The Twisted Metal series has always served one purpose in the video game universe: fast-paced car combat. Sure, there is an ever growing cast of demented characters and ironic twist endings that wish they had the clout of The Twilight Zone, but the draw is the fighting. The series has staked out a brand in being the violent car game and nothing will change that. Does the new Twisted Metal for PS3 meet that standard? Yes. Once you get used to the control quirks, it's easy to turn on a dime and gun down your opponents in interactive death arenas. You unlock vehicles, weapons, and racers quickly.
There is a problem with how the controls are taught. The online demo immediately showed you how everything from jumping to reverse driving worked. In the game itself, this is skipped over unless you catch a random loading screen that says what to press to use an item or do a driving trick. The controls make sense when you learn them, but they aren't presented in game like they could easily be.
As always, each vehicle has its own unique advantages that allow for every imaginable style to be playable. Will you race through the stage to stockpile weapons and avoid conflict? Track each opponent down one by one as the big aggressor? Use precision attacks to snipe out anyone who crosses your path? Or, as this version adds in, soar above the competition in a helicopter and track the action without getting into the fray? The choice is yours and, for once, the balance between speed, armor, and specialty powers feels fair.
Twisted Metal does have a problem with repetition in the story mode. At one point, story mode was the real focus of the series. There has always been multiplayer combat. The original completion goal was to go through many levels of combat with each combatant, learning their story and watching them face the reality of their short-sighted winning wish at the hands of game maker Calypso.
In this latest edition, the story is a progression through a few of the more memorable characters. This avoids some of the "and now do it again with him" pitfalls of the original structure. Unfortunately, for all the effort put into striking cut scenes and character development, the stages quickly repeat themselves with minor alterations. Instead of gunning down one tractor trailer that hatches extra opponents, you gun down two. Instead of fighting in electric pens in a city, you fight in electric pens in a theme park. There is no relationship between the drivers, no major hindrance or challenge thrown up, that makes the diversity in the stages go beyond window dressing. Co-op is a nice addition, but it does nothing to alter the basic problems of the story mode.
I can only assume that most people interested in a Twisted Metal game in 2012 are more concerned with online play. The PS3 is more than ready to handle the task. You connect quickly, set your options, and get right to fighting over and over in various modes. You can fight against random opponents, online friends, or even with friends sitting next to you on the couch and the Internet.
Twisted Metal succeeds in providing a stylish makeover to a longstanding franchise for multiplayer games. It falls short in providing a satisfactory single person story mode. However, as the focus of the series has always been (and will always be) combat, it only makes sense that the online multiplayer was given the most attention. It shows. Fans will be satisfied and casual players might find some value in a rental.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.