It's been a good 15 years since the original car carnage game Twisted Metal first appeared on the PlayStation. That was followed by several sequels and spin-offs across PS, PS2 and the PSP portable. After a couple of false starts and cancelled titles, it's finally landed on the high-def console. With the added grunt comes more action, bigger battles and massive arenas in which to pit a variety of mad vehicles against each other, armed to the teeth with machine guns, mines, rocket launchers and even more destructive weapons, limited only by developer imagination. The story is essentially the same - the charismatic Calypso runs a series of battles and the main characters - like deviant killer clown Sweet Tooth, evil Dollface, and the lovely Mr Grimm - all go up against teams of murderous motor maniacs across giant, fairly destructible arenas and fight to the death.
So much is happening in these vast battlefields that the first few battles are almost overwhelming. Once used to the frenetic pace, you'll start to develop a more strategic approach to play, picking out pockets of weapon power-ups and planning skirmishes in relation to health drop-offs, or your garage, where two alternative machines are kept to swap out when health gets critical. There are three control modes - class TM, dual shock and race - to suit different play styles, but there is no facility to customise controller layouts.
Selecting reverse sees an unintuitive switching of left and right, which can be quite jarring, as can an automatic lock-on for weapons that seems to habitually lock on to the wrong target. Manually switching targets takes precious moments and invariably ends in you taking hits from any of the other characters or their heavily-armed mobile minions. This is big dumb fun - incredibly violent and furiously paced, with challenging boss battles. But whether in story mode or in an online tournament, it's a formula that has been copied with varying degrees of success. This one hits the nail on the head, and is a must for fans. If you're debating whether the concept of using over-armed motor vehicles to destroy enemies is wholesome entertainment, rent it before you make up your mind.
-TimeOutBy Matt Greenop Email Matt