The latest title in 2012’s long line-up of PlayStation 3 exclusive releases is presented as a reboot to a franchise that broke new ground in North America, but failed to resonate with the European audiences on the same scale. The reasons why this may be are not clear, as each edition of the Twisted Metal franchise has offered some intense car carnage. This latest rendition, the PlayStation 3’s first, is unlikely to convert the naysayers, but for those gamers who have eagerly been anticipating a return, Twisted Metal is exactly what the maniacal doctor ordered.
Despite being an online-centric production, Twisted Metal offers its single-player gameplay modes as the primary option on the main menu. Located within are the Story, Challenge and Training modes, the latter of which is realistically the ideal starting point for most players, whether they are newcomers or experienced fans: Twisted Metal is a return to the roots of the franchise, and all players would do well to remind themselves of just what that entails.
The Story mode is where Twisted Metal is where the videogame earns its PEGI 18 rating. In the first of three stories presented here, entitled ‘The Twisted Fate of Sweet Tooth the Clown’, there’s no prizes for guessing who the star of the show is. A clearly psychopathic killer with no motivation beyond murder, Sweet Tooth sets the scene for the a series of short but well presented trials that offer an accompaniment to the online gameplay, rather than having the multiplayer options play second fiddle to the single-player as is more commonly the case.
After the first of Twisted Metal’s intriguing – if roughly cut – live action/CGI hybrid cutscenes, the player is thrown straight into an all-out brawl. Going head-to-head with five opponents, the player is taught the basics as they go. Low on health? Find a garage or mobile recharge station. Fighting a heavier vehicle? Find a power-up to launch a direct assault without getting too close. Finding yourself taking a beating? Skid, hop or turbo boost your way out trouble. But most of all, before anything else, always remember that the trigger is your best friend: shoot, shoot some more, and shoot them again.
The accompanying Challenge mode isn’t so much about challenging the player as it is giving them the option to tailor the gameplay. Essentially an exhibition match, the player can choose the match type, location, map variation, number of bots, difficulty and so on, customising one-off brawls to their liking. While the Story mode is able to hook players with its sense of progression, it’s arguably this secondary offline mode that will capture the attention of most gamers when not competing online.
Taking the opportunity to show of your skills online is very quick and easy, and is essentially the core aspect of Twisted Metal’s package. Split-screen gameplay for up to four players is available offline (there is also the option to tackle the Story mode in two-player split-screen), though online it’s a single player per system. Quick Online action, the first of two multiplayer modes, does just as the title suggests; finds a match ready for you and allows you to jump straight in. For more customisable matches, the Multi-Player option on the main menu is where you’ll find the many featured options, allowing players to tailor their online experience.
As with the Challenge mode, players can select from a variety of parameters before kicking off a match. The usual deathmatch and team deathmatch modes are joined by the already familiar last man standing and hunter designs, but perhaps most intriguing is the Nuke mode. Here, players will partake in an original twist on the well worn Capture the Flag mode, in which one team must kidnap the opposition’s leader, sacrificing them in order to launch a nuclear weapon capable of destroying the enemy statue. It’s a minor revision to the traditional Capture the Flag set-up, but a welcome one nonetheless.
The visual quality of Twisted Metal is commendable, despite clearly being lacking in comparison to a number of recent titles. While Eat Sleep Play’s latest may not feature the same shiny coat as Gran Turismo 5, the effortless realism of Forza Motorsport 4 or the mud soaked all terrain challenges of DiRT, it has something else to call its own: destruction. When you bag of bolts on wheels is sent flying five hundred meters through a stadium wall for the first time, or when you manage to ram an enemy so forcefully that they become permanently attached to your bullbars, it’s clear that Twisted Metal’s sophistication lies not in delivering photo quality graphics, but characteristic detail. The decision to use live action sequences within Twisted Metal’s Story mode is an inspired one, perfectly harnessing the feel of the videogame’s highway horror aesthetic. It could easily be argued that the budget for these pieces didn’t quite match-up with the design, with certain sequences repeated within seconds of their debut airing and new backgrounds plastered on previously seen actions, but when taken as a whole they cutscene remain a positive compliment to the appeal of the series. The soundtrack is arguably the best aspect of Twisted Metal’s presentation. Perfectly fitting heavy rock and electronically synthesised metal is the orider of the day, fitting perfectly with the thump of rockets and scraping of metal-against-metal mayhem on screen.
As a revamp of a critically acclaimed franchise, Twisted Metal is a fantastic jumping-off point for a new series of videogame releases. The adult themes, violent setting and high-octane action spell out everything that a high profile videogame release needs to be successful these days, and while a debate still hangs over it’s European reputation, Twisted Metal will surely stand a greater chance than any of it’s predecessors. It’s unlikely that Twisted Metal will have the market all sewn-up for as the designers had hoped, as while a very different overall package even early-on in the development of DiRT Showdown, the car carnage of Codemasters’ upcoming title is offering some hugely impressive competition, but for now Eat Sleep Play’s latest is in a league of it’s own.