Be careful what you wish for. This seemed to be the rule to follow when I entered the Twisted Metal Tournament, held for the first time on the PlayStation 3. Signature characters Sweet Tooth, Mr Grimm and Dollface returned, once again bent on destroying one another in the hopes of having the devilish tournament host Calypso fulfil their darkest desires.
I was no stranger to the vehicle combat genre, having completed Interstate 76 and Vigilante 8 during their heydays, but this was the first time I’d had the chance to enter David Jaffe’s Twisted Metal universe. As a newcomer to the series, there were no rose tinted glasses through which I could view its latest entry. Perhaps because of this, many of the design decisions didn’t fill me with nostalgia for the heady days of the PSone era in which the series was born, but instead a sense of disappointment. Whilst the game provided me with hours of high octane fun in a variety of modes, it was hard to shake the feeling that a few small tweaks could have made the experience so much more.
The biggest problems with Twisted Metal stemmed from its AI programming and poorly mapped control schemes. Both of these elements felt extremely dated and it was the single player aspect of the game that suffered the most. It consisted of the three character’s story arcs, which had to be played in a set order. Grindhouse style live action cut scenes tied the plot together. Despite seeming suited to the title, these actually came across as truly dark and disturbing, unlike the chaotic campy fun of the gameplay. The campaign acted as a tour of the various game modes, which included standards such as Death Match, King of the Hill and Race, all of which served to exhibit the game’s eight maps. These ranged from small arenas to open urban and industrial areas, along with an enormous amusement park which stood out as one of the most enjoyable.
As expected, the objective of most levels was to destroy the opposition using up to three of the many available vehicles. All of the modes bar Racing allowed me to switch between cars at any time by visiting a garage. While all this might seem fairly straightforward, Twisted Metal’s real challenge came from accomplishing the set goal while the six or more AI cars alternated between cruising around the level aimlessly and simultaneously attacking me whenever I attempted to take one of them down. Normally I’d put this down to sloppy design, but I can’t help but feel that it existed solely to draw out what would otherwise be a very short narrative.
Despite coming to grips with one of the three confusing control schemes provided, none of which I was able to customise, I was still struggling to complete some matches with no choice but to employ hit and run tactics to survive, even in the sturdiest of vehicles. This was especially true of levels in which enemies spawned from a pair of trucks, dubbed ‘Juggernauts’, every few minutes. The only motivation to slog through to the end was the array of unlockables on offer. The later levels became easier once better vehicles were made available
Stepping into the multiplayer component was like a breath of fresh air, and it could only be described as Twisted Metal in its truest form. With the AI problems gone, the title shined, providing that kind of ‘one more match’ gameplay every developer wishes its online mode could achieve. No longer did every battle feel completely unbalanced, as even the free for all matches didn’t paint me as the sole target. Instead the arenas were plunged into complete chaos as I lone wolfed my way through the opposition or teamed up to take them down. Indeed, the biggest gripe I had with the multiplayer modes is that there weren’t enough of them. There were only four: Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, Hunted (a VIP variant) and Nuke. The first three were available as either free for all or team versions, with Nuke the only objective based challenge. Unique to Twisted Metal, Nuke required the capture and sacrifice of the opposing team’s leader to power a nuclear missile launcher, which could then be used to destroy a statue representing the opposing faction. Conspicuously absent from multiplayer were single player modes Race and Juggernaut, the latter of which could have been an interesting companion objective mode to the lonely Nuke.
The bottom line with Twisted Metal is twofold. If you’re looking for a strong single player experience, look elsewhere as there is certainly much better to be had. If, however, you’re in the market for some online fun that varies from the crowded shooter market, Twisted Metal might be just what you’re wishing for.