It's been a long wait for fans that have been patiently waiting for the chance to bask in the explosions, gunfire, carnage, and high-speed action that is the Twisted Metal series. Over a decade ago, Black gave the series a dark and gritty new look, and after Head-On changed things up again in 2005, it's nice to be back to the dark and twisted world of Twisted Metal.
This is one of the granddaddies of the modern combat racing genre. The series has always had an arcadey feel to it, like it belonged in an arcade cabinet, and the option to play it with up to three other people locally only strengthens that feeling. Sadly, the campaign is only limited to two players, as is playing it online with split-screen enabled.
One of the major differences between this and past Twisted Metal games is the ability to mix and match the drivers and their cars. It feels a little strange playing as Sweet Tooth outside his creepy ice cream truck, but it's a nice feature that lets you explore the many vehicles that are available without being tied down to a specific vehicle just so you can play as the character you want to be.
The game also incorporates a Grindhouse style, something that looks to be an increasingly popular trend in gaming these days. But where Alan Wake's American Nightmare only toyed with the style, never really fully committing, and House of the Dead Overkill went a little overboard with it, Twisted Metal uses it pretty successfully. The gritty feel and dark nature of the series, particularly the incredibly unique cinematics, blends well with the Grindhouse aesthetic.
But enough about that, let's get into the meat of the game, the filet mignon, if you will. This is a vehicular combat game, so it needs to excel in that area. Thankfully, it does. Driving your chosen vehicle as you swerve in and out of chaotic streets of any of the game's vast selection of maps while you dodge bullets, rockets, and massive, lumbering robotic behemoths is incredibly fun. It's all over-the-top action, brimming with explosions as each driver frantically attempts to climb to the top spot. It's also never dull, and that's a rare thing to say about video games these days.
To go with Twisted Metal's 30 maps is an equally as intimidating selection of vehicles to choose from. Some familiar vehicles make their return, like Sweet Tooth's ice cream truck, but on top of that is a bunch of new vehicles to experiment with. There's the Reaper motorcycle, Roadboat (Cadillac-esque in the way it looks), Death Warrant (a Ford Mustang), the Darkside semi truck, the Juggernaut 18-wheeler, the Vermin rodent exterminator van, and the Talon helicopter. And that's only a fraction of the new vehicles you can look forward to causing all sorts of chaos in.
If the option to mix and match drivers with different vehicles just isn't enough for you, there's also a paint shop, which allows you to mess with your vehicle's look. If your boundless appetite for customization still isn't satiated, you can use some of the newly added weapons, like a sniper rifle and shotgun, to modify your loadouts as well.
Outside of the 4-player split-screen, the real draw here is the 16-player online matches. Unfortunately, the servers seem to be having some serious issues with matchmaking, but if you're lucky enough to find a game, and more importantly, stay in it for the full match, then it's quite a bit of fun. One of the new modes that have been introduced in this game is the team-based Nuke Mode. In it each team has a massive statue they need to protect, and to destroy said statue you need to capture the other team's leader and sacrifice them to fire a missile that you can then guide toward the enemy statue. It's ridiculous, nonsensical, and insanely fun.
Twisted Metal might have a few matchmaking bugs to iron out, but once that's fixed there's more than enough content packed in to make this worth your hard-earned dollar. Twisted Metal doesn't reinvent the genre, but it's definitely a long-awaited return of a kickass series that we really need to see more of.
This review is based on a retail copy of Twisted Metal for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.