Vehicle combat. Lovely idea isn’t it? Hopping into your choice of hell-bringer and going all out to destroy anything else that moves is enough to get most pulses quickening a little, but as we found in our recent review of Smash ‘n’ Survive it’s not always a recipe for tasty gaming. In fact, the very nature of vehicles (which generally tend to be unwieldy and slow to turn round) make it a very difficult prospect to turn into a fun game, and with the Americans loving the Twisted Metal series it was with great intrigue that I fired up Eat Sleep Play’s latest to see what was what.
The news is a little mixed, but it’s a far more positive experience than others we’ve found recently. Early impression are baffling to say the least with the controls contradicting practically every other driving game ever made. Out go the standard trigger-based controls with square and circle getting you moving and slowing you down, and every other button on the controller having its own seemingly randomly assigned function. For the first few sessions it’s a pain in the backside, with all natural muscle memory insisting you hammer R2 to get away from a pursuing enemy – this time round though you’ll just drift to an embarrassing and potentially lethal standstill. When you get the hang of it then the game does click into place, but it’s enough to make you want to give up for a while.
This isn’t helped by the single player campaign that is insanely tough at times, mainly down to the fact that someone forgot to tell the other fighters in the arena that they’re allowed to battle with each other, instead focusing all attention on you. It’s remarkable; even if you’re on the other side of the map and there’s a cluster of 4 others off in the distance, they’ll still ignore each other and make a bee-line for you. It makes an exciting battle a fight for survival, and if that’s what the game was set up as then it would have hit its objectives comfortably. But the campaign modes are nice and varied, with some great boss battles thrown in to mix things up around the tricky battles, and some game modes are great – the cage matches are a particular highlight, expecting you to stay without an electronic boundary to avoid losing health. With the cage changing position every minute or so, it forces you to battle at close quarters while having to choose whether to risk a quick dip outside to pick up more weapons or health. But in a game that, as we soon realised, was best online it seemed odd that we couldn’t play cage matches with folk elsewhere.
So, we jump online. The single player campaign is nice enough, but you can’t help but think that this was always a multiplayer game with a campaign plugged into it. And so it turns out to be, with some pretty decent success. Finding a game is easy enough, certainly at times when you’ll find American awake and online, and hook in a few friends and you’ll have a great time. Game modes are what you’d probably expect and are limited to a couple of deathmatch options but, as previously mentioned, not the cage matches that are so enjoyable in the main campaign. There’s also a capture-the-flag type game where you need to capture the opponents’ leader, take them to a fairly gnarly person-to-nuke-converter-machine-thing and fire the missile at the other team’s giant mascot dude half way across the map. It’s probably my favourite online mode, partly down to the frantic action when the missile is launched and partly down to the bite-sized chunks that divide the game into a few minutes at a time. It’s tough, and those who play the game a lot and know the maps inside out will be at an advantage when reaching the leaders, but it’s good fun.
The initial release of Twisted Metal was criticised heavily for the online issues that stopped users from easily joining games, but this seems to have been pretty much sorted for the UK release. Our review copy updated to version 1.06, then soon after ticked over to 1.07 so the updates have clearly been coming thick and fast to sort out the initial problems. I was more put out by the bizarre controls that I really struggled to get the hang of, and the fact that vehicles just don’t make nimble fighting machines when being hunted down by every enemy and their dogs. But let’s not get this wrong, Twisted Metal is a very decent title, and fans of previous entries in the series will be pleased with what they find. Don’t expect amazing visuals (because they’re not) and don’t expect instant playability (because it’s not) but instead look forward to a frantic experience that will give you a solid offline challenge and a good laugh online. And if nothing else, rest easy that it’s roughly 17 times better than Smash ‘n’ Survive.
Reviewed on PS3