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Twisted Metal Review: Car-Car-Carnage

Twisted Metal for PlayStation 3 doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to the car combat genre, but it has added some interesting new wrinkles.  New gameplay modes and the inclusion of online multiplayer allowed for the men and women of Eat, Sleep, Play to expand level design to much larger scale and the addition of Talon, the helicopter, completely changes the dynamics of team based games.   Twisted Metal is the biggest it has ever been and still maintains the gritty, insane feel of the original.  It does what it does very well and at the same time... doesn't.  Allow me to explain.

The Story is your usual Twisted Metal fare.  Incredibly devious characters fight in a tournament and the winner gets their wish granted by Calypso.  Instead of having each vehicle having its own character, the folks at Eat, Sleep, Play cut the cast down to the three main protagonists of Mr. Grimm, Sweet Tooth and Dollface.  The cars like the Crimson Fury,  Darkside, Shadow, etc. are still there as they're the real stars of the game.  The story scenes are all played out in full motion video which I really liked.  The scenes are well done and give substance to the character being played.  For me, Sweet Tooth's campaign was the most fun even though he really is immensely creepy.  The biggest problem I had with the story was the level of frustration I felt while playing through it.  I found a few of the missions frustrating to the point of not really being fun, particularly in the Mr. Grimm and Dollface campaigns.  To top it off, I found Mr. Grimm's boss fight to be tedious and drawn out.  The ending to each story can be kind of ho-hum and unsurprising if you're familiar with the Twisted Metal series, but there actually is some wit and clever thinking in how it all unfolds.  And if you play all the way through the single player campaign, just sit tight through everything and you'll be rewarded with some additional fan service.

Now Twisted Metal would not be complete without the option of sitting down and playing together with some friends on the same screen.  Split screen supports up to four players with team and free-for-all games available like Last Man Standing, Deathmatch and Hunted.  Two players can go head to head or play cooperatively through the story.  Lone wolves aren't left out either.  After completing the story, playing through on harder difficulty will unlock vehicles and other bonuses.  There is also a challenge mode where you choose your level and number of bots to take out and destroy.  If that isn't enough, well, there's online multiplayer.

Twisted Metal takes full advantage of all that online multiplayer has to offer and it is in this arena that the game comes together for me..  The free-for-all and team based settings games are all available and the maps can support up to 16 players.  There's also a new game mode called Nuke.  This is by far the most fun online game to play in my opinion.  One team is on defense and the other offense.  Each team has a statue they have to defend and the team on offense is tasked with taking it down by hitting it with missiles.  The thing is, in order to launch one of these missiles, an enemy faction leader has to be sacrificed.  Three NPC "faction leaders" are scattered throughout the board and have to be captured by the opposition.  Once captured the player has to find a launcher that opens up to reveal what looks like a grinder.  Once the leader is sacrificed, the sacrificer then has to fly the missile into the enemy team's statue.  It is fast paced, frantic and incredibly fun especially since the defending team often has a chance of shooting the attacking missile down.  As good as it is, Twisted Metal's multiplayer is marred by a very specific set of problems.  I have really solid internet that flies but quite often I would be booted out of matches due to network or connection errors.  Many times, especially early on, it was nigh impossible to join a multiplayer room.  The online Twisted Metal experience is in need of some serious TLC.  Jumping into a match lobby is usually followed by a varied amount of waiting for the minimum number of players so the match can start.  Once the match starts, it's on, and the game plays great, even though players will often drop out leaving teams unbalanced.  Once the match is over, half of the players are gone and so more waiting ensues in the hopes of more players joining so the next match can start.
Twisted Metal has been an incredibly tough game to review because as much as I enjoyed it, I've also experienced things that irritate the heck out of me.  It's an odd bird this game.  Like I said earlier, some of the story missions are extremely frustrating, but it wasn't because the game is broken, the missions are just downright difficult.  There weren't any points in the game where I felt like the controls were letting me down.  The game is tight and plays really well.  To be fair I held off on putting my review together to give multiplayer a better chance and to see if they could fix their network/server issues.  As I write this, I'm sad to say they haven't, and that's a shame because with a great online community I think this game could really flourish and shine.  I hope it does.


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