When I think of the Twisted Metal franchise, I think of fast, furious arcade action, delicious mechanical carnage and homing missiles shot during 200km/h handbrake turns to the delightful caterwauling of Rob Zombie. I’d like to say that not much has changed in the new incarnation, so I will: Not much has changed in the new incarnation. The cars still handle like physics had never been invented, buildings and walls crumble like they’re made of paper, while other terrain obstacles (such as a slightly different coloured wall), can absorb the brutal force of an out-of-control, speeding semi-trailer truck.
The constant destruction of your enemies is a little difficult to turn into a story, but newcomers will quickly understand the game revolves around an artillery-based destruction derby where the winner is granted a single wish from the tournament’s organiser and social media contact, Calypso. There are three story arcs which detail three contestant’s backgrounds and their thought process leading to their endings through grindhouse-type cut-scenes. Though fans of the franchise might pick the endings early due to past experiences regarding the nature of wishes, I found myself wanting to play through the game more quickly, just to see how the ‘twisted ending’ unravels.
Unfortunately, my lust for violence and penchant for chain-guns did very little to speed me through the tournament, as there are new, extremely frustrating types of matches to standing in your way. The ‘electric cage’ and ‘death race’ challenges are explained in Calypso’s patronising, yet surprisingly informative voice-over before the rounds start. Death races are traditional checkpoint races… with guns. Electric cage matches, on the other hand, require you to move to designated areas or die, just like Battle Royale.
Unlike Battle Royale, electric cage matches suck.
Not because it’s a bad concept, but because a change to the AI ensures the majority of cars specifically hunt you, instead of blasting each other. Getting caught in a multi-car fire-fight results in your screen quickly filling up with screaming missiles, burning napalm, flying chainsaws and exploding medical gurneys… if you’ve managed to avoid being grappled and literally thrown from the area*.
Each car still handles with the same arcade-y ease I grew up with, ignored for two games, and then rediscovered. The huge bugbear I want to mention is reversing. Instead of using the commonplace ‘hold brake to reverse’, you double tap the brake. It might not sound like a big problem, but it’s one of the most awkward controls to execute when you’re a chronic hand-braker who has never thought it necessary to find the regular brake until you were sitting face first into a wall while being rammed in the side by a maniacal clown in an ice-cream van.
Technical difficulties regarding smooth getaways aside, the stages are well designed and are big enough to warrant some exploration. Secret rooms are hinted at in the highly informative training area, and while I’m sure the hidden items are amazing, your match rewards are based on your performance, which relates to time spent. Combined with the new challenges that force you to move around quickly, I’ve been through the game with each level predominantly unexplored. As time is precious and frolicking through death traps for small bonuses just doesn’t seem worthwhile, the story mode turns into a tedious, frustrating grind to unlock videos.
The multi-player mode offers more match types and is easily the best element of the game. The co-op tournaments level the playing field and speed the game up significantly. Twisted Metal multi-player combat has always been a hell of a lot of fun, so adding up to 16 players online or four-player split screen is a pretty damn awesome. Although death matches take up the majority of the slots in the available games, the new Nuke mode is a winner. This capture-the-flag type game involves teams fighting to protect a statue representing their faction. To attack it, you capture a faction leader (just some guy standing around), throw them into a missile launcher to activate it, then, pilot the missile into the statue. Defenders defend their statue by blowing up the attackers. Obviously, not the most complicated of games, but when the main pull of the game is blowing up cars, why would it need to be?
The only loser in online play is the player that lags. As you’d expect, the effectiveness of unleashing flaming death while hurtling sideways depends entirely on if you’ve slid far enough past the local bookstore to hit anyone. There are notes on the game room describing patches to fix connectivity issues and lag issues, but as I played after implementation, I avoided them completely.
I found the multi-player modes to be the clear highlight of the game. Though the story was good, it does get very frustrating and the pay-off might not be in line with the effort it takes to get through the ridiculous difficulty of the later challenges. Twisted Metal is great fun for anyone wanting to put away the ‘realism’ and ‘science’ that plagues car games and just blow people up.
* Roadboat, I hate you so much. Were I at your house drinking a delicious beverage, I would put it down on your coffee table without using a coaster. I can only hope there is a special place in hell for you.