The End of a Dynasty
Way back when the Playstation was a drooling infant, Singletrac developed Twisted
Metal. In doing so, they more or less invented a whole new genre of video
games. The idea is that you pilot some freak-ass car through vast, fully-rendered
3D environments with one basic goal: blow stuff up. Add a two-player mode that
splits the screen and lets the two of you loose in one of the said 3D environments
and you have a game with unstoppable staying power. Singletrac then upped the
ante when they released Twisted
Metal II. Not only did Twisted Metal II have far better graphics
and more vehicles than its predecessor, it also had gigantic environments that
were completely interactive (Paris, anyone?).
Well kids, it’s 1998 and another Twisted Metal has been thrust our way.
And the verdict?
Shame on you, 989, for casting a dark shadow on this otherwise glorious series
Yup. You heard me. When 989 purchased the rights to the Twisted Metal
franchise they essentially brought it to an end. And to tell you the truth,
Twisted Metal 3 is not glaringly terrible. It is simply average in every
sense of the word, and a mere shadow of its competition.
First off, I want to talk about something that makes or breaks auto-combat
games like Twisted Metal III: level design. Now, we all know that what
we’re looking for here are gigantic, innovative levels with loads of secrets
and plenty of stuff that blows up. You will find very little of this in TM3.
Take Washington D.C., for example. This level is quite possibly the most uninspired
level in any auto-combat game, ever. It is one medium-sized court yard with
the White House at one end and a wall on all the other sides – you can go nowhere
else, and you can blow almost nothing up. Travel to Arizona for the Hangar 18
level (Area 51 – gee, that’s clever) and you’ll find the second most uninspired
level in any auto-combat game, ever. Here’s an even smaller circular ring with
a gigantic flying saucer taking up the middle. Sure, if you flip a few switches
you get to go into the flying saucer, but that only teleports you to the thin
top of the wall that encompasses the original ring. Lame! There are a few other
levels that give you little teases of good design (London is nice, complete
with an exploding Big Ben), but they are so few and far between that you’ll
find yourself busting out copies of
Vigilante 8, Rogue
Trip, or even Twisted Metal II just to assure yourself that good
level design is indeed possible.
Graphically, TM3 is nowhere near Vigilante 8 or even Rogue
Trip. Yes, 989 developed a new engine for this game, but folks, new ain’t
necessarily better. There are a few good light-sourcing effects, and some of
the weapons look real nice, but the overall feel is a bit grainy and chock full
And as for that new physics engine…please give me the old one, ’cause this
one isn’t cutting it. The entire allure behind the Twisted Metal genre of games
is that it has very little to do with real life; it is science-fiction hyperbole
at its best. With their new physics engine, however, 989 has attempted to make
the vehicles in TM3 perform more like their real-life counterparts. “TruPhysics,”
they call it. The result is a confusing blur between reality and fiction. Your
car will flip when you take a fast turn, but survive a 200 foot fall unscathed.
Not only that, but apparently the new physics engine doesn’t quite know what
to do with collision detection. You’ll find yourself penetrating walls (when
this happens, the camera often gets confused and shakes until you move your
vehicle) and teetering magically on towering cliffs. And yes, TM3 supports
the dual-shock controller, but their default controller setup is terrible.
Which brings me to my
next complaint. Say you re-configure the controller the way you like it. You’d
like to save that new configuration to your memory card so that you don’t have
to reconfigure every time, right? Sorry kid, you can’t save anything. That’s
right – TM3 has regressed to the 8-bit Nintendo days, and all you’ve
got to continue your progress is a cute little password system. Oops.
Vehicles, you ask? Well, TM3 has a few of the old (Thumper, Mr. Grimm,
Outlaw, Roadkill, Axel, Hammerhead, and Warthog), a few of the new (Clubkid,
Firestarter, Auger, and Flower Power), and a few of the hidden
(Sweet Tooth, Dark Tooth, Minion, and Dark Side). Nothing incredibly innovative
here, but nothing really lackluster either. One new function that 989 threw
in is the option to have a computer-controlled ally. Although this sounds great,
you’ll find that the computer player sucks, and is usually the first to die.
Last but not least I’d like to mention sound. One of the most advertised facets of Twisted Metal 3 is that Rob Zombie did the soundtrack. Rob’s songs meld perfectly with the overall feel of the game, and if it weren’t for the game’s terrible sound effects, the soundtrack would be flawless. I’m talking about BAD sound effects. Try driving your car through water – it sounds more like a crackling machine gun, leaving you wondering whether that was really water that you just putted through.
The one thing that saves this game from utter failure is its multi-player functions. 989 has added a bunch of new options here, including a four-player interface (four-way split screen on the PlayStation?). Although slowdown here is very rampant, it’s a pretty fun party game. You can also play a two-player game with the screen split four ways (the other two display radar and weapon info) so that it’s just a smaller version of the real game.
Frankly, I didn’t like Twisted Metal 3. Had it been released a year ago, before Vigilante 8 or Rogue Trip, I might have thought differently. But sadly, those two games have been available for a while now, giving you more than enough reason to leave Twisted Metal 3 on the shelf.