Game Review: "Twisted Metal"

The Twisted Metal franchise was the feather in Sony's cap for the original Playstation, offering up moments just as console-defining as Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil.  Its homicidal blend of racing and automotive combat was the sort of fresh lunacy that cribbed from prior titles like Carmageddon and, to a degree, Mario Kart while getting its own distinctive look and feel out on the market.  It was followed by a few fair-to-middling sequels before redefining itself on the Playstation 2 with the incredibly dark Twisted Metal Black, which earned its M-rating with a deeply psychotic take on the franchise.

The new Twisted Metal tries to crib a bit from both the original title and the bleak Black, while keeping itself true to the series old-school roots.  In fact, it sticks so close to the original that it becomes its own worst enemy.

The plot of the new Twisted Metal is a familiar trope: a group of psychopathic drivers enter in a competition sponsored by the mysterious Calypso, with the prize being a Faustian deal where they will have their ultimate wish granted.  The single-player campaign follows a mere three drivers: the killer clown Sweet Tooth, the somber Mister Grimm, and the psychotically vain Dollface.  Their stories are presented using grindhouse-style cinematics, keeping the grotesque spirit of Twisted Metal Black alive.

Once you're in the game proper, it's business as usual for Twisted Metal: either racing or razing your opponents until you're the last car left on the track.  However, the superior horsepower of the Playstation 3 now has the game world being just as subject to your violence as your opponents.  Destructible houses, buildings, and landmarks all become potential collateral damage in your bid to win the tournament.  It becomes just as sickly satisfying to ram your opponents through the side of a suburban model home as it is to pepper them with machine-gun fire.  It's the sort of physically impossible event that defined Twisted Metal in the late ‘90's, but slightly upgraded for modern processors.

This is the main problem I have with Twisted Metal as an updated title.  These slippery physics and wonky feelings of weightlessness were to be expected, and accepted, on the limited hardware of the Playstation 1.  These maddening, non-Newtonian reactions in a game in 2012 are not nostalgic, they're annoying.  After years of being weaned away from slip-sliding all over the map in newer racing titles, having to be thrown back into the thick of frictionless physics is jarring and obnoxious.

Exacerbating the obnoxiousness of the physics is the fact that the computer-controlled players don't seem to be affected by this, bringing the level of difficulty in the game to an almost punishing level.  They are built to work within this bizarre sense of gravity, and they will easily obliterate you at every turn even as you struggle to remember how you used to function like this 15 years ago.