(-) some aggravating mechanics tend to get in the way / online mode is currently riddled with connection problems and crash bugs / graphics leave a bit to be desired / the racing is awful
We currently see many franchises that sell millions each day but that success encourages them to out-say their welcome just a bit, making another installment every year or so that way the players need to go out and purchase the same thing over and over again just to stay updated. But whether you consider 2001's Twisted Metal Black back on the Playstation 2 as the series's last stint, or perhaps the PSP release Twisted Metal: Head On or its PS2 port, either way this franchise is been dormant and down under for a long time. So long, in fact that it doesn't even need a subtitle. Twisted Metal iterates with the franchise's strengths with great success, delivering all the metal burning chaos your weak mind can comprehend. This one's built for online multiplayer though, however sadly its currently facing a few truly horrible problems. Whether you wait for it to be fixed or you want to rush out and get it now, Twisted Metal will be a thrilling ride, fan of the franchise or not.
Twisted Metal's return on the PS3 is independent from anything that occurred on any of the last games, and that's evident in the campaign mode. You used to have an entire audience of recognizable drivers to choose from and replay the battles to see how Calypso bastardizes their wish in the end. This time around there's only three drivers, Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grim, and Dollface. You play their campaign modes in that order and have a different experience throughout each one. You're also free to choose whichever vehicle you like. It's amazing how quickly you get used to seeing Sweet Tooth sitting in the driver's seat of Meat Wagon's cab or maybe Outlaw's police unit, but seeing him sitting in Axel's iconic wheel machine never seizes to feel weird. And you can even store two more to keep in storage in a garage, which you can use it to regain health or swap cars when things start to get tight.
And rest assured they will. An easy game this is not. It seems the AI already has you on their cross hairs from the very start, always stampeding their way in your face every chance they get. Even if you go off into challenge mode, there's very little options to decrease the difficulty except by lowering the AI bot count. This is great for people who want a consistent challenge, but occasionally these guys can still be ruthless. They behave just like online players who are overly conscious about their kill ratio, they'll freeze you when you're just about to reach the health semi, they'll activate their shield just before your gurney bomb strikes them, it's definitely rough around the edges. But once again, it's amazing just how quickly you get used to the idea.
The developer's decisions to only include three playable drivers in campaign mode would have made more sense if it gave more time to deeper integrate the stories together to form something bigger, but that's not really the case. The live action cut scenes show the twisted and sometimes even psychopathic back stories for each character, but they're not necessarily above and beyond anything you've seen before. You'll still be anxious to see how it all plays out though, however it's up to the battles themselves to keep you trudging forward. The game does a great job at keeping things more varied. Alongside the traditional dance of bombs and bullets in the deathmatch mode, there'll also be times where you're forced to stay at an in-closed area or you'll suffer some damage, which it teleports to another spot of the map ever so often. Then there's the Juggernaut, a tough cookie which won't appear on radar and will spawn new enemies to fish you out if you don't act quickly. The game even attempts racing, though unfortunately it feels completely phoned in and no fun to play at all. The first few races you'll experience are fine, but toward the last campaign it'll be plain to see that the vehicle handling and level layout just aren't made for this, and once you finally complete it you'll only be glad you don't have to start that horrendous mess all over again.
The boss battles will take a long patient wait to fade from memory, the first showdown with Mr. Grim vs Sweet Tooth seems suspiciously easy and therefore produces little satisfaction having beaten it, but the next two afterwards require massive planning and strategy in a game which you expect to have none of that, just action packed, albeit a bit dumb, fun. The car combat is as chaotic and fun as ever, it can be exciting watching heavy dump trucks blow off into the air with the blast of a ricochet bomb clear off of the cliff of Diablo Pass. But Twisted Metal doesn't merely borrow what worked in prior installments, it brings a lot of welcome improvements into the fold, particularly the controls. Using a freeze, rear firing, shield, and mine are easier than they've ever been, only mapping them out at a button on the D-pad as opposed to a random sequence of button presses. This makes impossible situations like being blasted from being when the foe's front meets your back much easier to deal with, and gives an incredible amount of control to the player. The basic controls however vary depending on the player. If you play a lot of racing games you'll be happy to know that Twisted Metal features a control set optimized for those types of players, netting acceleration to the back trigger and weapons on the face buttons. The mechanics aren't flawless though. Whenever you're froze (which'll happen often. Face it) the game will tell you to randomly mash buttons to break free. Though this doesn't really even do anything half the time, and it's not really that fun to do neither. You'll find yourself waiting to take one shot from your opponent to defrost just to avoid this hassle.
