Seriously, someone put some water on Sweet Tooth’s head…
Twisted Metal Black was one of those games that constantly found itself being played when friends came around. The fast, frantic and often frustrating vehicular combat game was popular with parties, not least because it gave new players a chance to compete with veterans once they had got to grips with the controls. Add this to the fact that you had a bunch of bizarre characters, a collection of strange vehicles and some wide-open environments in which to play, and it is no surprise that the game was thought of so fondly. And besides, who wouldn’t want to drive around attacking other vehicles with all manner of psychopathic weaponry? More fun that you could shake a flaming clown at.
So when it was announced that a new Twisted Metal game was on the way, nostalgia kicked in. Remembering a simpler time when friends would crowd around the TV and blow each other up, I got to wondering how the game would change for this current generation, and whether it would still be as much fun.
There is an inherent problem with vehicular combat games – they are bloody difficult. For starters, the vehicle is generally moving, and when it is not moving, it cannot turn to face the opponent vehicles which are moving. And secondly, the player is expected to drive well, whilst concentrating on the other vehicles zipping around all over the place and the numerous projectiles that are invariably flying towards the player. The whole situation is a chaotic mess. But embracing that mess is what made the old Twisted Metal games so much fun, and thankfully that has not changed.
This new Twisted Metal is still just as much chaos as the older games were. There may be differing opinions as to whether that is a good thing or not. The core gameplay in Twisted Metal has remained the same, failing to evolve to the latest generation of players, who may be expecting more. The controls are complex and difficult to master, and the relatively short single player campaign offers very little more than playing a bunch of multiplayer matches with AI opponents. However, the game does have style…
The single player campaign, which is not a bad place to start if you want to get to grips with the controls before taking on your buddies, begins with the games’ enigmatic anti-hero, Sweet Tooth. The evil clown/serial killer with the flaming head, that drives an ice-cream van, enters into the Twisted Metal tournament, intent on winning the grand prize, having a wish fulfilled by the demonic Calypso, the events organiser. The fact that Sweet Tooth’s wish is to find the young girl that escaped his first murder spree really does set the tone for the game. In between the various events, the story is played out with live action cut scenes that, whilst being decidedly “B-movie” in quality, will thrill long time fans of the game.
The story will also go on to tell the tales of Doll Face and Mr. Grimm’s attempts to win the grand prize. The fact that only three characters are featured would be a concern were it not for the fact that in this game, any character can drive any vehicle. So Sweet Tooth is not limited to his tricked-out Ice-Cream van, although it has to be said that it is still a lot of fun to use. As many of the events that are part of the campaign allow the player to choose multiple vehicles, which can be changed mid-battle at the garage, it gives the player the opportunity to try out the different vehicles and find find the ones that suit their own personal play style.
The events themselves mostly consist of massive combat arenas in which the player has to simply destroy everyone else. These environments are mostly destructible and will be littered with numerous jumps and weapon pick-ups to keep things interesting. Players can regenerate health by either leaving their vehicle at the garage and changing to something else, picking up health or mounting the health regenerating semi that drives around the environment.
Every now and again, a different type of event will show up and add to the variety. Boss fights are particularly epic, both in scale and difficulty. Then there are battle races which challenge the player to actually drive to win, and cage matches which force the player to do battle in a confined area. At the end of the day, there is not really much you can do with the idea of vehicles shooting at each other, but the single-player campaign serves as a great practice ground for the joy that is multiplayer.
The multiplayer modes are satisfying, and the environments in which you play can be absolutely massive, each filled with secrets and hidden routes to learn through multiple games. Standard deathmatch and last man standing modes may well have been used to death in multiplayer games, but they are still thoroughly enjoyable here in Twisted Metal. Generally, the new modes get ignored for the classic modes that we all understand, but the new Nuke mode really deserves a mention. This team-based mode sees the players fighting to capture the opposing faction’s leader, strap him to a missile and then launch him at the opposing team’s statue. It really is completely over the top, strangely complicated and absolute madness – which fits in nicely with the overall feel of the game.
As with most multiplayer modes worth their salt, it is all tied together with an experience system which allows the player to unlock new vehicles and skills. Unusually, in this modern era of multiplayer gaming, Twisted Metal actually includes split-screen online, allowing friends in the same room to compete with others around the world – a nice touch that we don’t see often enough.
The Twisted Metal games have always been chaotic, and nothing has changed here. There has been no startling evolution of the vehicular combat genre. But surprisingly, there didn’t need to be, as the game works just as well now as it always has, and is just as much fun. It’s not particularly clever, and it can be bloody difficult at times, but this is a game made for multiplayer and, as such, will last a long, long time.