Review – Twisted Metal 2

When speaking of my childhood, I often describe my younger self as a die-hard Nintendo fangirl, but that might be inaccurate. In the days before the weight of reality crushed my childhood, I often spent time on other consoles belonging to my friends and relatives. For example, many of my mornings saw me deposited at childhood friend’s house where I’d plop in front of his Playstation before school would start. Among my favourite obsessions was Twisted Metal 2. My love ran deep for the game, as I’d plumb its depths for secret codes and hidden areas.

I still have an appreciation for the series. Vehicular combat is a simple concept, but it’s one that caught on in the late ‘90s, and Twisted Metal is largely to blame. Even though it isn’t the progenitor of the sub-genre, it showed that with enough attitude, it could be wildly successful. It has since almost completely disappeared, but it’s always fun to go back and see such relics in its heyday.

It was October 1996, and one month earlier, Super Mario 64 had shown the world that 3D polygons could be used for more than just flight simulators and driving games…

Does… does the Amazon really have this many volcanoes?

OCTOBER 1996

It’s one year after the original Twisted Metal and last year’s festivities have left the city of Los Angeles in ruins. Calypso, the omnipotent brain behind the competition, decides that this year’s event will have to take place around the globe. Once again, the winner of the competition will be granted whatever wish they hold in their heart.

Whoa, let me back up. Twisted Metal is a competition where entrants mount guns to their family sedan and blow each other apart. On that note, I always assume that there were dozens of entrants and the game just abbreviated it to the few depicted to keep things memorable and simple, but Calypso states in the intro that “12 of the best drivers” are participating, which blows that theory out of the water. How a dozen or so driver destroyed an entire city is a little murky.

WHATEVER YOUR HEART DESIRES

Not that the story should be taken seriously. A number of the drivers have been carried over from the previous game, and how they survived a winner-takes-all battle royale with their lives isn’t established. For that matter, who won? I’m guessing Outlaw since their biography implies that they were the victor, and I drove as them in the previous game so I’m biased.

Anyway, the cast is easily the best part of these games, and Twisted Metal 2 makes some appreciable upgrades to it. Some of the new characters, like Grasshopper and Shadow, are pretty forgettable, they’re made up for by the inclusion of Axel and Mr. Slam. Axel in particular is an awesome addition, with both a strange design and a unique backstory. Outlaw also makes an updated appearance with a female driver, so I’m all set.

Sweet Tooth has to be unlocked with a code, which is a little strange, but whatever. He still appears in the campaign itself, so you certainly won’t miss the charming cadence of his laugh.

The level design is pretty bananas.

RUSTED STEEL

The presentation got the best upgrade. Rather than the tacky live-action look of the characters, everything has been given a ‘90s-era comic book art style. The cutscenes are absolutely fantastic, showing still cutouts slinging words at each other. They’re all really creepy and it fits the vibe of the game really well.

The graphics as a whole are improved. Walls still warp under the Playstation’s lack of texture filtering, but it’s not quite as pronounced as the previous game. Cars seem to have more detail to them, but the biggest improvement to it is the levels themselves. They’re much bigger, more detailed, and, due to the worldwide setting, they’re more diverse. Not all of the tracks are winners, but there’s a decent variety available, so there’s something for everyone.

The music isn’t mixed quite as low as it was in the first game, which allows you to better hear how awkward it is. I had a discussion with my husband about it, and we couldn’t place it as a genre. Some of it is this pulsing orchestral stuff, while others are what I tried to describe as “hard pop rock.” Growling guitars with upbeat melodies. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just awkward.

WAH-HAH-HAH! WAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!

As for the gameplay itself, not much has changed. It’s still chaotic, and it’s still dead simple. There isn’t much strategy available, aside from the classic “run and find as many weapons as possible and spam them in the direction of your target.” It did get a little frustrating in the later levels as huge swarms of cars are put together in the same arena with very little cover. These stages seem to boil down to luck, mostly.

Or so I thought, then I found out there are special moves that you execute by pressing a combination on the D-Pad. I’m not joking, it’s the most poorly implemented system in the game. I didn’t even find out about it until I got frustrated in Holland and looked up a strategy guide. It said to use your shield often, which left me confused, because… Shield? So, yeah, up-up-right activates a shield. You’re welcome because no one else will tell you this fact. Maybe it’s in the manual but… Hold on…

No, the instruction manual doesn’t mention shields.

Yes, this shield exists.

I AM CALYPSO

Twisted Metal 2 is a clear improvement over the first game, but it still suffers from age-related problems and some obtuse design. What’s with the button combos? It gets more frustrating towards the end, especially if you don’t realize there’s a shield, but everything is made worth it when the game caps off with a memorable and awesome boss battle.

That’s exactly what Twisted Metal 2 nails; its personality. It has that grungy, late-90’s, attitude-era vibe to it. The comic book-esque cutscenes and creepy voice acting complete the package. All the drivers have had their personalities tuned to perfection, and the new additions round everything out nicely. If you were looking for the fun of Twisted Metal but with more content and refinement, your wish has been granted.

7/10

This review was conducted using a PS3 and a digital copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 158 Articles
Adzuken has been gaming for as far back as they can remember. Their eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer.

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