Release your road rage in Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal is the eighth instalment in the vehicular combat series of the same name and the first on the PS3 from acclaimed game designer David Jaffe. Jaffe, who is well-known for his work in God of War and God of War II, had worked on six previous iterations of Twisted Metal on the PSOne and PS2 and, in appropriate fashion, brings everything fans know and love about the series to the latest outing. But is the price (Rs. 2,199 in India) an indicator of value, or of sub-par production values, a next-gen Twisted Metal experience on a budget, if you will?

The game has a lot going for it, but single player experience isn't one of them. Start the story mode and you're introduced to Sweet Tooth, a deranged murderer who plays dress-up as a clown with a flaming head. The first story arc follows him and his hunt for (spoiler alert) his daughter, who is the last surviving member of his family whom he has methodically murdered in gruesome fashion. Somehow this is tied into the overall story of a tournament involving car battles organised by a strange chap called Calypso. It doesn't make much sense and the cutscenes (featuring touched-up full motion video) are wasted on the player. There are three such arcs and everything just comes off feeling forced and convoluted.

Now, if only the game itself had such an elaborate introduction to its controls and mechanics, it would have been far more approachable than in its current state. The lack of tutorial, control customisation or explanation of controls, which are separated into vague categories such as “race” and “classic” are major flaws, resulting in an unnecessarily steep learning curve for beginners (the inverted reversing controls don't help, either). However, clock 30 minutes and you will approach something on the fringes of a comfort zone. And now comes the part where the game has a lot going for it. The action is frantic, the vehicles and their outrageous weapons are all absurdly fun, the maps serve as the perfect vehicular battlegrounds, the game modes are appropriately twisted and the gameplay is an excellent mix of strategy and mindless button mashing. However briefly entertaining, the story mode is an excellent set up for the game's core offering: the multiplayer.

So, if you're looking for a single player experience, look elsewhere, because Twisted Metal's offering is very basic. Its rudimentary arena style gameplay might be challenging but is simply no fun to play on your own after a few hours, while the game's story remains interesting for an even shorter duration (only if you can put up with the absurd voice acting and incongruous story arcs). There isn't a tutorial to speak of, and as a result, newcomers will spend the first hour figuring out the controls (shockingly, the game doesn't let you customise them) and game mechanics — a niggling issue, but one that could easily have been avoided. But all of this makes one thing clear: Twisted Metal is all about fan service and its multiplayer experience. Up to 4 players can get in on the carnage on a single console playing split-screen while 16 players can deal death online. There's a lot of fun to be had locally and online, but a little more variety in terms of characters and game modes would have been welcome.

If you're a fan of the series, you will find that Twisted Metal has made a good, if not spectacular transition to high definition gaming, while new players looking for car-based multiplayer combat will find the game interesting. Twisted Metal is available on PS3.

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