Shut up and bleed!
Sweet Tooth returns in what is surprisingly the PlayStation’s longest running franchise, beating Gran Turismo by a year, Twisted Metal. After a four year hiatus, it’s the first game in the series to be released on PS3, following two others being cancelled in the development stage. Fans have faced an anxious wait, but Twisted Metal has proven that third time really is the charm.
What Twisted Metal Got Right
Online multiplayer - Twisted Metal has always been about multiplayer that defines the term “utter mayhem.” That used to mean with real friends who could be taunted and slapped in the face, but in 2012, it’s all about the online arena. Multiplayer is where the game thrives, and while you’ll keep coming back. It’s hectic, challenging and not for the feint-hearted.
Car combat games mightn’t be glamorous or even all that memorable (besides you, Vigilante 8), but they are the epitome of short burst gaming. Almost anything can happen in the robust online mode, and that’s why it’s so entertaining. Each match is vastly different to the last, and once you’ve mastered the required skill set, you’ll be well on your way to devising custom tactics.
Single-player training - The infuriating single-player is more a training ground for online matches than anything else, but it has some entertaining bosses that you will never want to face again.
The plot is wafer-thin, but diversifies the deadly Twisted Metal competition, which is still hosted by Calypso. Only Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Doll Face enroll this time, and each bring a series of henchmen with them to compete. The result is three opposing gangs. Your objective: to do battle with a number of opponents and destroy their vehicles using any means necessary.
The three characters split the story into three chapters, each culminating in a final epic boss battle. For some reason, they are told using live action cut-scenes. These look awesome, and come as a surprise, but they don’t do a great job of telling the story and feel out of place. It’s as if they were developed for a cancelled live action film adaptation, and then the developers decided not to waste all that work. It’s eye-catching, but I still have no idea what actually happened.
Destructive weapons - Twisted Metal exceeds where it counts: in the guns department. How to best destroy your opponents presents a wealth of options, each more explosive than the last, and you’ll want to master every single one of them. Some kills come off the back of perfectly executed tactics, while others come down to dumb luck, and that’s all part of the game. Twisted Metal is about combining the finesse of accurate weapons, with the destructive power of those clearly designed to set everyone’s face on fire without a second thought for the wellbeing of your own face in the process.
Track design - Twisted Metal is over complicated by its control scheme, but the track design almost makes up for that. The environments are exploding with objects that can be used to your advantage or determent, and the tactical options extend well beyond what first meets the eye.
What Twisted Metal Got Wrong
Campaign is difficult - I feel dirty even suggesting that difficulty is a negative, but with Twisted Metal, it is. The A.I. blatantly cheat against you. They have a tendency to target the player and ignore each other with those explosive homing missiles. It essentially becomes five-on-one from the get go, long before you’ve had a chance to learn the controls.
Even on the easiest difficulty, it’s insanely difficult because you’re thrown straight into the deep end. The first stage feels like it should be taking place in the last half of the game. While one could argue that it’s refreshing to see such a challenge, gaming has moved past its primitive years. We’ve been conditioned to expect some handholding as we learn. The lack of token easy levels or tutorials will scare off the new generation of gamers, as they are given no time to nurture their own skill set. Once you get passed this massive obstacle, there is plenty of mayhem to be had, but there's no overlooking that the learning curve is significantly larger than most modern games.
Confusing controls - The controls are unbelievably complex, as if there aren’t enough buttons on the DualShock. The default controls are nothing like standard driving, but the “racing” option can help it feel more intuitive. However, it will still be hours before you’re truly comfortable.
Cycling between weapons isn’t as obvious as it should be, and then there’s reversing, quick turns and various combinations that aren’t what you expect. Forever changing vehicles only adds to the confusion, as each has a vastly different special weapon that reacts in a unique manor. Given time, you’ll get the hang of it. But considering that the campaign is already too difficult from the beginning, it’s just another element to exacerbate the frustration.
The Final Verdict
Twisted Metal delivers if you want utter mayhem in the online arena. The weapons are destructive and the track design is suburb. It’s more suited to series’ veterans, however, as gamers are thrown straight into the deep end. The controls include a steep learning curve, and the single-player difficulty won’t let newcomers pass the first stage, even on the easiest setting. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, that might be reason to run out and buy it right now or actively avoid if for the rest of your days.
By Ben Salter - Tweet @Ben_Salter