulling your hair out with their excruciating difficulty, particularly the races, but Twisted Metal feels like a multiplayer game that just so happens to have a single player mode as well. Countless hours can be racked up online or in local multiplayer and this is where the player will find themselves most often. There are some single player challenges too, but playing against real people is more satisfying than playing against the unforgiving bots most of the time.
VERDICT: Twisted Metal does a few things right, like the Electric Cage and Nuke events, whilst also offering up a few poorly implemented stages such as the racing and Juggernaut levels. A short campaign with some near impossible events, are really saved by a fun multiplayer where human opposition aids the experience. Like any good comeback, the fans that have clamoured for a reunion tour will be there at the show with bells on. However, those who are in between about the project, may not be so inclined to show up.