Twisted Metal: review

  • Format: PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Eat Sleep Play
  • Players: 1 – 4 (offline), 2 – 16 (online)
  • Site:

The Twisted Metal series was always a champion of multiplayer experiences that see you and your mates crowded onto a sofa with the shoulder to shoulder intimacy usually experienced by people being smuggled in car boots. Think Mario Kart 64’s battle mode but with missiles, machines guns and other explodey stuff and you’re kind of there. It’s always had great local multiplayer with versus and co-op modes that are unlike any other driving game series out there. This Twisted Metal revival definitely carries on its predecessors’ attitude to blowing up your mates and then goes the extra mile to bring it up to date.

Twisted Metal’s story is a take on the old ‘be careful what you wish for’ fable, just with more blood, guns and psychopaths. It focuses on a vehicular deathmatch tournament run by the shadowy figure Calypso, who has the power to grant the victor whatever they wish, but usually in a twisted way that means they end up worse off. Whereas previous games have allowed you to choose the storyline of one driver and vehicle from a selection of around a dozen or so, this game only lets you go through the story of three characters: demented clown Sweet Tooth, regret filled murderer Mr Grimm, and super crazy model Doll Face.

Entering a Twisted Metal tournament is likely to invalidate your car insurance.

Limiting the plot’s spotlight to three characters allows the story to be a lot more focussed than previous entries, with a series of grizzly but very well done live-action cutscenes providing the brilliant backstory and ending cinematics. However, the major drawback to just having three characters in the campaign comes at the vehicle selection screen. All three can drive any vehicle in the game instead of being locked to the car that represents their persona as the series has done previously. Being able to switch vehicles, even mid-story improves the gameplay but at the expense of the vehicle’s unique personality that used to complement each driver.

Fortunately, when you’re crushing people’s weaponised joyrides into metal coffins with snazzy paintwork, the personality doesn’t have to shine through to make the vehicles fun. We’ve been trying to avoid the word ‘cars’ throughout this because it isn’t entirely accurate. Yes, there are plenty of cars, but there is also a bike, articulated lorry and even a helicopter to take around around the chaos strewn maps. There’s even an ice cream van that transforms itself into a flying clown mech that looks like the kind of thing Optimus Prime has nightmares about.

Mecha-Clown has sympathy for no man or machine.

Each game sees you and up to 15 other vehicles tearing around an arena with the goal of blowing each other up. Weapons litter the floor à la Maria Kart and each car comes equipped with a sidearm to defend itself. The default sidearm is a pair of forward facing machine guns, but you can also choose an alternative, such as a shotgun or revolver that your driver can lean out of the window to use. Each sidearm behaves very differently, but inflicts such minimal damage you might not see the point in thinking too hard about which one to equip. All vehicles also have unique special weapons that range from chain guns to remote controlled corpse bombs. Some special weapons are better than others, but these are balanced with the vehicles speed and armour stats.

Whilst the single player story may last you six to eight hours, the AI can be punishing at times which makes some stages a particular grind. It introduces you to several game modes, such as the vanilla deathmatch scenario, but also new modes like electric cage and race. Race is a manic dash from start to finish through checkpoints where it helps if you can murder the opposition, whereas electric cage challenges you to kill your enemies and stay within a designated area that moves every couple of minutes. Stray from the area for too long and you die. Whilst the cage game is something different, we weren’t fans. Things just get a little too manic in the confined area and to some degree you need to rely on luck to win a match, rather than pure skill.

Single player is also a great place to adjust yourself to the game’s slightly different control scheme. You need to get out of the muscle memory reflex mode that assumes the right trigger will accelerate, as in Twisted Metal it is tied to shooting. Square gets you moving and circle breaks, but the X button is used for the interesting ‘fast turn’ feature. It basically lets you spin on the spot or make very tight corners at high speed. The car physics are not realistic at all but they make driving fun and exhilarating. You aren’t spending half of your time battling poor handling, and instead your vehicle can pull off precise manoeuvres in the deadly ballet going on around it.

There's a reason some people are scared of clowns.

Multiplayer is where this game does things right, excellently supporting both local and online play. It’s one of those games that makes it worthwhile owning four controllers, as split-screen play feels as brilliant as it always has. The new tweaks and additions work excellently in multiplayer and deliver an experience that has barely been touched in this console generation. Things are taken up a notch with online play that throws you into chaotic arenas full of explosives flying in every direction. Join a team game for the opportunity to play tactically in fleets of death spewing cars that crunch in action epicentres. Maps even allow their sizes to be tailored to match the player count to ensure environments don’t get too sparse.

Twisted Metal is a good vehicular combat game that updates the series brilliantly without compromising too much of what made the older games great. The single player mode is structured well, but might not be enough to hold your interest for repeat playthroughs. However, it primes you perfectly for the anarchy fuelled multiplayer that will entertain you and your friends for hours.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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