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The Game Effect Review

Twisted Metal Review

Car Combat's Daddy Returns To Full Potential

By Nick Schneider on 2/15/2012
A little over 16 years ago gamers across the world were introduced to Twisted Metal, and in that process also ti the car combat genre. In those sixteen years the minds and hands behind the series have changed from one generation to the next, before landing back under the auspices of David Jaffe and Eat Sleep Play. In many ways this is a sequel that needed to happen, but at the cost of several key features that made the franchise originally stand out from the pack. The primary change that many fans of earlier entries will notice is the lack of characters to choose from, and ultimately this leads to a poor single player outing overall, but when Twisted Metal is firing on all cylinders it finds its mark and drags you into the finely tuned insanity that defines the series as the father of car combat.

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Single Player Loses Steps In Character

The story in Twisted Metal remains largely unchanged, contestants enter a titular contest run by Calypso in hopes of having one wish granted. The process of discovering each driver's motivations is deeply disturbing and told through stylized live action cut scenes that give the game a straight to DVD horror movie feel. Despite the ultimately lackluster quality behind the cutscenes, they effectively portray the characters, and the style in which they were filmed provides a very distinct feel to the Twisted Metal universe. Despite some performance issues in the acting and several plot holes, the story itself is what many B-movie horror fans have come to expect from their favorite independent directors.

The problem that exists in the single player mode is that, while you can choose from a large variety of vehicles, the lack of characters will probably leave many wishing for more. Once a new single player campaign is started, players are dropped right into the story for Sweet Tooth, and that's all there is to it. Players are provided with a brief introduction movie for the psychotic clown serial killer and are whisked away to their first destination for the tournament immediately thereafter. In the initial moments before being given the chance to select a vehicle, one of the newest features of Twisted Metal is introduced to players: the garage. Rather than provide players with lives per character to complete an event, during most of the standard style events they are given the chance to choose three vehicles that they can cycle in and out during the course of a battle.

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This adds a certain level of strategy in choosing vehicles, as certain events have players battling massive Juggernauts that spawn new vehicles to battle the contestant on a timer. Utilizing the garage effectively gives players the chance to swap in a heavy armored vehicle to go toe to toe with a juggernaut, or to withstand the constant barrage of attacks from at times nine different vehicles. During the course of the three storylines, one for Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Dollface, players will encounter these "mini-bosses" at least once per campaign. Each time through the progression of the single player campaign, from Sweet Tooth first to Dollface last, the encounter for the juggernauts gets a slight tweaking to adjust the difficulty. Since players are not tied to certain vehicles, this method of increasing difficulty leads to both frustration in some cases, and in others some of the finest combat the series has seen to date.

Gameplay Is Great In Combat But Lacks In Game Type VariationWhen Twisted Metal is dropping players into an arena with destructible environments, and stays true to the formula, there is no greater joy for fans of the series. Besides the addition to the garage, players are now able to unlock new side arms rather than be forced to use the standard mini-guns attached to the front of their vehicle. These weapons provide new ways to mix and match your strategy for each player. If your style involves getting in close and pummeling your opponent into submission, the shotgun is included just for you. Alternatively, the submachine gun provides an accurate four-round burst, and the magnum delivers a medium ranged weapon that packs slightly more damage per hit than your standard gun.

Gamers can also add a stalker missile sidearm which works similar to the stalker missile pickup, but to a lesser degree. Each of these sidearms add to the new levels of character customization, which also includes the ability to paint your vehicle in a style that fits your personality. These additions to the gameplay may seem minor, but when it comes time to step into the ring, being equipped in a way that benefits your play style is key to survival.

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Where the single player gameplay takes a massive step backwards for the series is in two distinct features. While the juggernaut mini-bosses can in the last campaign teeter on the verge of extreme frustration, that encounter hardly feels unbeatable compared to the racing events. Each contestant will take part in one race event, and each race is a slight variant on the last. Sweet Tooth's racing event actually works best and is the most enjoyable; a downhill race along a windy canyon, and back to the top to blow up the remaining contestants. This race however doesn't prepare players for the frustration that comes in later racing events. The problem with these events in a Twisted Metal game is that the handling of the vehicles is designed for combat. Players don't need to slide on a dime or worry about making precise jumps usually during the course of a battle, and the controls allow ease of combat over handling. This isn't a problem except for the race in the Dollface campaign requires precision jumping from building to building, and not making one of these jumps will ultimately result in defeat.

