In 1997, Twisted Metal creator, Singletrac, was purchased by GT Interactive, severing it from the series which was owned by Sony. The success Singletrac had working with Sony would never be replicated, and the studio would be shuttered in 2000 after GT Interactive was bought out by Infogrames. Don’t worry, though, Singletrac would reform as Incognito and go back to work for Sony on Twisted Metal Black and Twisted Metal: Head On… before going defunct again. This story does not have a happy ending.
The Twisted Metal series would go to 989 Studios who would produce two entries that I absolutely hate. Singletrac, on the other hand, would go to produce a series of games no one remembers. Perhaps the most interesting among these forgotten titles is Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012. It was 1998, the year that would see Vigilante 8 steal Twisted Metal III’s thunder, and here was a game by some of the developers of the original Twisted Metal games.
No, not David Jaffe.
BOW DOWN TO BIG DADDY
If you read my reviews of Twisted Metal III or Twisted Metal 4, you’ll know that I plaintively bemoaned the games’ lack of personality. The dark edge that defined the first two games had been ripped into two directions, teetering on the fulcrum of dark and wacky. Don’t misinterpret my complaint, I wasn’t whining about the series steering away from its dark roots, but rather that it couldn’t make up its damned mind.
Rogue Trip knows what it is, though it too straddles the line of dark and wacky. It’s the unimaginably distant year of 2012 and the world is in ruins. Amongst the desolation, a tyrannical entrepreneur, Big Daddy, builds a hedonistic paradise for all the tourists left on the planet. Those privileged enough are able to escape the horrors of the post-apocalypse, and shut out the despair beyond.
You are an “auto mercenary.” Your job is to infiltrate Big Daddy’s paradise, grab a tourist, and show them the sights, cashing in on their fare. Competing with you are a number of fellow auto mercenaries, and there aren’t enough tourists to go around, so things could get a little violent, if you know what I’m saying.
THE DESOLATION OF THE YEAR 2012
It’s a rather bizarre premise, but it’s not so warped to make the core vehicular combat unrecognizable. On the contrary, the game is so Twisted Metal it hurts. The control scheme is practically identical, and do you remember the button combos that I hated so much? The ones that allowed you to fire ice missiles and put up a shield? They’re still here, much to my chagrin.
The weapons are all changed, the drivers are all new, but it plays the same: lob your arsenal at other cars until their health depletes and they explode.
So where do the tourists come into play? Each stage has one tourist, and picking them up or stealing them from an opponent starts putting cash in your coffers. You can get bonus money by shuttling them to photo ops around the map. This cash is used to either repair your car or upgrade your weapons. It’s the only way to get health, so if you want to survive, it’s a good idea to play tour guide for a bit on each level.
You’re also allotted three lives to complete the game. I mostly got through by quitting and loading every time I died, but you can also get extra lives by banking 30k at the end of the level. Good luck with that.
MUST GET TO SAFETY!
I felt that one of the strongest aspects of the early Twisted Metal games was the diverse cast. Psychopathic clowns, self-righteous police officers, a guy stuck between two big tires; you could generally find someone to fit your theme. Rogue Trip gets this both right and wrong. It has a diverse cast, but good luck finding someone who suits you. You’ll probably just pick the hot dog car, which I defiantly did not.
The problem is that the cast is so outlandishly weird. You have a cross parody of Batman and Mickey Mouse named Ratman, a former beauty queen who fires poodles, and a grotesque Elvis impersonator, just to name a few. Sure, they’re funny, but are they really characters you can relate to on any level? It’s not that much of a problem when you’re behind the wheel, so maybe just pick the car that looks nicest.
You’re then sent through 12 levels of carnage in the campaign, and really, I found them to be pretty enjoyable. They’re all twisted parodies of real American tourist traps, so you’ll find yourself in Washington D.C.’s Mall or the earthquake ravaged streets of San Francisco. Better yet, they’re all very destructible, so you can plow through houses and topple skyscrapers. It’s a nice mix of colourful and bleak.
THE LAST HURRAH? NAH! I’D DO IT AGAIN
The soundtrack is probably going to be divisive, as it is very 1998. What I’m saying is: I hope you like ska. The track for the opening level is straight up by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and while I found it to be pretty agreeable, I know some people just hate ska.
One big letdown is the unfortunate lack of individualized storylines, like you found in the Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8 games. Over there, each driver had their own motivation for competing, but here, I guess it’s just money? Each driver technically has their own ending, just don’t expect to see their hearts’ desires. It kind of kills some of the replay value.
All-in-all, I really enjoyed Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012. I actually purchased my copy of it back before I started collecting games in earnest, so it’s a little beat up and is missing the manual. However, if I hadn’t been adventurous enough to try it out, I may have overlooked this gem completely. Instead, I feel a kinship with it, not just because of its relation to Twisted Metal, but because I feel like it almost belongs to me. This is my treasure. I dug it up all by myself.
It helps that it’s a good game in its own right. It may not be the pinnacle of vehicular combat, but I think it might be difficult to pin that title to any game in general. As it stands, it’s a fun little detour in the world of weaponized sedans, and I kind of wish it wasn’t as forgotten as it is. The vehicular combat genre is mostly without a pulse these days, but I hope that somehow, someday, we can embark on another Rogue Trip.
This review was conducted on a backwards compatible PS3 using a disc copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.