The Twisted Metal tournament is back, brought to you by the mysterious and decidedly wicked Calypso. The tournament plays out as a series of violent and anarchic vehicular combat events with the winner being granted one wish from Calypso. Itís a fight to the death and only the strongest, and craziest, have any hope of earning their hearts desire.
Such a tournament attracts a truly bizarre range of characters, all of whom could generously be referred to as bad apples. The single player campaign lets you play as Sweet Tooth, a serial-killing clown, Mr. Grimm, who turned violent after his fatherís death, and Dollface, a murderous supermodel who will do anything to be the best. You donít get to choose your character, rather, campaign is sequential so you start off as Sweet Tooth, progress to Mr. Grimm and finish with Dollface. Each characterís campaign is just six events long, but given the steep difficulty each campaign may take a while to complete.
Special weapons replenish with time, but youíll also want to stock up on the weapons that litter each level. Weapon pickups include homing and standard rockets, shotguns, remote control car bombs and more. Each vehicle also has mines, shields and a freeze gun at their disposal, the latter of which combines very well with the Road Boatís mega-magnet special attack. Your vehicle also has a side-arm weapon, such as a machine gun or magnum, which inflicts minor damage on your opponents.
There are few different event types over the course of the campaign. There are traditional death matches where you have to kill all your rivals to progress and endurance events where you have to survive long enough to take down eight of the re-spawning enemies. There are also electric cage matches where you have to stay within an electric cage that moves often or else youíll constantly lose health.
When it comes to vehicular combat thereís no doubt that the real fun is multiplayer, and Twisted Metal has plenty of options in that regard. Up to four players can compete locally in split-screen and there is LAN support as well. If you venture online up to sixteen players can join in the fun. As far as game modes go there is death match, last man standing and Hunted, which is a lot like Ďtiggyí in real life. Each of these games can be played as a free-for-all or team-based depending on your preference. Then thereís Nuke, where the object is to capture the other teamsí leader (an NPC), carry them to a missile launcher and hurl them at opposition statues. The other team will definitely try to stop you and missiles can be shot out of the air making for frantic action.
That said there are a few issues with online play. It can be hard to find a full game because they often start with a minimum number of competitors, and on the odd occasion you do find a full game they often donít start (though Sony is working on an auto-start feature it wasnít fully functional when we played). Team balancing is also a little off and many games begin with an uneven number of drivers on each team. Lag was also commonplace and while itís never so bad as to ruin a game, itís disconcerting to see cars jumping from one spot to another.
The last issue is that thereís not a lot of depth to online play. There arenít a lot of game modes and there are only so many times you can play Nuke. While itís true that you level up and unlock new weapons and vehicles, these are the same ones you unlock in the campaign, so thereís not a host of new content. Despite these issues online play is still a lot of fun, but the fun may not last as long as you were hoping.
Generally speaking Twisted Metalís visuals look dated, but they still work well enough. Environments are almost fully destructible and buildings will crumble when you drive into them. Pedestrians and drivers of destroyed cars are fair game and will spatter the windscreen with blood if you mow them down. Explosions abound and they can send your car hurtling through the air, while special weapons look alright but nothing special. The level design is a strong point of the game, making it fun to learn the layout of new arenas.
It would be negligent of me not to mention the live-action cut-scenes that play out during the campaign. They are reminiscent of Sin City in terms of style (actors in front of a blue-screen) and the characters capture the menacing theme of the game very well. These scenes basically give you the origin story of the characters in the game and provide an entertaining interlude between campaign events.
Twisted Metalís single player game is equal parts competent and frustrating, but, cut-scenes aside, never really excels. Multiplayer, whether local or online, is a different story, and it is here that Twisted Metal blossoms into something a lot more fun. There is something undeniably engaging about blowing up human-controlled opponents rather than AI-controlled bots. Online play does have its fair share of issues but itís a lot of fun for a while. Unfortunately the lack of depth here means that the fun may not last as long as youíd like. Fans of the series or the genre are likely to have fun with Twisted Metal, but newcomers may find it too frustrating to persist with. Twisted Metal is a mostly competent game but itís not a must-have by any means.
Review By: Mike Allison