Before I begin: Yes, I played Twisted Metal back in the day. I’ve earned (meaning I didn’t look them up on Youtube) all of the demented endings from the first three games. You could say I’m familiar with the franchise, or at least I was. The premise is simple enough. Players enter a tournament of vehicular carnage, battling to the death in specially made kill-o-mobiles.
If you want to skip straight to the co-op portion of the review, be my guest. Simply jump to page two. If you're only interested in a number score, you’re not reading this. Have a nice day!
Twisted Metal is a grainy, gritty, and just plain angry looking game. Everything seems to have a layer of filth covering it. This adds nicely to the feeling of violence and strife presented in this chaotic world. The soundtrack is pretty boss, and the vehicle and weapon sounds are comfortably familiar. Arenas are large and conducive to smashing car combat. There are suburban sprawls packed with squishy pedestrians, treacherous canyons, skyscraping rooftops with deadly drops, and even a ThunderDome-style coliseum.
Once you master the bizarre controls (all three control options initially stupefied me), Twisted Metal becomes a very enjoyable game. Each infernal machine handles differently, and you can easily see a vehicle’s Speed, Armor, and Special Weapon on the pre-match selection screen. Every so often you’ll unlock a new vehicle or side arm to add to your arsenal.
Most people don't consider a chain saw a projectile weapon. Most people are wrong.
The old games had specific drivers and stories for each vehicle. Sadly, this is not the case in this iteration of Twisted Metal. It’s a shame there’s no longer a story behind every monstrous machine. That could have really added to the longevity of the title. The story mode focuses on three characters, Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Doll Face. These three murderous villains each occupy a third of the campaign, and they are able to drive any of the vehicles you may have unlocked.
Most missions will feature a garage where you can swap out your ride if it takes too much damage, or if you need to change tactics. If the car you’re driving takes a fatal blow, it’s game over, even if you have a garage full of undamaged vehicles. You can drive Death Warrant, Shadow, and Kamikaze all in the same match. Or, if you really love a particular ride, you can select it three times, backing up your backup with the same backup.
The goal of the majority of the story missions is to simply destroy all the other drivers. Learning when to stay and fight and when to flee and re-arm is quintessential to success. When you finally score a kill shot your opponent will explode in a firey inferno of molten metal and children's nightmares. Running over the burning occupants as they flee screaming from the smoldering wreckage will grant you health and weapon pickups. Just like in real life.
You used to be so cool, Mr. Grimm. What happened?
Live action cut scenes break up the action. The actors are dressed in little more than Halloween costumes, so they’re hard to take seriously. These scenes come in three distinct flavors: uncomfortable (Sweet Tooth) tedious (Mr. Grimm) and kind-of-awesome (Dollface).
The little mission variety that exists in the campaign helps the game more than expected. I thought that the racing portions would be awful, but eventually I found them quite enjoyable. The boss fights are big, over the top, and a little buggy. I had a blast motoring though the story mode. It was even better with a friend.
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The co-op vehicle selection screen.
The Co-Op: Twisted Metal doesn’t offer many options for cooperative play. In fact, there’s only one: two local players can rumble through the story mode via split screen. Simply push “start” on a second controller. The first player then chooses “Multiplayer” from the main menu, then “Offline Split: 2 Players,” then “Cooperative Story.” Yup. It’s buried.
Unbeknownst to me, the online co-op had been dropped from the title. I didn’t realize it had been cut until I had a retail copy in my anxious little hands. If only there was a site that focused on co-op gaming...
My wife is a heck of a gamer, but there are three things you should know about her: She hates racing games, she’s not fond of the PS3, and she just had a baby. Oh boy.
I invited her to play a local split screen game. She took the PS3 controller, glowering at me in disgust. She’s a good sport though, and asked me which buttons did what. I proceeded to explain to her the default Twisted Metal controls:
“Okay, bear with me.” I begin, “Push Square to accelerate.”
“Push Circle for your brakes.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Double tap the Circle button to go in reverse...”
“Are you ******* kidding me?”
“...or you can pull back on the right thumbstick. Got it?”
“Just tell me what makes it shoot and let’s get this over with.”
That's what she said! I'm not kidding.
Here's the co-op campaign in action.
Things suddenly took a turn for the awesome. Apparently, my wife is some sort of car combat savant. She killed three opponents in our first match, and I was doing my damnedest to cherry-pick her kills. We easily crushed the first third of the story mode in under an hour. Yeah, that’s right, an hour. Twisted Metal’s campaign is lacking in length, and sadly, that’s the only cooperative option. Hey, at least now my wife likes something other than light gun games on the PS3.
During co-op play the screen is split horizontally, and some of the prime viewing real estate has been gobbled up by min-maps and scoreboards. The difficulty doesn’t seem to scale up for cooperative play, either. Players do share a garage, so each person will choose one backup vehicle instead of two. Either player can use the other’s backup if needed. If one player dies you're looking at a restart. This shouldn't be a problem because the story mode is a Sunday drive for two players on the Normal settings. You’ll want to goose the difficulty to Hard or Twisted for a decent challenge. Players can go back and play their favorite story missions once they have been completed.
When we finished a mission the scoreboard displayed our team “Damage Done” and “Damage Received.” No kills were listed. We were disappointed that we couldn’t see which of us individually did the most damage or who got more kills. We were also awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal, which seems to be based solely on how quickly we won the round. Players who wish to unlock everything will need to earn gold medals in every mission on Twisted difficulty, either in single player or cooperatively.
The game also supports four player split screen, but you can only play local vs. modes with this feature. Drag.
I should note that the co-op mode utilizes a save file that is independent from the single player experience. This means you can’t solo to level five and then have a buddy hop in for an assist when you get stuck. You’ll need to play through the co-op story mode from the very beginning in a whole new co-op save file. Co-op progress will have no effect on your single player game.
One of the more baffling design decisions is the lack of cooperative play in the game’s Challenge Mode. This offline mode pits a single player against AI bots. The player can choose the arena, number of bots, and other variables. Challenge mode could have added some serious depth to the co-op options. For whatever reason, it just didn’t happen.
It’s obvious that developer Eat Sleep Play cut back on the single player and co-op features in favor of multiplayer versus modes. Online versus modes even support local split screen play for two players. Unfortunately, the online multiplayer portions have been plagued with network problems. David Jaffe, the game’s outspoken director, has made some interesting statements regarding this matter. Players are kicked when a host migrates, lobbies never seem to fill up, and some PS3’s have even been crashing. It’s a shame. Hiccups like this can quickly kill an online community. Hopefully the network issues will be resolved soon.
As an old fan, I really like this Twisted Metal. I wish there was more to the co-op mode. I’m afraid casual co-op players will complete the campaign in three hours and move on to something else. $60 bucks is pretty steep for a few hours of entertainment for two people. Seeing as how the only co-op mode is a local split screen campaign, I’ll sum up by quoting the game’s director: “If you are buying the new TM ONLY or MOSTLY for campaign, might I suggest a rental?”