The series has been known for its difficult boss encounters in the past, but there is a very uneven feel to the challenge this time around. Twisted Metal features 3 unique multiple stage boss battles for each contestant, The Brothers Grimm, Iron Maiden, and Sweet Tooth's Carnival of Carnage. The first two battles can be brutal, and thankfully a death during one will bring players back to the last checkpoint for the boss. Since each boss takes multiple stages this normally means going back to beginning of the form on which you were last working.

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While The Brothers Grimm feels like a traditional boss fight for Twisted Metal, Iron Maiden, the gigantic Dollface mech, is a massive headache and just feels poorly designed. The level of anger expressed towards this fight can't be overstated; you will probably hate this event. With very little direction given as to what to do, other than being told that you need to use the missiles, you're dropped into a battle with this gigantic creature. Frustration doesn't seep in until you realize you have to shoot two missiles which can be destroyed, and that these nukes handle poorly and are extremely limited to where they can go. Further stages during this fight require players to stay within a set field of space or instantly be destroyed, and the time limit to get back into this area is brutally short. Needless to say this is one of those boss battles that leaves you feeling incredibly cheated, especially when you realize that you need a faster car to stay inside the required space. Changing cars at this point in the encounter, in an effort to truly increase the maddening frustration, will force you to start the event over.  
Between the race events and the boss encounters, even die hard fans will find themselves crying out in fits of rage, but there are some great events still scattered inside the single player campaign. The new electric cage matches have players scrambling from one area of a map to another to keep themselves within a certain field. Drive out of the zone and your grace period begins, once your grace period ends you'll begin to have your health drain slowly. These events create an excellent pace for battle as you'll find yourself risking the grace period for health pickups, or attempting to take out as many opponents as fast as possible to avoid further damage once your grace period is over. It's a tad disappointing though, that this game mode variant did not make its way into the excellent online multiplayer offering.

Online and Offline Multiplayer Benefits Most From The Improvements

While the online portion of Twisted Metal is suffering from launch issues, the core of the series is best served through the multiplayer options present. The game modes and matches are exactly what this series was built for, and the ability to take a full console release to a worldwide center of competition is truly enjoyable. Gameplay is quite accessible, as using special weapons, freeze missiles, land mines, and shields, is as simple as a d-pad press, meaning that even the newest level of competition can easily learn and master the effective use of these strategies. This doesn't give newer players to the franchise much of a leg up though, as effective use is still a requirement to become a vehicular source of destruction, but the new mechanics do allow easier access and less memorization from the complicated button presses once required. The usual suspects for online multiplayer of standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, hunted and last man standing, are present for players to test their mettle against live opponents. Adding further depth to this portion of the game the new nuke mode has potential to become a great alternative to standard capture the flag game modes.

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In nuke mode two teams of up to 8 people are tasked with capturing a faction leader to sacrifice in order to launch a nuclear missile at their opponents statue. The teams will take turns with one side on offense and defense, and alternate turns for three innings. Unlike some capture the flag modes, team work is key for a team to win, as teams with players going solo will find themselves decimated by a squad that works well together. The process of sacrificing a faction leader isn't as simple of driving up to a missile launcher, as players must maintain their vehicle's health as a timer dictates how long until a player can launch. In this time the defending team is given plenty of opportunity to knock out the player with their leader, and force the attackers to restart the process. As with the single player campaign, the combat is where the online portion shines.
Games in multiplayer are heavily benefited from the lack of pure frustration that can occur during the single player campaign and these parts of the game emphasize exactly what fans wanted from a modern day car combat title. The action is frantic, controls are tight, and the community is dedicated and capable of providing fun and challenging encounters. However, this mode is the lynch pin of this particular release, and without proper support from the online community, or post release from Eat Sleep Play, Twisted Metal could end up another forgotten online game akin to Dead Space 2. Depending on the future of post release support for the title, this mode has the potential to bring car combat back to the forefront in the video game community's mind.

