Wanna be da boss? Throw your old one out the window!
When I see a four at the end of a title I have a little voice in the back of my head (we're working on it in therapy) which says "Warning: cheap sequel ahead". But this is not completely true for Twisted Metal 4. Although not the best of the series, is certainly better than the failure that was Twisted Metal 3.
For those of you who care about the story, this is how it goes: Sweet Tooth, who had become the reigning star of Twisted Metal, wasn't satisfied with his job of head clown; He waned to be the big boss! So he decided pay a visit to Calypso, the current head honcho, and defenestrate him (Defenestrate: v. to throw out of a window. Look it up). Then he took his place. Calypso, of course, now wants revenge.
If you've played any of the previous games, you know how this game goes: You pick a car, then you're put into an arena with a bunch of other cars with the mission to kill them before they kill you. To help you, you're given lots of guns, missiles, bombs, and other WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). While doing this, you must navigate some of the weirdest levels you have seen, ranging from construction yards to a reeeealy big bedroom.
The level design has improved since the last game. In every level, there are you standard set of tall platforms, things to duck behind, jump over, and blow up. But in most levels, there's some sort of cool thing specific to that level. In the construction zone, for example, you have a crane that you can take control of, pick up other cars, and put them in metal smashers (I've always wanted to do that!). In the Neon City arena, there's a train track complete with train. And trust me, getting hit with that thing stings!
That's not to say that all of the levels are peachy-keen. In one level, it's too easy to die by falling off of the edge (given how valuable a life is in this game, that's bad), and another is a huge maze, where it's really hard to find anyone to shoot at. It seems like they worked hard on the first few levels, then sort of slacked off near the end.
The graphics are reasonable, but not outstanding. Everything looks pretty good, with bright colors and interesting textures. The vehicles are well made, with a lot of variance between different drivers and cars (I love that guy with a bug on his roof). And of course the explosions and other weapon effects are great. But there are still lots of problems with pop-up and with the camera going through walls.
The sound is pretty good, with your standard set of guns firing, large nuclear weapons exploding, and things being frozen. My only major gripe is the songs they play. On each level, they keep on playing the same one over and over and over and over and… you get the idea. I can only listen to Rob Zombie's "Dragula" so many times before becoming clinically ill.
What makes or breaks most of these games is the physics engine, which is the thing which lets you drive around, jump off of cliffs, flip over, and so on. Although better than TM3, there are still a lot of bugs in the system. The main one has to do with jumping between platforms. If you just miss the platform, you will stay on the edge, but will never be able to get on it. It's as if the game were trying to push you off. This also happens when you just go a little off the edge. It gets to be a real pain after the hundredth time it happens. Also, with certain cars, you can go into this weird position where your car is pointing straight up, and moving backwards. It won't stop unless you let up on the throttle (Although it is funny to see your cars acting like dolphins).
One of the major problems from TM3 was how often you'd end up on your back, with your wheels in the air. Here they tried to make it less annoying by putting you right side up as soon as it happens. Although it's unrealistic, considering how often you end up on your back, it's a welcome change.
One feature that the makers have been pushing is the ability to create your own cars. Even though it is cool to create a personalized car, it's only sort of a novelty. There are only nine car bodies to choose from, ranging from small to large. Then you can select a paint job, and whether or not it has "extras" (a spoiler for sports cars, and those cool lights on the monster trucks). Then you select a special weapon (only four of them), and a battle cry (about twelve of these), and then you go into the ring. Despite the fact that you can save them to the memory card, after you've seen all of the models, there really isn't much of a reason to make new cars except to get those special weapons.
An improvement over TM3, Twisted Metal 4 is a reasonably fun game. It puts some of the entertainment value back into blowing up over-armed cars. But it still has its flaws. If you already own Twisted Metal 1 or 2 , make sure to rent this one first.