Twisted Metal is an unashamed, full-blooded throwback that has been dressed up to look like something much less antiquated. Against all odds it’s a cocktail that’s far from unappealing – if you’re in possession of the mandatory mettle, that is – and it spends as much time and effort doggedly pursuing its own “personality” as it does ensuring that the gameplay never falls into monotony. It has absolutely no business having its well-earned 18 certificate, and yet the bite of all that violence and profanity does make the single-player campaign immeasurably more appealing than it otherwise would have been. It has a very PSOne attitude towards “attitude”, and in turn the gameplay is every bit as archaic.
Twisted Metal doesn’t take very long at all to get murderously frustrating, but this is a game that demands that most out-dated of virtues: patience. Each track is essentially a puzzle, and no single technique is guaranteed to work more than once. Holding a chaotic, 12-person race on the side of a cliff face – narrow roads and all – may seem like an idiotic design choice at first, but once you’ve strategised (and selected the appropriate tools for the job) everything quickly falls into place. Other flourishes – like the fact that you’re only allowed to miss a finite number of the track’s small checkpoint posts – seem downright demented until you take a moment to ponder on exactly which shortcuts benefit you the most.
Not all of it works though. Cage matches involve you having to stay within the confines of a (constantly shifting) transparent grid, and whilst things definitely get easier once you’ve learnt some of the tracks, the area is never marked out that clearly for you; meaning that you’re constantly forced to follow your opponents around, which wouldn’t be a problem if the AI weren’t so fiercely and relentlessly aggressive. Thankfully (and wisely) Cage matches aren’t on the multiplayer roster, and multiplayer is where most people will be spending most of their time. It’s refreshingly bereft of frills, and as moreish as all hell.
Maintaining with the old school vibe, Twisted Metal also features something that should never have lost so much favour with so many modern developers: four player competitive split-screen. It’s a deeply thoughtful addition that (like everything else) is a ploy to curry favour with long-term fans, but if you get the chance to experience it that way, it represents probably the most entertaining way to play. The bizarre default control scheme feels distinctive and genuinely beneficial after a while, and the challenging single player campaign is tough without ever resorting to abject cheapness. This Twisted Metal is undoubtedly a throwback, but it’s a very welcome and astute one nevertheless.
Twisted Metal is available now for the Playstation 3.
Watch the launch trailer for Twisted Metal below: