It didn't take long for Twisted Metal to tug on my nostalgic heartstrings. Developer Eat Sleep Play's reboot manages to invoke memories of the original PlayStation classic--a game that carried me through a chunk of my adolescence. Despite hitting some speed bumps down memory lane, Twisted Metal on the PS3 feels like a worthwhile update to a classic series.
Like many, I wondered if the multiplayer magic was still there. Would playing online click the way it did when I played split-screen with friends all those years ago? I immediately ventured online to find out. I was ecstatic to find that the basic essence of Twisted Metal multiplayer remained intact. Power-ups littered the field and players blazed through the course trying to make roadkill out of one another with homing missiles, shotguns, and remote bombs. It was Twisted Metal, just as I remembered it.
But this Twisted Metal includes a few updates that help it feel more modern. Namely, the environment is now destructible. I watched in awe as some errant missiles missed their target and instead wound up tearing down a nearby structure. Whether I was playing a classic deathmatch or a new game mode like Nuke, the extra carnage helped cement Twisted Metal's status as a fiendish demolition derby.
Online multiplayer was like a roller coaster ride, in the sense that it was a load of fun that could end at any time. I ran into a multitude of connectivity issues throughout my time with the game and often found myself getting tossed back into the lobby in the middle of a firefight. Finding a stable session turned out to be more challenging than I had hoped. This is a major issue that I sincerely hope Eat Sleep Play will stay on top of, because simply trying to get into a game soon became a test of patience.
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As much fun as the online component of Twisted Metal was, I can't say that I had the same kind of fun with the game's single-player mode. The presentation of the story mode in itself was a head-scratcher. Rather than allow me to choose between characters and then play out the storyline from their point of view, Eat Sleep Play has opted for a more linear approach. I had my pick of any available vehicle, but Calypso's tournament now encompasses a single story. While I liked the live-action grindhouse cinema-style cutscenes that accompanied it, the narrow plot doesn't leave much incentive to replay the story mode.
Worse than its structure is the single-player's punishing difficulty level. Whereas multiplayer sees a dozen or so vehicles in an every-man-for-himself scenario, the single-player mode painted a giant bull's-eye on my car. The AI opponents all have a nasty tendency to attack in groups, one after another, with near-pinpoint accuracy. Often times, they knocked me across the map with insane pinball-like physics. It's frustrating, to say the least, and the crushing difficulty is certain to rub newer players and some Twisted Metal vets the wrong way. Individual levels contain a good variety of objectives, but they all boil down to one human versus everybody else. At the end of the day, it isn't a lot of fun.
To its credit, Twisted Metal rewards surviving these waves of run-of-the-mill opponents with interesting boss battles. One example had me facing off against a demented duo of racers, each driving a giant monster truck. Not only did I have to destroy them, but I had to do so in multiple phases. For as interesting as these fights were, however, the problem of outrageous difficulty persisted. The bosses were utterly merciless, and may only turn-off those already weary of the game.
So after a frustrating single-player experience, it's safe to say that I'll take the nearest off-ramp back to online multiplayer. After all these years, Twisted Metal remains at its best when there are fellow humans to compete with. This game feels like a vintage Camaro--a classic to be shared with others, right before they smoke the tires and lose control doing burnouts in the parking lot. As long as the networking and connectivity issues are sorted out, Twisted Metal is worth taking out for a multiplayer joyride, just stay off the single-player road.
[This Twisted Metal review is based on the retail PlayStation 3 version of the game, provided by publisher Sony.]