If you’ve played any of the Twisted Metal games before, this particular entry in the series needs no introduction. If you haven’t, only slightly more than no introduction is required – it’s a game where you, adopting the persona of a complete maniac, drive a variety of souped-up vehicles around a level (in suitably maniacal fashion) with the intention of causing absolutely the maximum amount of damage possible in a finite amount of time. There’s sort of more of a backstory, about a crazy dude named Calypso and a tournament and yadda yadda, but the window-dressing of a plot is just enough excuse to gather a bunch of hilariously maleficent misfits together on the same track and make them shoot each other (and everything around them) dead.
To this end, there’s a huge variety of drivable vehicles to choose from, from sports cars to big rigs to police SUVs, motorcycles, even an ice cream truck. All of them, of course, are significantly more lethal than their real-world counterparts, being equipped with a primary rechargeable weapon and the capability to carry secondary sidearms. There’s even a helicopter, whose obvious advantage the designers have balanced by making it one of the game’s most fragile vehicles. Nevertheless, seeing an opponent hovering over you in the aptly-named Talon gives you good cause for panic, because you’ll likely be snatched up, lifted into the air, and unceremoniously dropped, sustaining a back-breaking amount of damage. The controls are responsive and easy to use, almost to a fault, as any of the cars available to drive (even the big ones) can corner on a dime – though that’s little disappointment as this is definitely a game where reality gets put on the chopping block in the service of fun.
One big difference between this Twisted Metal and previous editions is that choosing a driver character doesn’t stick you with their signature ride; you can mix and match maniacs and motorcars to your heart’s content. Moreover, you can customize each car’s accessories and paint job. Of course, the most enjoyable (and useful) way to personalize your car is to equip it with ridiculous weaponry, which you actually can’t do in the menus, but can accomplish by snatching up any one of the various firearms which litter each level like delicious, death-spewing candy. Machine guns, shoguns, smart and dumb missiles, even napalm are all available for the sole purpose of blowing up as much shit as possible.
Which is a big task, to say the least. All of the maps are enormous, and feature just staggering amounts of destructible buildings; since you need to tear-ass around the level searching for guns and ammo, the focus is almost as much on demolishing your surroundings as it is on destroying your opponents There are several single- and multi-player game types, most of which revolve around the sheer joy of messy, violent vehicular combat. The story mode is fairly engaging, and contains some pretty outlandish levels that will have you hopping off roofs, dodging juggernaut cars that zoom around repopulating levels with enemies, and battling monster bosses and flying robots that are heart-stoppingly huge. The boss fights are broken into multiple stages, and none of them are easy; fortunately, after death you can restart from the end of a stage rather than having to replay the entire sequence.
Two players can play split-screen story mode, which is a hell of a lot of fun as nothing adds more zest to the onscreen mayhem as another human brain throwing its powers of creative demolition into the mix. Sadly, there is no co-op online mode, which would have been almost preferable – as fun as it is sitting next to the person you’re busting heads with, the split-screen gets to feeling little cramped. There is online deathmatch, however, supporting up to 16 players, as well as AI (which are always your de facto enemies; you learn real quick that these computer players hate nothing so much as slimy meatbags, and will routinely give preference to searching you out for a kill). There are also a few other simple but enjoyable and suitably ruthless game types, such as “last man standing” which pits everyone against a single unfortunate player in a high-octane, high-explosive game of death-tag. Online play currently suffers from some glitches, like connection dropouts trying to join games or just plain dropping you in the wrong game type altogether. On the whole, though, for a couple hours of intense, unabashedly and willfully violent vehicular manslaughter of everything in sight, it’s hard to imagine how the concept could be done any better.