Developer: Eat Sleep Play
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewed by: Brendan Kelly
Twisted Metal Review
I never understood clowns. Had I ever felt the need to observe a red-cheeked, goonish creature making honking noises and falling over, I’d spend more time at my grandparents’ house (whoa, ok, it was a joke, my grandparents are not abusive alcoholics). Entirely separate from that, clowns aren’t funny. They douse themselves in elements of humour like gasoline, then set it alight and watch as nobody laughs while their dignity burns away, until all that’s left is a pair of over-sized trousers, a novelty nose and the lingering smell of shattered dreams.
I’d never played a Twisted Metal game before last week. The cover of the game was familiar; I vaguely remembered seeing a clown on a wheel thing, and, having never been very interested in racing games, had always left it alone. Then I got asked to review it by Sony, so I googled it and found out it’s not so much about racing as it is about blowing up other driver’s cars and running over their flaming corpses for extra points. I became slightly more enthused about the idea.
If Tarantino made a film about a demonic serial-killer clown with a penchant for theatrics driving an ice-cream truck, it would look like Twisted Metal. The cut-scenes are as dark and twisted as Charles Manson’s DNA, feeling like the grindhouse movies from the 1970’s that I am far too young to have any appreciation of at all, really. There’s three campaign-things, each focusing on a different character – Sweet Tooth, the aforementioned demonic serial-killer clown with a penchant for theatrics; Mr Grimm, a psychopathic biker trying to travel back in time; and Dollface, an over-paranoid wannabe super-model. The cut-scenes are over the top, mindlessly violent and brutal; they’re awesome. Although the campaigns are backed up by these very cool looking cinematic sequences, they are very short-lived as each features a few death-match style battles, one or two races, and a final boss-battle. It’s not exactly an original formula, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun.
The gameplay is where this game really stands up. In a tradition stretching back to 1995 (making Twisted Metal the longest-running Playstation exclusive franchise) the arena combat is exceptional. There’s a huge variety of weapons and vehicles to choose from, which is just as well because there isn’t a whole lot of variety – aside from the odd race and boss battle, it’s mainly just driving around and killing everything that moves. Which, don’t get me wrong, is still pretty kick-ass. Unfortunately, after a while the combat does get a little repetitive as you realise that you can drive around, pick up an arsenal of weaponry, then unload it on one driver until he is dead, then rinse and repeat. It’s fairly mindless; but then again, so am I, so I approve. The difficulty of some of the levels will be enough to see you ramming your face into the wall, largely out of frustration but also because the extreme level of violence in the game will see you quickly desensitised to all but the most excessive forms of self-expression.
Multiplayer is a strong focus for this franchise, and it shows. There’s plenty of online options, including 4-player split-screen and 16-player online battles where you can be mercilessly slaughtered by 16 foreigners at exactly the same time. It’s always a joy. The relative simplicity of the gameplay lends itself well to multiplayer, so even those who aren’t accustomed to the morbidity of watching a happy-go-lucky clown firing missiles into the face of a creepy looking doll’s head can jump online and get to killing with ease. Unfortunately, like most racing games the online lobbies are about as popular as Jesus on reddit so actually getting into an online game isn’t the easiest of feats. Once accomplished, however, the kills come fast and furious (minus the squat, toad-like frame of Vin Diesel) and for once the other drivers will attack each other, instead of all focusing their efforts on you.
Twisted Metal boasts graphics that are, well. Graphics. They’re nothing special; the cut-scenes are stylised well enough to disguise the fact that they aren’t particularly mind-blowing, while the gameplay graphics are entirely adequate. Pretty much all the scenery is destructible, so you can smash entire towers to smithereens in a very realistic looking explosion. It’s very satisfying.
In all, Twisted Metal feels like an arcade game – which is not a bad thing. I can see myself going back every now and again and blowing all kinds of hell out of some people online, or to attempt to get some of the trophies I failed miserably to obtain (seriously, some of them are utterly ridiculous. I didn’t mention them in the bulk of the review because they’re like, bonuses, or whatever, but they came up totally naturally right here at the end so here goes. COME ON. Whoever is coming up with these trophies, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! Alright, rant over. Seriously though good luck with the trophies). If you’re after a deep and meaningful experience, don’t buy Twisted Metal. If you want something innovative and new, don’t buy Twisted Metal. If you’re looking for some mindless violence to kill a few hours, or the perfect game to play with some friends, then Twisted Metal is probably worth a look: send in the clown. (I had to do it. I just had to.)