Graphically Twisted Metal isn't the best looking game on the market, however drop into a map and unlike previous iterations these levels are scattered with activity. The feeling of being in an actual neighborhood, or busy industrial center of town has never been fully realized as it is here. Cars and pedestrians provide a rather twisted addition to the combat, and Eat Sleep Play have even included a trophy for those who can get through the story mode without hitting a single pedestrian. In previous games this would have been fairly simple, but Twisted Metal is packed with life. Couple the busy streets filled with regular motorists with the flurry of missiles and bullets flying around, and this entry is easily the most complete for a true feeling of how car combat would look in Anywhere, USA. While the bullets and missiles are wreaking havoc on the poor souls who happened to get caught in the cross fire, the same can not be said for how it sounds coming from your television. While the sound design is far from remarkable, the true star of Twisted Metal's audio is the licensed tracks. Eat Sleep Play have managed to include fan favorite Rob Zombie, as well as White Zombie, for two tracks Dragula and More Human Than Human, plus an assortment of other singles that fit nicely to the game's central character, the vehicles.

The rest of the tracks also do a fantastic job of bringing players into a mood for fast cars, and urban chaos as they range from Heavy Metal with Sammy Hagar to Straight Outta Compton with N.W.A. The original tracks do tend to get lost in the licensed tracks, this however will depend on a player's personal choice when it comes to the music they like. The music and sound effects do exactly what they need to do much like the graphics, which is to bring the world to life. They don't hinder in anyway, but Twisted Metal won't be remembered as a graphical powerhouse, nor has its legacy really established that as a tradition.

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Overall Impression

Ultimately Twisted Metal is exactly what fans of the franchise wanted from a current gen iteration. The combat mechanics are improved and streamlined to increase competition, and add new layers of strategy, but a few missteps during the course of the story mode lead to disappointment. With as much care as was given to the three characters story arch's it would have been nice to see more characters get the same level of attention. While David Jaffe and Eat Sleep Play maintained the dark feel of Twisted Metal: Black, it's a shame that more contestants weren't present to experience other tales of wishes gone awry. This is especially true given that each vehicle feels entirely different, and while providing nods to past contestants in the choices present, it feels like this mode suffered the most in the transition to a modern day console.  

It is extremely difficult to completely fault Twisted Metal on this issue, as the combat itself is splendid and as smooth as ever. Those who have played car combat games would be hard pressed to not enjoy the way Twisted Metal handles in that regard, and these mechanics greatly benefit the multiplayer portion. That said, some disappointment does stem from the fact that electric cage matches aren't available in multiplayer, as this mode has huge potential to make for a fast and furious experience with human players. Twisted Metal isn't perfect, but it's a far cry from terrible and if given the right attention from gamers and Eat Sleep Play alike, it has potential to revive itself and the entire car combat genre.
The Good
  • New Mechanics Steamline Combat
  • Customization Options Add To Player Strategy
  • Multiplayer is Fast and Furious
The Bad
  • Boss Battles Vary in Difficulty
  • Race Events Weren't Meant for Controls
  • Story Is Lacking Due To Character Options
8.5
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USER COMMENTS
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DragonCRAZY365 on February 27, 2012
I'm Defiantly gonna pick this one up sometime i played the demo and couldn't put it down!
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mojomonkey12 on February 24, 2012
Great review Nick, I hadn't planned on picking this up, though I do think I will at some point now. Thanks!
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MrGame on February 22, 2012
It´s so nostalgic....

P.S: A lot people don´t see the clown in the smoke....
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Entropic on February 19, 2012
Twisted Metal: Black was one of my all-time favorite PS2 games. The graphics and controls were sharp, the design was awesome, and the game was just plain fun. I also gave it big points for using "Paint it Black" from the Rolling Stones in the intro.

From the sound of this review, I should definitely be giving the new Twisted Metal a close look. Thanks for the detail here Nick!
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sunil619 on February 17, 2012
my fav ps1 game
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OSMenace on February 17, 2012
I used to play Twisted Metal on the original Playstation with my uncles.... awww, memories...
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