We all scream for ice cream.
The moment that the ice cream truck music began playing in the Twisted Metal reveal trailer at E3 2010, hundreds of thousands immediately identified what it was. It’s not often that a game series in such an unpopulated genre is able to substantiate itself in the industry, but Twisted Metal surely has. Many people identify it with Sweet Tooth who is one of the most iconic gaming characters, but most people distinguish it by its highly enjoyable gameplay and great multiplayer support. The latest entry in the series carries the torch successfully by incorporating most of what has made the franchise strong, with only a few road bumps keeping it from being the killer blockbuster that Twisted Metal: Black was.
While the latest Twisted Metal is predictable in many ways, its campaign is far from it. It’s the first in the series to focus on three character plots instead of alluring you with tons of unique endings preceded by a couple hours of free-for-all matches. Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Dollface are in the spotlight this time around and you’re very likely to be disappointed by this design change if you’re a fan of the series.
Instead of choosing one out of a list of interesting characters to play as, you are pre-assigned one of the three plot characters and only given the option of which vehicle to use. As such, the three plot characters (including Preacher in multiplayer) can be mixed and matched with any of the available vehicles. This is a drastic change and one that certainly takes away a fair chunk of the charm.
Although the peculiar change in character and vehicle personality makes the cutscenes less compelling, what the game does include is strong. Each of the few story cutscenes are well-executed and portray the twisted storytelling that the series thrives upon. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the game feels a bit out of touch. The setting isn’t as strongly enforced like it was in Twisted Metal: Black, and the game modes presented during the campaign mode range from fun deathmatches to out-of-place racing scenarios. Thankfully, each of the game’s three boss encounters are multi-staged and memorable. Not only will you encounter epic battles during your journey, but you’ll also have to muster every last bit of strength that you have to pull through.
Controlling each vehicle is as pleasant as you allow it. Each of the game’s more than a dozen weaponized vehicles, from the lightning fast Crimson Fury to the slow but overpowering Darkside, have unique characteristics. The controls can be very overwhelming for the initial hour of the experience, but what the game won’t ever do is get in your way. Twisted Metal is a complex game when you get to the root of it. Not only do you have to acquire a quick trigger finger, but you’ll have to control a vehicle at the same time. The special weapons and more powerful equipment are especially indicative of this as they require a great sense of timing. Add to that the techniques, such as the shield, turbo, and landmines, and you have a game that rewards players considerably for skill and execution.
The multiplayer arena is Twisted Metal’s strong suit and competitive situations are where the game’s polished mechanics shine. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another game that is as fun to play with your friends, particularly with the included split-screen campaign (it will rock your world). The online experience is like no other with its strong feature set and rewarding gameplay. You’re able to level up, join a clan, create lobbies, and unlock new sidearms to employ into your arsenal. You are also given the option to design your vehicles with custom paint, textures, and even decals which is especially rewarding for the creative types. Customized vehicles can be shared, so whether you’re someone who likes to shop around or enjoy showing off your work, you’ll find the editor to be a great addition.
It’s not often that a game this generation includes four player co-operative functionality, and virtually all that do suffer from poor visuals. Fortunately, Twisted Metal isn’t one of them. While texture quality isn’t stellar and pop-in does occur frequently, the presentation is great. Menus are functional while information on the UI is well-presented.
As far as audio goes, sound effects and ambiance are well-suited for the game, and the voice work during your journey through the campaign mode is excellent. Never before has Sweet Tooth sounded so real, which can be disturbing for the faint of heart. The included soundtracks are decent and range from '80s rap to modern metal. The best tracks are those that are themed specifically for the game, for driving around while firing napalm. Even if it turns out that you don’t like any of the included music, custom soundtracks are supported, so you can listen to whatever you have on your PlayStation 3.
Unless you enjoy the agony of being destroyed by a boss twenty-times over, you’re likely only to get about seven hours of entertainment from the campaign mode which can be inconsistent at times. However, the inclusion of both co-op and a strong online component is what gives this title legs. Even if you end up prioritizing an FPS as your “core” competitive game, you’ll very likely come back to Twisted Metal for its unrelenting fun factor.
Even though this Twisted Metal might be a decade newer, it doesn’t stray far from its series’ heritage. It makes driving a vehicle equipped with weapons of every kind as fun as it sounds. It’s a title aimed directly at bringing heart-racing competition to the living room and the unique vehicles, powerful weapons, and complexity make it the perfect title to enjoy with friends. It isn’t every day that you play a game that rewards you for driving fast and blowing enemies up, but that’s exactly what Twisted Metal is an expert at.