There has to be something wrong with me.
I knew the reputation of the latter PS1 Twisted Metal games. After Twisted Metal 2, development duties on the series was handed off from Singletrac to 989 Studios. They were largely a sports game developer, but they also contributed the Syphon Filter series, so it’s not like they were an especially bad pick on paper to helm the series.
Yet Twisted Metal III was pretty trash. It failed to understand what was so appealing about the first two games in the series, and instead sucked all the personality out of it.
It was my intention to move directly onto Twisted Metal 4 after my Twisted Metal III review in an attempt to push through the more derided titles and find my way to the promised land of Twisted Metal Black and Twisted Metal: Head On. However, I bounced off hard.
Memory of that moment has faded or perhaps been repressed, so I chalked it up to just having burnt myself out on the series. However, as I sat down to try again, agony crept up my fingers and clawed its way to my brain. This is not right. Something’s not right!
YOUR WISH IS GRANTED
The Twisted Metal series has invariably been about a destructive tournament where drivers with guns on their family sedans fight to the death for whatever they wish for. It’s stupid, but it has historically been presented with a dark edge that makes things feel less ridiculous.
Twisted Metal 4 either retcons the series or simply exists in its own universe. Here, Twisted Metal is some sort of traveling circus that includes the tournament. Sweet Tooth, the series’ posterboy, runs away to join this circus as a kid and rises the ranks of Twisted Metal. Eventually he tires of being a simple competitor and uses his wish to usurp Calypso, the previous leader.
Okay, let’s keep an open mind here. This is just a framework for the gameplay. Really, as goofy as it is, the story is probably one of the game’s lesser sins.
IT’S A CIRCUS OUT THERE
No, I have greater grievances with the game. Just take a look at the game’s cast. We have old favourites like Mr. Grimm mutated into a skeletal pirate named Capt. Grimm. Then a lot of the cast are ridiculous drivers like the dysfunctional family, the Joneses, and a drag queen named Drag Queen. Finally you have Rob Zombie in his Dragula.
If none of those drivers appeal to you — which, I wouldn’t blame you — you can create your own car. Kind of. In reality, the selection is pitiful. You might find a car that suits you, but there’s no reason they couldn’t just be normal drivers.
I took a pass on the custom cars. Partially because my experimentation with it went poorly, but also because I figured that I wouldn’t get to see a driver ending as a reward if there wasn’t a driver. I went with Gen. Warthog because I liked his WWI style tank. His dream is to lead the world’s mightiest army.
SLAM IN THE BACK OF MY DRAY-GYOO-LAAA!
Gosh, have you been listening so far? This is bananas. Who is this game for? The series was established with a dark edge, so I can’t imagine fans not finding themselves bewildered by how cartoonish it is. Even if you accept that, the goofiness is underpinned by Rob Zombie music and, oh my, it raps at you. It hasn’t fully shed its edginess, so it clashes against its goofy cast and its weird levels.
Okay, so Twisted Metal III had Santa’s workshop in the north pole. That was bad, but what we get here is a giant bedroom and Amazonia in 3000BC. There’s a futuristic city, for some reason, and a labyrinth. I remember when we were destroying the Eiffel Tower and driving through a ruined L.A.
Again, we’ll keep an open mind here. The level design is honestly not that bad, and at least it tries some new concepts to stay fresh. It makes a lot of use of portals, which can be disorienting, and things don’t get as inventive as it did in Twisted Metal 2, but they’re at least better than they were in Twisted Metal III.
THE LAUGHTER FADES
One of the disappointing aspects of the game is that you don’t fight that many competitors at a time. I think, at most, there’s four on the playing field, and that includes yourself. There’s up to six you face throughout the match, but they’re dropped in as others drop out. Was it like this in Twisted Metal III? I don’t recall. I know it wasn’t in Twisted Metal 2, because Holland happened.
Once you whittle down the stage’s cast, you face the boss, which is usually a character from previous games like Thumper and Mr. Slamm. Honestly, it’s a reasonable adjustment to the formula. Even though they’re a lot tougher than your standard foe, they’re a bit more fun than fighting an overpowered Minion yet again. Although, the last boss is pretty cheap in his own right.
CALYPSO! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?
I’m a bit torn on Twisted Metal 4. Not that torn.
I really want to hate Twisted Metal 4 fully and completely, but a lot of that is how it has besmirched the previous games. It’s still stuck between goofy and edgy, and I hate it. I’m tired of Rob Zombie and I can’t get behind the new casting choices.
The game itself, however. Ugh, it’s not really all that bad. The level design is a step-up from Twisted Metal III, and I’m kind of, kind of into its inclusion of classic characters as bosses to cap off each level. It still includes those stupid directional combos for things like freeze missiles and shields, which weren’t a good idea when it was first implemented, and yet, they’re still here.
So where does that leave Twisted Metal 4? I guess in the same spot that Twisted Metal III is. I hate it, but don’t hate it. I hate this trajectory that the series was on in the twilight days of the Playstation. However, the game is fine. Just fine. It’s serviceable vehicular combat. Is that all you wanted? Well, here you go.
This review was conducted on a backwards compatible PS3 using a disc based version of the game. It was paid for by the author.