Twisted Metal 2 or Doom III?
Ever since Interstate '76, I've been a big fan of the hot-rod shoot-em up. Or at least I've wanted to be. Searching for that same high, my hands eagerly grabbed similar auto-mayhem titles: old ones like Road Warrior, Death Rally, and Necrodome, and newer ones like Carmageddon, Destruction Derby 2, and The Streets of Sim City. While some were better than others, no game managed to take over my life like I-76 did. After months of enviously watching my friends battle it out on the Playstation version of Twisted Metal 2, I was hoping the PC port might just be the game to keep me home from work.
Now perhaps comparing Twisted Metal 2 with I-76 may not be entirely fair. The games are quite different and each has its own strong points. Unlike I-76, there is no real story in Twisted Metal 2: the goal is simply to win the tournament by defeating all opponents in each of the eight arenas. No racing, no check-points, no mission objectives, just pure destruction. In fact, gameplay is actually a lot more like a DOOM or Quake deathmatch than a driving game.
You begin by selecting one of the twelve vehicles, each with driving characteristics and weapons. Rest assured, whatever your taste, there is a ride for you. How about a bulldozer whose special tactic is the bone-crunching Jaw Slam? (That's right it grabs and throws other players.) How about a dune buggy that jumps into the air and crushes unmindful drivers? Then there's the monster truck that simply runs over all contenders. If that doesn't suit your fancy, you can drive a tank, a hearse, a police car, a motor bike (with guns on the sidecar), a formula one racer, an ice cream truck, and even a platform suspended between two giant wheels called The Axel.
The variety doesn't stop with the vehicles. Each arena is set in a different part of the world and requires a unique style of combat. The abandoned Russian missile silo is a small, bowl-shaped arena and the slightest hesitation will make you an easy mark. The New York arena takes place on top of skyscrapers and running the baddies over the edge is the quickest way to win. In Paris you'll cruise past cafes, the Seine and inside the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Jumping from the Tower to building-tops and then onto enemies works best here, and it's pretty fun to drive a dune buggy past the Mona Lisa or a Van Gogh. It's even more fun to destroy the statue of the Thinker and find a homing missile inside.
Just like a deathmatch in a first-person shooter, power-ups, weapons and ammo litter the playing field and regenerate a short time after they've been picked up by one of the players. There's also Quake-style "slipgates" which instantly transport you from one place of the playing field to another. Even dreaded Quake tactics like sniping are possible in this game. If you're thinking Twisted Metal 2 would be an exciting multiplayer experience, you're right. The single player AI is good, but challenging seven of your best friends on a LAN or Internet is what makes the PC version so cool.
Of course Sony rightly made no attempt to create realistic driving models, but the arcade-feel and skycam view doesn't mean strategy isn't a big part of Twisted Metal 2. Learning the ins and outs of each arena can give you an edge over your opponent, and each vehicle has its own top speed and cornering abilities, demanding a specific driving style. Getting the hang of all the special weapons is a big challenge and Twisted Metal 2 even has fighting-style "combo attacks." That's right. With a few taps of the directional keys you can pull off special moves that would make any Tekken 2 fan proud.
With all these fighting moves, first-person shooter elements, and a totally unrealistic physics/damage model, Twisted Metal 2 almost doesn't feel like a driving game. When I tried to use my Thrustmaster T2 with gas and brake pedals, I found the car response too sluggish to remain competitive. You've got to turn the T2 wheel from here to Kansas to bank these babies! (Note: I live in California.) For you purists who insist on real controls, you'll be happy to know that you can use the wheel and keyboard in tandem (this way the combo moves are still possible), but I actually found that I preferred the keyboard as a control device.
All told, Twisted Metal 2 is a solid addition to a steadily improving genre. Fast performance, inventive gameplay, quality graphics and a creative soundtrack make this a title worth owning. Though not as addictive or engaging as the still-reigning auto-combat champ, Interstate '76, Twisted Metal 2 certainly deserves a space on every action gamer's hard drive.