Calypso, David Jaffe, Doll face, Eat Sleep Play, Mr. Grimm, multiplayer, Preacher, PS3, PS3 Exclusive, reviews, sony, Sony Santa Monica, sweet tooth, taylor parolini, theparanoidgamer.com, Twisted Metal, twisted metal 2012, Twisted Metal Black, Twisted metal multiplayer, twisted metal review, xbox3601
My love affair with Twisted Metal began in the 90’s with the original title developed by SingleTrac and David Jaffe long before his God of War fame. As a child I found the game to be pretty difficult and the AI quite punishing, but the colorful characters, fun gameplay and sheer personality of the title completely ensnared me nonetheless. As years went by the series became a bit of a mess far as quality goes, with high points like Twisted Metal 2 and Black standing alongside abysmal lows like Twisted Metal 4 and Small Brawl.
So does 2012’s latest incarnation of this legendary car combat franchise by Eat Sleep Play live up to the lofty nostalgic expectations of fans? The answer, much like the series’ history itself, is mixed bag of highs and lows.
Twisted Metal features both a single player and multiplayer component. While the controls can be difficult to master at first, the game does provide a number of control schemes (I prefer Racing Style) and a fairly comprehensive tutorial section that should ease the learning curve for new players. Given that vehicles are such a central focus of the title it comes as no surprise that these monsters of the road (and sky) are all great fun to control. Vehicles include fan favorites such as semi-truck Darkside and new additions such as the Talon helicopter and the ambulance Meatwagon, which has the ability to launch a remote-controlled gurney strapped with explosives and a screaming patient.
The single player campaign is fairly short and shouldn’t take most gamers more than a day of playtime to complete. Previous entries in the series contained a single player campaign with a wide array of characters locked into specific vehicles, each with their own unique back story and ending. By comparison, 2012’s Twisted Metal has only 3 main characters who are all offered the same pool of vehicles from which to choose, and each character must be played from start to finish in a linear progression to unlock the next character in line.
This comes as a slight disappointment as a great deal of the fun from the previous games was derived from adapting to new vehicles and playing through the campaign from start to finish with that particular character just to see their unique ending. And that’s not the only issue with the singleplayer. While most of the mission types presented to you during the length of the campaign do a wonderful job of keeping the gameplay fresh, the racing diversions simply do not work.
I personally had very little issue with the races themselves until I arrived at the penultimate mission and was then forced to spend almost 5 times as long on it as I had on any of the others. Like the other races, this one involved a mad dash to a number of checkpoints that all needed to be triggered in order to keep yourself from falling behind the crowd and potentially exploding. The problem with this is that the levels are designed in such a way as to be nearly impossible without repeated playthroughs and memorization of every jump, ramp and path in the race. If you just so happen to miss a jump or get knocked off a building, you might as well restart as victory is next to impossible. Mix this with AI opponents who are more than happy to ram you into a wall and lose the race themselves just to annoy you, and what you get is a potent mix of frustration and wasted time. The bosses can also be extremely difficult at times but are impressive to behold and give you a great feeling of accomplishment when you manage to defeat them.
Thankfully, the stylish live action/CGI cutscenes that flesh out the story of Sweet Tooth, Doll Face and Mr. Grimm are a quirky delight and perfectly fit the aesthetic on display, even if the ending does feature one of the biggest WTF moments in recent memory. The in-game graphics are also quite nice and run at a very silky framerate throughout, but they aren’t anything to write home about. Another nice touch is that the campaign can be played from start to finish in splitscreen co-op with a buddy, and besting the hardest difficulties in the campaign will give you some unique unlocks for both the single player and multiplayer portions of the game.
Speaking of the multiplayer: this is where Twisted Metal really shines. The muliplayer can be enjoyed online, over LAN, or in local 4 player splitscreen. You can even do splitscreen online. While some gamers may be disappointed that virtually none of their unlocks from single player transfer over to the multiplayer, the game does feature a leveling system which allows you to unlock vehicles, abilities and even different skins for your cars all in the order that you desire. The online itself is accessed through a very spiffy server browser that allows you to pick and choose which lobbies you’d like to join based on name, ping, players, maps and gamemode. You can also set filters to sort your way through the massive amount of lobbies, or just pick a generic instant action matchmaking option that’ll attempt to toss you into a decent lobby without any fuss.
Gamemodes include Death Match, Last Man Standing, Hunted, Team variants of all the aforementioned, and a twisted take on capture the flag called Nuke Mode. Nuke mode is a clear standout from the relatively cut and dry formula of the other modes, a features two teams attempting to destroy a hulking statue that represents the enemy faction. The catch is that the only way to destroy these statues is to kidnap the enemy leader from their base, drag them from behind your car all the way to a massive missile launcher, and then to sacrifice them to the machine in order to earn a controllable missile that you can then pilot into the enemy statue in order to score.
All games come in ranked and unranked varities, with the ranked games having previously set parameters and the unranked versions allowing the host to customize the gameplay experience to an absurd degree. There are 8 massive maps in total featuring locations as varied as desert canyons, a rooftop skyline and an amusement park. All of these maps can also be broken down into smaller gameplay sections for more up close and personal matches.
The multiplayer is probably the best aspect of the Twisted Metal experience, and while all the vehicles are balanced and the gameplay itself is solid, the multiplayer client does seem to have extensive issues when it comes to connecting to lobbies. I experienced extremely frequent “connection errors” that would see me attempting to join a lobby, any lobby, for 15 minutes at a time with no luck. There are also moments when you’ll be randomly kicked out of a game for no discernible reason. This does put quite a big damper on the whole multiplayer aspect of the game, but when it’s working properly the game is a joy to play.
Fans have been waiting a full decade for another major title in the series, and despite a handful of annoying issues it seems obvious that Eat Sleep Play has proven that the Car Combat Genre of the 90’s is far from dead. However, if you’ve never enjoyed this series or the Car Combat games of the past, this game probably wont convert you. I for one, can’t wait to see what other treats Sweet Tooth has in store for us in the future.