Back in the day, during the original PlayStation era, Sony introduced "Twisted Metal," an all-new video game franchise that redefined the car combat genre. By taking insane characters (some literally) and placing them in an over-the-top destruction derby with the grand prize being their hearts deepest most desire, the then unknown David Jaffe and team won the hearts and minds of new PlayStation owners. It's been over 15 years since the franchise's original release, but this February Sony is bringing back Sweet Tooth and some of his demented friends for "Twisted Metal"'s first appearance on the PlayStation 3.
The video game landscape has changed drastically since the last full-scale "Twisted Metal" game was released for a console, with "Twisted Metal Black" in 2001. Back then, the PlayStation 2 had just been released, and its impending market dominance had not yet taken over. "Twisted Metal" saw four releases on the previous console, but only one release (and a PSP port) on the PS2, with an on-line only follow up, released to anyone that purchased the Network Adapter. That last part is the biggest fundamental changed about the next "Twisted Metal," it was designed as an online multiplayer game from the very beginning.
Bringing together a team that has a history working on the series, with the two best games in the franchise, "Twsited Metal" and "Twisted Metal 2," best represented, the team at Eat, Sleep, Play, have developed the latest entry in the franchise with a more "realistic" approach. According to Chad Cox, the game's Producer, while the over-the-top gameplay is still there, everything needs to be "believable," at least to the extent that David Jaffe can rationalize it. Bear in mind that, though some concessions had to be made, gameplay was rarely sacrificed, at least, not if it was fun. Really, those seem to be the core elements of "Twisted Metal": fun combat, over-the-top gameplay, and multiplayer that you can keep playing for hours and hours.
While the essence of the classic games is definitely felt throughout the latest release, long time fans need to beware: there have been some serious changes made to the "Twisted Metal" formula. First, and most noticeably, most of the characters are gone. The single-player revolves around only three characters, Sweet Tooth, Dollface, and Mr. Grimm, and the multiplayer has been restructured to feature factions based on these three characters instead of personalities.
The cars (and helicopters – another big change) that you can choose from are really the things that offer individuality in the game. Cox took me on a tour of the game's 17 vehicles, each with their own primary and secondary attacks, none of which felt rehashed from earlier in the series (with the exception of Axel). Magnets, EMPs, dead guys with dynamite strapped to them, and chainsaws are just a few of the vehicles' special attack weapons, making each entrant feel unique, which, in turn, makes for an amazing mix in multiplayer.
Fans of the series will be able to jump right into the game, as the controls have remained mostly unchanged. There are a few new things that you're going to have to learn, like sniping and aiming at helicopters, but after a couple games, everything should come back to you. It's just like riding a bike… with homing rockets on it.
Overall, the games' four years of development, complete with release delays, seems to be paying off. The new "Twisted Metal" is on pace to be the first worthwhile car combat game of this console generation. Besides, what other game lets you kick a sick guy, strapped with dynamite, out of the back of a moving ambulance targeted at your opponents. The answer – none.