- Game brings back familiar characters and a demolition-derby style of vehicular combat
- Its cinematics are smartly done, with both live actors and animation
- "Twisted Metal" is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 console
"Twisted Metal" introduces a new generation of gamers to the mechanical mayhem of the smash-'em-up series' previous games, while actually adding in a little bit of a story to tie all the action together.
The new game from creator David Jaffe and Eat Sleep Play not only brings back some familiar and twisted characters, but it also reworks a demolition-derby style of combat that pits vehicle against vehicle with explosive results.
The game sticks to the basic plot of the 1995 original -- winning a tournament to gain a granted wish. In single-player mode, gamers will play three of its classic characters -- Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm and Dollface -- in succession.
Vehicles for combat are chosen before each battle. Players can usually select three for each scenario and change them out at a garage, theoretically ensuring them a nonbusted ride at all times.
Starting with Sweet Tooth's iconic ice cream truck, the virtual garage includes a motorcycle, a helicopter, a semitruck and even an ambulance that vaguely resembles Ecto-1 from "Ghostbusters." Selection is limited at first, but more vehicles are unlocked as missions are completed.
Each vehicle has its own specialized weapons -- Kamikaze has a flame thrower, while Reaper can fling chainsaws. More weapons and ammunition are scattered all over the playing field. There are also spots to restore health, so players can get a bit of a boost even if they can't make it back to their garages.
Cars can also be customized, if that is your thing, and any driver can use any car.
The battle areas vary in size and scope. Some smash-ups are played out in little towns with residents running for cover (or, inevitably, getting run over). Many of the buildings are destructible and some are even large enough to drive into and engage opponents in combat.
There is a battle-dome type area with multiple levels and hidden passageways.
A new superopponent, The Juggernaut, not only takes you on himself, but also spawns other foes who drive out of the back of his massive tractor-trailer.
Since the object of each battle is to be the last one driving, taking out the Juggernaut is something that needs to be done but doesn't happen easily.
The combat gets progressively harder as the game moves through the stories of the three main characters. Boss battles are appropriately tough, but some fights are so difficult, you'll want to snap your controller. (Resist that temptation).
The story that acts as a backdrop for the behind-the-wheel chaos makes learning about combat fun. Sure, it's all about destroying your opponents. But having a reason to do it, rather than destruction for destruction's sake, makes more sense.
Cinematics are smartly handled with both live actors and animationm, providing nice background into each character's history and reason for wanting to win the tournament.
The character Calipso returns as the ringmaster for this violent contest and has the power to grant a single wish to the winner. But be careful what you wish for.
Multiplayer action pits faction against faction and really lets a player's violent streak come through. Teams are based on popular characters from the franchise -- The Clowns, The Dolls, The Skulls and The Holy Men (led by the Preacher).
There are several game modes available to allow for split-screen action and online play. While most combat is of the last-man-standing variety, a new mode offers a bit of levity to the bloodshed.
Called the "Nuke" mode, it also requires the most teamwork. Players must kidnap an opposing team's leader, take them back to their base and then sacrifice them to a missile launcher.
The launcher then fires off a nuclear missile, which must be guided to strike a giant metal statue being held aloft by a helicopter. Do this three times and you win the match.
It is slapstick comedy with a morbid twist and is perfect for this franchise's long-established play on humor with a sense of the macabre.
"Twisted Metal" is a great outlet for mindless destruction and unintentional levity all wrapped up into neat little, blood-soaked boxes made of metal.
It isn't meant to be deep, meaningful or even realistic, but it achieves what games should be all about -- it is fun.
"Twisted Metal" is exclusive to the PlayStation 3, and available now in the United States and on March 7 in Europe. It is rated M for Mature because of blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. This review was completed with an advance Limited Edition copy for the PS3.