If you've made it to this point in your life without playing a Twisted Metal game, that's all right, we'll explain it to you. The trilogy is probably best described as a vehicular version of Midway's Mortal Kombat or else a James Cameron's Terminator take on a demolition derby. In it, a horde of over-the-top characters compete against each other in cars and trucks armed with missiles, freeze rays, and other assorted weapons of destruction. This time out, there are a few new cars and weapons, and you have an option to have a computer-controlled ally aide you in the tournament, though he always seems to be the first one blown up in the fight. The biggest change to the series though is that its developer has changed from SingleTrac (who've started a new, but like-minded, auto-combat series under the moniker Rogue Trip for GT Interactive) to 989 Studios, a Sony-owned development studio. This affects the game on nearly every level.
Graphically, the game appears much differently from the previous titles in the line, though it's not necessarily improved. There are various shading and lighting effects at work, but the end result is somehow grainy and washed out. The title's soundtrack, which is comprised of songs by Rob Zombie and Pitch Shifter, is very fitting, but the supporting sound effects are very weak. For example, the machine gun sounds like a cap pistol and driving through water inexplicably sounds pretty similar to that.
The game's much-touted new physics engine turns out pretty strange in function. The cars will now dip and roll upon collision, which sounds fantastic in theory, but in practice is fairly questionable since vehicles will often flip over after hitting a small curb or even a snowman. The collision detection is also highly suspect, as instances where you'll find yourself stuck on a ledge or halfway into a wall are frequent. It's very nice to have analog control this time, but the physics engine really works against it.The main downfall of Twisted Metal III though is its lackluster level design. Most of the stages are, if not modeled after, extremely reminiscent of levels from the first two games, and those that aren't are even more uninspired. The Washington level, for instance, is a long rectangular courtyard with a ramped area on one end and teleportation sphere (which sends vehicles to the ramped area) on the other. Snore.
In the two player modes, the default horizontal split-screen runs into the same problem found in SingleTrac's Rogue Trip. Since the levels are no longer as flat as in the previous TM games, having half you horizon cut away makes it hard to see in hilly or ramp-heavy levels. Fortunately, the designers had the foresight to include a wide variety of split-screen perspectives, such as a vertical cut and variations on a four-way split where the other two boxes are filled with radar, speedometer, and weapons info (these are the best since you view the world through a smaller version of the full screen). In the three- and four-player modes, the perspective is similarly cornered. Both appear to cut into the frame rate and increase the visible seams between surfaces, but not majorly. Multiple views aside though, the game is as much fun in multiplayer mode as it is in single player. As there, you'll be struck with the feelings of "Why am I here?" and "Why am I playing this" after a level or two.
There are a few good ideas at work within Twisted Metal III (such as the multiple perspectives), but they're not nearly enough to counter the fact that improvements to the gameplay are pretty slight and the level design is a big step backwards, making the game a real lemon overall. If this is the direction the series is taking, it should probably stop right here. Take a look at Activision's Vigilante 8 or GT Interactive's Rogue Trip instead.