The map layouts tend to be very important in these kinds of games, and Twisted Metal here takes full advantage of the Playstation 3's potential. Locations are massive, big enough that you could divide them into three's and four's and they'd still be big enough to wage war on. They're also very destructible. You can blow through churches, trees, windows, fire hydrants (complete with a fountain splash!), and almost anything else. You'll even hear the intercom radio as you come crashing into a convenience store, and it'll be back to Rob Zombie the minute you rush to the health and get out of there. The impressive volume of these levels do well in making sure not two battles feel the same, even if you're on challenge mode and you choose to repeat the match, which helps replay-ability immensely. The weapons themselves also keep some well needed diversity into the action. The battles may appear to be senseless frag fests with blistering bullets and fire with no rhyme or reason beyond that, but there's a lot to consider at any given moment depending on the situation. You could freeze an opponent, then use your shot gun at their windshield to get a massive power bonus. Or use a sniper gun to stay locked on a cowardly Kamakaze for a while until shooting them with one fatal head shot. If you're tired of being on the ground you can even fly as Sweet Tooth's alter ego the Sweet Bot, or Talon, a helicopter that preys on the week with a few hundred clips of machine guns. The balance could have been better, but there's no denying the pleasure of ramming the Reaper bike three times and watching it burn.
Twisted Metal can be thought of as the Smash Bros for the Playstation, and for good reason. It's built from the ground up for multiplayer competition, and in many ways, this installment embraces that strength to the fullest. Challenging to yourself with the impressive AI can be fun, but for the first time since 2000, you can finally tow a friend with you without sacrificing the glorious bots. It's definitely more enjoyable, and easily the best way to play the game. You could make it a chaotic last man standing matter, or you could set up a time limit and respawning lives that way everybody gets to enjoy the chaotic destruction without having to wait as a spectator. However, if you add more than 2 players into the equation, you won't have the AI bots. Most of the time there's already enough going on with 4 different dedicated players anyway. All of this ought to be a mere appetizer for the massive online network that Twisted Metal offers here, but as of right now, that's not really the case.
On the surface, it's undeniably impressive. The entire 8 playable maps and all of their divisions, up to 16 different players at a time, and you can even tow a friend who can not only function as a guest, but even rank up experience points on their account if they have one on your particular PS3. Online matches can be a viciously good time, watching other players fall apart from all the way across the globe. However it's just not that simple. Connection errors are common place, it's difficult to tell which events are open at the moment even when you're looking at the list, because you never really know how many people are in each match unless you log off and log in real quick to refresh. The online component also tends to crash older PS3's, which just throws salt in the wound when you get lucky and join a match. There's always hope that some of these issues can be solved with a patch though, as David Jaffe is showing an amazing amount of effort keeping loyal fans informed and working to make the best out of the game, which that dedication is uncommon in most developers.
The game's graphics are pretty good, though they could have been tuned up quite a bit. Areas are vast and detailed and it runs smoothly enough, and explosions pop in and out massively just like they should, though there's nothing technically impressive about this game's looks that sets it above any other games on the system. The developers took an odd route at including a licensed soundtrack as opposed to original material, but with mixed results. Some of the picks don't fit the action especially well, and the overall list of songs is on the thin side. Though you can use your own custom soundtrack, however this process is tricky. The music will be booming loud and will drown out the rest of the sound unless you turn it down in the options menu to 20% or less, and what's more it'll play through the menu's, loading screens, and action kinda like if you just turned the music way down and listened to your stereo. And even worse, you have to repeat this process each time you boot the game up. Strange, but nothing game breaking.
It's plainly obvious that Twisted Metal has some issues, but there's no denying the greatness of finally bringing the classic destruction back to gaming after a far too long hiatus. Long time fans are going to eat this up, and through its numerous tweaks and improvements it may even bring some new adoring fans into the fold. The online mode has the potential to be everything a demolition derby freak has ever dreamed of, but even without it the intense battles for supremacy are still waiting to be fought in this fast paced action game.