Within the first few minutes of playing a given map in the newest installment of Sony’s Twisted Metal series you can easily cause more environmental destruction than you did in all of the previous titles combined. I’m not even kidding here.
In developing the latest entry of the longest-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise, David Jaffe and the folks at Eat, Sleep, Play have a pretty tall order with Twisted Metal. The series has been missing a dedicated console title since 2001’s Twisted Metal: Black, widely regarded as one of the best games on the PlayStation 2. Before that title’s online multiplayer disc was released, deathmatches were confined to one television set and three friends at most.
Things have definitely changed since the last time Sweet Tooth graced your Sony console. But, have the demented clown and his twisted cohorts done enough to keep up with the times?
One of the most noticeable differences between this Twisted Metal and those that came before it is a drastically smaller character roster. You can play as Sweet Tooth, Dollface, Mr. Grimm or the Preacher. But that doesn’t mean there are only four playable vehicles. Whereas each car or motorcycle was character-specific before, you can now pilot each vehicle with the character of your choice.
All of the old favorites make a return in some form or another. Junkyard Dog’s tow truck is back as is Outlaw’s squad SUV. Mr. Grimm’s chopper, Reaper, is also among the first vehicles you’ll unlock. For the most part, Eat, Sleep, Play has retained the most interesting characters from the franchise and done away with the rest. Series purists may cry foul, but can anyone really say they’ll miss seeing Junkyard Dog’s ugly mug? Although my Twisted Metal arch-nemesis, Axel, is no longer on the roster, his two-wheeled contraption still roams free.
One welcome change is the level of customization you have over each individual vehicle. Instead of everyone carrying the usual machine gun, you can unlock different sidearms as you progress through the game, from quick-but-weak Uzis to an incredibly powerful missile launcher or magnum pistol. You outfit your car or cycle with the sidearm of your choice at the character select screen.
Certain multiplayer modes also allow you to choose three different vehicles for a single match. You start with a primary car while the other two wait in a garage. If your health falls below your liking or you just want to switch things up, all you need to do is drive to a garage and select a new ride. As your old vehicle sits in the facility it slowly regains health. This provides a bit of extra depth to the game, a welcome addition.
The game features three different control schemes. You can either hit it old school with the standard layout from previous Twisted Metals or switch to schemes catered to extensive use of the shoulder buttons or joysticks. Both alternative control schemes have their strengths and weaknesses. The shoulder button layout provides comfort for marathon sessions and the joystick-centric scheme offers the best maneuverability for your vehicle while taking advantage of the new ability to aim above ground level.
I played with the standard layout most often because it’s what I’m used to, but using the right stick to aim at the sky then waiting for the reticule to reset got me in trouble from time to time —you’ve gotta be quick if you want to win at Twisted Metal. Ultimately, I found this to be the most effective control scheme, especially since some of the series’ more exciting but technical features are simplified for this iteration.
Remember how you had to press all sorts of button combinations to lay mines or freeze opponents in earlier Twisted Metal games? That’s been done away with in favor of a new weapon map on the D-Pad — one press in any direction takes care of all of those functions. It’s a good thing since this is probably the most frantic game in the series.
Twisted Metal has always been known for its destructible environments and chaotic deathmatches. This being the series’ first run on the PS3, it’s (of course) bigger and badder than ever. Weaving a path of destruction through Sunnyville, California, the first arena, is enough to render that last sentence the understatement of the year. It’s as if the folks at Eat, Sleep, Play and Santa Monica Studios wagered to see if they could cram as much content as was in either Twisted Metal 2 or 3 into the movie theater in the middle of the city.
All of your favorite weapons, from homing and fire missiles to ricochet rockets, return. To add to the chaos, each vehicle also has two special attacks instead of the usual one. Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck can turn into the Transformer-esque robot found in earlier installments or launch a lethal homing missile. Mr. Grimm’s scythe attack is replaced by a chainsaw, which you can drag on the ground to light on fire so as to inflict up to four times as much damage on impact.