Review – Twisted Metal III

In my youth, I never really got to play anything past Twisted Metal 2 on the PS1, but the knowledge that there were further sequels was tantalizing. I think I maybe caught glimpses of Twisted Metal III and Small Brawl, but that just stoked my craving for more vehicular combat.

I never did get around to playing the other PlayStation 1 titles, but I heard their reputation. Complaints of wonky physics, bad level design, new developers (989 Studios replacing Singletrac), and Rob Zombie didn’t go by unappreciated, but if you know me, you’d know there’s no dissuading me from a bad idea. So, here I am, finally diving into Twisted Metal III. I have to see the wreck for myself. I have to confirm the fatality. I need to know if this is really as bad as people say it is.

Yep. That is a blurry Grandma.

WELCOME, DRIVER

The first thing I noticed about Twisted Metal III is grandma. The opening video depicts a number of familiar faces duking it out in alleyways with their heavily armed sedans, then suddenly: grandma. She’s driving this year’s version of the Hammerhead monster truck, no less.

Twisted Metal has never really been the most straight-faced of games, but I’ve come to know it for having a pretty dark edge. Some of the ending videos could be a little goofy, but the humour has at least stayed pretty dark. 989 Studios obviously didn’t see Twisted Metal in the same light, because the game is goofed up to the nines.

The dark comic book aesthetic has been swapped out for some gross looking Playstation 1 3D animations. The death and destruction have been toned down so the whole competition plays out like some sort of joke. Then on top of this, there’s mystifyingly a soundtrack heavily featuring Rob Zombie. Confused is the word I’d use to describe it. A clash of two different mindsets. A creative force favouring a darker tone versus one that wants to redesign the game for kids. I’d probably be okay if it focused on either direction, but instead, we’re somewhere in the middle. A place where old ladies intersect with gore and destruction.

THE TRUCK STOPS HERE

The gameplay, on the other hand, isn’t any worse off. The biggest change has to do with the aforementioned physics engines, but where some critics have decried it, I didn’t have any major issues with it. It’s a smidge more realistic than the previous two games, featuring a similar control scheme but different handling. I can’t say I prefer it, especially when cars seem to readily flip over at the slightest agitation, but I don’t feel the game is worse off for adopting it.

Where the game is worse off, however, is with the level design. Again, I’m probably not as down on it as some of the critics I read, but it is undeniably worse than what was found in Twisted Metal 1 and 2. Most of the levels are open fields, leaving you just boxed in with your opponents. The ones that do have more offshoots and obstacles are slightly underwhelming. Aside from the presence of Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole stage, it’s a decent level, and London is confusing and ugly, but at least there’s more room to play. Hanger 18, on the other hand, is straight garbage and the obligatory rooftop stage doesn’t compare with the rooftops of New York or Los Angeles.

Not that every stage in the previous games were winners, but they at least had style. There was something of a brutality to each stage; a hidden edge that underlined the destruction. Here, they’re all pretty ugly and have no personality. Again, you can sense the change in direction. The utter lack of identity is pervasive.

Yep. That is Santa’s Workshop.

AS BAD AS PEOPLE SAY IT IS

It even manages to suck some of the charm out of the previous games. I always found Calypso’s voice from the second game to be well realized and creepy. Part of the was because he was only there to introduce the tournament, then screw you over with your prize. Here, he’s more like an omnipresent friend who constantly hovers around you. He introduces every level with the tone of voice that sounds like he’s casually punctuating every sentence by gently elbowing you in the ribs. What I’m saying is, it kind of ruins his mystique when he’s so chummy with you.

This problem bleeds into the ending as well, but I mean, when you consider the monster truck grandma, what do you expect? I don’t want to really ruin any of them since they’re essentially your incentive for completing the game, but they’re all awful. The previous games were somewhat brilliant in their endings. Each character had an interesting backstory that supported their wish, while the endings mixed in your typical Monkey’s Paw, “be careful what you wish for” with scenarios where characters actually get revenge on Calypso. Here, however, some of the characters have innocuous wishes, like Sweet Tooth’s wish to eat all the candy and ice cream that he wants. It invariably turns out bad for the characters, usually in the most ludicrous ways, so the whole story is incredibly formulaic and unimaginative.

I’m not sure I’m getting the point across, so let me try to be clear: this whole game has the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. It’s as flavourless as a dehydrated cardboard box. It’s as bland as a bureaucrat convention. Get me?

MONKEY’S PAW

Twisted Metal III’s major issue comes down to its personality. The previous games knew what they were about and they pushed it hard and with a certain panache that is made all the more appreciable after playing this entry. It’s so confused. It seems to want to remove the edginess of its predecessor, but it refused to go all the way. So now the violence is a lot more cartoon-ish, but Rob Zombie crunches away in the background.

The game itself is fine, however. The level design kind of sucks, but the combat itself is still a lot of fun. If anything, it feels a little too similar to the previous games, physics aside. Even the horrible button combo to pull off special moves has been retained for some reason. I guess what it comes down to is if you like Twisted Metal, but thought it would be better if it was far blander, then you’ll love this entry. If you’re a person with a soul, however, Twisted Metal III is not what you wished for.

4/10

This review was conducted on a backwards compatible PS3 with a disc copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.

About Adzuken 150 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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