Considering I’ve been gaming for over thirty years, I’m a little embarrassed to admit the latest incarnation of the Twisted Metal franchise is my first blood-soaked taste of carmageddon, and yep I’ll admit it, I‘ve been missing out. It’s not dissimilar to when the awesomeness of peanut butter (in this case destruction derbies) and chocolate (lots and lots of guns) collided birthing Reese’s Pieces, and now that I’ve had a chance to sample this flavoursome peanut-choc sensation I’ll never look at racing the same way again.
Consider the single-player campaign your training ground, a mere snack appetiser to condition and prepare you for the main course of the piece - the insane and robust online multi-player. Plot-wise it’s pretty thin and becomes more transparent the closer you look at it so I advise you to just drink it all in with a grain of salt, check your brainpan at the door and buckle up for the ride.
An evil sonufabitch named Calypso runs a Twisted Metal tournament where competitors killify each other across various races and battle arenas using all manner of vehicular slaughter at their disposal. The prize? Calypso will grant the winner any one wish. Sounds devilishly familiar, doesn’t it? The story intertwines between three suitably twisted individuals who each want to a chance to dance with this devil in the pale moonlight.
Sweet Tooth is a serial killer who has a special place in his heart for the one victim that got away and desperately wants to be reunited with her. Ain’t love grand? Mr Grimm is a murderer who blames his loose moral values on the death of his father and wants to right that wrong and the most demented of all is Doll Face. She’s a horribly disfigured former supermodel who axes her competition literally and will do anything to regain her lost fame and beauty.
As you’re wading through each character’s story you’ll run a gauntlet of bot matches designed to gradually prepare you for entering the online fray. Think of the single-player element to Unreal Tournament III or more recently Brink and you’re on the right track. There’s a selection of vehicles ranging from muscle cars to motorbikes, vans to helicopters, semis and even a transforming ice-cream truck! The balancing is pretty decent with the usual speed trade-off for improved armour or weapons. Each track or arena is huge and littered with a plethora of death-dealers to decimate the competition with the last man standing the winner.
Each plot line crosses over with a predictable yet satisfying outcome and a final boss battle that feels like more of a test of endurance. If this was just your regular demolition derby it would get old real fast but Twisted Metal has several aces up its sleeve to really mix things up as well as incredibly clever level design featuring huge battlegrounds always hiding more than a few surprises.
Certain maps have the deadly Juggernauts, bad-boys which spawn new enemies and you’ll need to take them down hard and fast while avoiding their crippling firepower and then mop up the stragglers to advance. Others feature more traditional styled races with a twist. You’ll need to pass through gates on your way to a turnaround point to activate a bomb hidden on every single car. First man back detonates the rest. Never has second place has such explosive consequences. They usually throw a car or two significantly faster than you in the mix, so you’ll need to take then down if you want to progress or merely survive.
My favourite has to be the Cage Matches. Here you battle it out on a massive map with a moving electronic cage walling in a specific section. Each player gets a 90 second grace period outside of the cage before you start taking damage. As the cage keeps on switching position it adds a huge strategic element as you’re constantly vying for weapons and taking down the opposition ASAFP while monitoring your health and keeping one eye peeled on the mini-map wondering where the cage will end up next. Pulling off a win here is so damned satisfying you’ll need a cigarette afterwards.
While the initial training section leaves a lot to be desired, with early maps throwing you in the deep end, once you get the hang of the controls it’s one hell of a wild ride with multiplayer sure to keep you coming back for more time and time again. It’s almost always a case of frustration turning to exhilaration as you’ll barely make it away intact with a win or swallow the bitter pill of defeat and immediately begin plotting your revenge. If you’re like me and have never taken Twisted Metal out for a test drive, this is the perfect jump off point to begin your love affair with it.