The Twisted Metal franchise is an old one, but a good one. Despite the odd hit and miss, it's a series that we're surprised to see has taken this long to come to the PS3; with a focus on multiplayer vehicular combat, the PS3s strong online capabilities seem like a natural fit.
With the original game landing way back in 1995, and the last genuinely new game hitting nearly seven years ago (launching alongside the PSP!), we were intrigued to see where a new iteration in the franchise, helmed by series creator David Jaffe, would take us...
Twisted Metal on the PS3 has had a rocky road; it was initially conceived as a PSN title, and then as a full title with only multiplayer options, before - quite recently, at that - Sony added a singleplayer story mode as well.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, it focuses on a bunch of psychopaths who have lead lives of murderous destruction. These characters have been brought together to participate in a vehicular deathmatch, and are each fighting for their own agenda. In Twisted Metal, Calypso - the creator of the Twisted Metal contest - lures competitors in by fulfilling any wish, but then turns their own wish against them in exciting twists. That's about where the story ends, and really credit should be given for being able to craft a story out of ultra vehicle carnage at all.
While the story isn't that gripping, it does give some purpose to Twisted Metal, without which it would simply be a string of combat arenas and a number of characters. That said, the emphasis in Twisted Metal is clearly the online multiplayer; this is where the guts of the title can be found, and the singleplayer really only serves as a (useful) practice arena.
In multiplayer, up to 16 online players can compete in a range of deathmatch competitions, from free-for-alls to team based death matches. There's even a capture the flag style game mode called Nuke Mode, where players must capture the enemy faction's leader and sacrifice him... in order to fire off a nuke to destroy an enemy statue.
The multiplayer mode is one you will be able to sink hours into; it has been well executed, with short load times, quick match-ups and simple directions (pretty much: "destroy all the other vehicles", for the most part.) As a bonus, you can play with up to four players split-screen on your console, if you'd rather have a blast with some friends, and you can even take another friend online with you.
The controls are initially a struggle to get used to, and a big part of the learning curve with Twisted Metal is remembering how everything fits together. There are too many buttons mapped, from motion controls to dual presses, including inconvenient combinations that require you to release other buttons in order to press one.
But once you do become acclimatised, you'll find that not many of the controls are all that important; in multiplayer you'll spend most of your time simply using the power slide in order to keep your opponent's car in your sights, and also firing whatever missiles and other weaponry you find along the way.
Twisted Metal brings a number of the most outrageous characters and vehicles to the party. The primary three, around which the singleplayer campaign are focused, are: Sweet Tooth, a sociopathic clown with a passion for blood and vengeance; Mr Grimm, an enraged stuntman who wishes to turn the clock back on his unfortunate existence as a street criminal; and Krista Sparks AKA "Dollface", who is a crazy obsessive model with a particularly brutal side who also steps into Calypso's contest with a dream of becoming the brightest star. These three head up three of the four factions in the game, which players (particularly in the multiplayer) must race and kill.
There's also a range of other crazy vehicles in the game, including: Shadow - a hearse, Kamikaze - a high speed Japanese sports car, Juggernaught - an 18 wheel semi truck, Outlaw - a Police SUV, and many more. The vehicles can also be given a personal touch, thanks to the game's customization system.
The environments are arenas, with some presented more like point-to-point race tracks, depending on the game mode. They're massive areas, with plenty of stuff to discover and places to explore (if you can find some peace and quiet, which is unlikely when you've got 15 opponents chasing you down.)
From urban areas with malls, to crazy theme parks, as well as some cool rural environments, Twisted Metal's variety keeps things interesting. The pace of the game also means that it is harder for players to take advantage of a map's key locations, which helps even the playing field for newcomers.
The action is fast-paced and exhilarating. In singleplayer mode, the graphics seem slightly underwhelming and the environments uninspired, but the reason for that becomes clear when playing multiplayer. Here, the framerate holds up extremely well, even with explosions going off all around you, and the underwhelming and uninspired environments fall away thanks to the total carnage.
With 16 human players there is little time to focus on the details, with frantic gameplay that is much better than when battling the AI opponents. It's just so satisfying fighting your way to the top of the multiplayer leaderboard; it requires an excellent combination of skills and puts your reactions fully to the test. The pace, which initially feels overwhelming when trying to keep your beady eyes on an opponent's vehicle, becomes natural and it would be hard to imagine Twisted Metal running at anything less than full speed.
Twisted Metal was a long time coming onto the PS3, and we are really glad it has arrived. It loses points for having a dull singleplayer mode, but if it is viewed as your training ground for the multiplayer it starts to make more sense. The multiplayer is so fast paced and convincingly pulled off it is a blast to play, even with the controls being a tad hard to get used to. The developers have done a marvelous job in bringing an excellent multiplayer experience to the PS3, and we are definitely pleased to see that the Twisted Metal series is alive and kicking.
Platform: PlayStation 3