Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Twisted Metal is difficult to review but great to play. It's the sort of game you get when competent designers find a play model that works very well, and then spend 17 years refining it.
There are probably a few people reading this who don't know the history of the series. Twisted Metal was a vehicular combat game released for the original PlayStation in 1995, a project headed by David Jaffe, who went on to create God of War. We had four Twisted Metal games in the original run on the first PlayStation, some side projects like the kid-themed go-kart game Twisted Metal: Small Brawl, and a "darker and edgier" series reboot for the PS2, Twisted Metal: Black, and now we have another darker and edgier series reboot for the PS3. To be fair, this is a game about serial killers with guns strapped to their cars driving around blowing each other up and killing civilians in a contest to get a wish from the Devil (OK, a dude named Calypso who might be the Devil), and the storyline always goes "Murderous, insane contestant with twisted past makes it through the tournament, and then Calypso twists his/her wish in an awful and hilarious way, leaving everyone worse-off." Darker and edgier reboots work in this context.
Gameplay is as you would expect. You drive around large arenas in your gun-covered car and try to shoot other gun-covered cars. The cars drive well, the guns shoot well, the arenas are well-designed and often incorporate destructible elements or traps, or reconfigure themselves over time. In early Twisted Metal games, every car had its own named driver with his or her own story; this game has many cars but only three playable characters, but any character can drive any car. I assume sticking to Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, and Dollface saved money when they were putting together the heavily post-processed live action story mode cinematics. For a game this close to being the platonic expression of its own ideal gameplay I find nothing wrong with "as minimalistic a story as possible, executed with skill and polish," so I'm not missing the extra characters at all.
The real draw is multiplayer. Twisted Metal supports up to four players via splitscreen or up to sixteen online. Twisted Metal: Black was one of the few multiplayer games I really got into back in the day—I actually had a four-player adapter I bought specifically for it, because that was back when consoles only had two controller ports—and this feels… pretty much exactly like it. That's not a complaint!
Twisted Metal is basically a sports game. I have little to say about it. But nothing I have to say about it is negative; I can't even snark about trivial flaws. For what it's trying to be, it seems to be an entirely successful exercise in game design. It's not original or revolutionary in any respect, but it is exactly the game you're hoping for if you want to drive cars with guns on them and blow up other cars. If you hang out with friends on the couch and play multiplayer games this should be in your library.
This review is based on a copy of Twisted Metal provided by Sony for promotional purposes.
Previously – Eufloria