Twisted Metal just is not what it was. That is because what it was in the early days of TM1 & 2 was a car combat game made by Singletrac. Singletrac, for those of you who don't know, was a company who did a really good job on level design and car control and created really good car combat games back when car combat was not even a genre. Since then the Twisted Metal license has fallen into the hands of 989 Studios who have not done anything really impressive with it. Twisted Metal 4 adds a whole lot of new options and features but lacks in basic playability and fun.
In the continuing Twisted Metal plotline (did you know there was one?) the leader of the Twisted Metal tournament, Calypso, has been overthrown by Sweet Tooth and his gang of midget clowns. They now run the tournament, whose prize is whatever the winner desires. Entered in this year's contest are 20 different racers competing in 8 new arenas designed by the clown himself. All this is supposed to invoke a feeling of violence and mayhem but comes off pretty silly. It just seems like a way to push Sweet Tooth into overexposure as the Twisted Metal mascot.
The first thing that you will notice when you begin playing is just how quickly the game moves. The cars are fast, they corner well, and they fly across the screen. At first this seems like a good thing and it definitely would be if this were a platform game or a racing game. However, as car combat game this speedy game play really got on my nerves. Cars were constantly flying past me before e could even shoot each other and I found myself driving around circles trying to get into a fight. The radar was little help as it kept changing faster than I could adjust. I prefer the older versions where it was much easier to get into a shootout and more hits connected. Also the tradeoff of faster gameplay is less cars on the screen at once. Less cars means less destruction.
Some of the nicer aspects of the game lie in the features both before and during play. This is the first car mangling game where you can design the car from a selection of sizes, models, and colors. Then you can pick a battle cry (Hail to the King, baby!) and a special weapon. Even though there is not a lot of different cars to choose from (3 sizes and 3 designs in each size) it is nice to be able to match up a nice looking car with your favorite weapon instead of having to be stuck with the one they give you.
In a game like this level design is a key ingredient. Since you have to use all of the paths and features in a combat atmosphere, the way that everything is laid out is very important. One advantage to this game is that there are a lot of warps and teleportation devices. This makes it easy to get to those hard to reach places. The problem with the levels it that there are too many hills, cliffs, and walls. It seemed like all I was doing was going up a hill and falling off. These obstacles become increasingly annoying since the collision physics between the ramps, walls and cars are all messed up. You will find yourself flipping over after tapping the walls and getting caught between falling and hanging on to the edges. A couple of times my car got caught in the wall graphic and I was doing 130 MPH without going anywhere.
I attribute most of these problems to the speed of the game. It feels less like you are driving on a road and more like you are a puck on the ice bumping and flying all over the place. I can see how this is supposed to give it a feeling of mayhem, but after playing for a while and barely hitting anything I got really fed up with all of the speed. If there were no other car combat games out there the TM4 might be worth getting, but even its own predecessor TM2 is far superior along with the Vigilante 8 series and Rogue Trip. TM4 is just another wasted license that should have been retired long ago.
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