If we consider David Jaffe the Roger Corman of videogames – a keen, eclectic stylist with a penchant for the absurd; equally capable of thumping thrills and schlocky silliness (and often delivering both at once) – then Twisted Metal is his Death Race 2000. This latest incarnation of the divisive vehicular shooter treads the line between remake and full-blown reboot.
The series’ rusty roll-cage is the same as it ever was. Beneath new HD paintwork, the automotive violence is loud, proud and hyperactive to the point of confusion, and the gameplay is that same old Marmite mix of lightweight physics, brilliant speed and over-the-top power-ups.
Story Mode is a tour of the game’s maps through an array of challenges sewn together by cutscenes detailing the depraved minds and driving forces of the cast. There’s a gleeful vibrancy to many, such as the Twisted Race through the mountain ridges of Diablo Pass towards a detonation pad that’ll wipe out your competition, but such highs are countered by cruel difficulty spikes and other variables thrown up later on. Juggernaut matches, in particular, which see opponents respawning from trucks that need taking down, can be hair-pulling nightmares.
The stages themselves have personalities as big and deranged as any of Twisted Metal’s crazy killers, and they’re wonderful settings for the game’s online battles. Twisted Metal shines in multiplayer and while matches can be frustratingly unpredictable, this adds to the sense of fear and punishment that typifies the game’s theme and ethos.
As such, multiplayer is Twisted Metal’s mainstay and Eat Sleep Play acknowledge it with extensive matchmaking options, throwing in split-screen and LAN support for some old-fashioned, shoulder-jabbing local play with friends. It backs up the sense that at its heart, just like it always used to be, Twisted Metal is a party game in which ideas rein supreme, at times superseding balance in pursuit of dead-end thrills.
You’ll find a number of technical issues plaguing the game, from scenery clipping to inconsistent collision and some hideously low resolution textures. But the game’s relentless dedication to giving you violent bangs for your bucks goes some way to compensating for them. Because Twisted Metal at its best delivers exactly what it sets out to: a messy, manic and tasteless treat.