|When Singletrack came out
with Twisted Metal it was one of the truly great first generation titles on the
Playstation. Then Twisted Metal 2 came out, and I was in love. Beautiful graphics, superb
control, great levels, and cool cars combined to make the most intense multiplayer game
out there. It was poetry in motion, and it was non stop, and surprisingly deep, action.
Political squabbling took hold and 989 studios took over the Twisted Metal title,
while Singletrack moved on to other things. Twisted Metal 3 came out, and it was a major
disappointment. The simple but smooth control was gone, the graphics were wrong, the
levels were a step backwards, and the magic was gone. As my kindergarten teacher used to
say when I colored outside the lines, "NO! Wrong! F!" The game was railed by
critics and die hard fans alike, but the Twisted Metal name alone was enough to guarantee
good sales. Frustrated fans looked elsewhere and moved on to Vigilante 8 and Rouge Trip.
989 and Twisted Metal are back for another go at car combat, and the results are better, but still not up to par with the unparalleled game play of Twisted Metal 2. The graphics are pretty good overall, with a few major deficiencies, and a few moments of brilliance. The cars on the whole, arent that great. Theyre pretty small and relatively undetailed and plain looking. The weapons and explosions, however, are just awesome. Watching Calypso nuke the hell out of people with that super huge blast of fiery death, complete with mushroom cloud and all, just brings a tear to my eye. Its beautiful. Theres quite a few new weapons available to fill out youre arsenal, including the Freeze Remote, Rain Missiles, M.I.R.Vs, and Proximity Bombs. The Proximity Bomb and Freeze Remote have added a much improved ability to lay traps.
The level designs are a giant step forward from Twisted Metal 3. Theyre creative, varied, and interactive. If anything theyre a bit too large for the number of enemies on em, but hey, Im not complaining. Sweet Tooths Bedroom, Minions Maze, and the Carnival all make great levels. All of the levels have loads of hidden areas on them, and it usually takes several times through to find them all. In addition, all levels come complete with a special weapon that adds a new way to deal destruction. Each level also has its own boss, or bosses, that you have to defeat to move on to the next level. There are eight regular game levels, and eight hidden, death match only levels. Speaking of death matches, if you have a multi-tap, up to four players can slug it out at once. This is a good thing; this is a very good thing.
There are thirteen vehicles to select, and theyre all pretty good. They provide you with enough variety to satisfy pretty much everyone. The game also includes a pretty cool create-a-car function. You select from nine different body types, three different paint jobs per body, four different special weapons, and a slew of taunts to shout out as you wax the competition. This is a pretty cool feature that essentially allows you to customize four additional cars, one for each special weapon. The taunts are pretty funny as well, and you have a pretty good selection. If theres anything better than blowing the hell out of your friends, its blowing the hell out of your friends and then having the your characters rough drill sergeant voice shout out, "Is that crying I hear?" Among the other highlights is the Elvis impersonator who whips out a well-delivered, "Hail to the king, baby!" as he explodes the competition.
Like Twisted Metal 3, the latest incarnation suffers from a tragically poor physics engine and super loose control that prevens the game from living up to its full potential. While admittedly the last two games have had a more "realistic" driving system, this is actually counter-productive. A real world car very rarely needs to do 80 flying off a building, put their shields up to deflect the ice blast in mid air, and nail two bad guys with homing missiles before it hits the ground, where it promptly busts a 180 and floors it out of the path of the maniacal dump truck falling from the skies above. My point here is that the arcade control of the first two installments is infinitely better than the present system.
As it stands, it is way too hard to do a simple high speed U-Turn, it is disappointingly difficult to do simple things like line up with a ramp, and the cars are always flipping and rolling. And I do mean always. The cars always land on their wheels, but its still distracting to roll all the time. Talk about a momentum killer. Whats worse is you occasionally defy gravity when you flip; you can end up driving sideways along the wall, or balanced on your trunk hopping around and waiting to fall back over. The control is the weakest aspect of the game. Another draw back to the current system is that running other cars over is no longer a real threat. It used to be the little guys could hit and run, but if they got cornered they were flat. The control is squirrily enough to make it darn hard to run into other cars, and when you do youll just toss em to the side with minimal damage.
The sound effects of the game are done very well, the weapon explosions and the sounds of the guns rattling complement the game perfectly. The sound track works equally well and offers you tracks from Rob Zombie, Cirrus, Cyprus Hill, Skold, Ghoulspoon, and One Minute Silence. All in all it makes pretty good theme music.
I guess deep down I was looking for a renaissance of the glory days of Twisted Metal, and if thats what your looking for you wont find it here. On the plus side, Twisted Metal 4 is a pretty good game in its own right. Its much better than the last installment and has succeeded in putting much of the twisted back into Twisted Metal. The control problems keep this from becoming a truly great game, but its still a good time with a great multi-player experience. Fans of car combat, and multi-player fanatics wont be disappointed.