Given how crammed full of different match types the single-player campaign is, we were expecting to see something similar from multiplayer. So it was disappointing to find that multiplayer matches are constrained to just seven basic match types: deathmatch; Last Man Standing (like deathmatch, but with limited lives); Hunted (one player is the target, and his/her killer then becomes the next target); team variations of those three; and Nuke, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Don’t get us wrong: the basic match types are a lot of fun. The action, as always, is superfast and almost hilarious violent, with death coming swiftly and repeatedly (thankfully, a new vehicle and a fresh respawn are usually just a few seconds away). And while the match types are “simple,” the maps – eight in all, if you don’t count the smaller, sectioned-off versions of the larger ones – are just as huge, fun to explore and filled with hidden secrets and strategic opportunities as they are in single-player.
Even so, given how much potential the single-player campaign hinted at, we were hoping to be able to set up our own death races or electric-cage matches. No such luck. Again, that’s a surprise in a series that’s traditionally been very multiplayer-focused.
On the other hand, single-player doesn’t have Nuke. An exclusively team-based game mode, Nuke makes players take turns playing offense and defense. Offensive players have to find and capture the opposing team’s “leaders” (who aren’t player-controlled and hang out in stationary turrets), then drag them over to the nearest missile truck. Once they’re in range, they’ll need to stick close to the truck until a meter fills up, at which point they can “sacrifice” the leader to the truck.
Pull that off, and the real fun begins. The truck will fire off a missile, which you’ll be placed in full control of, and which you’ll need to guide into the opposing team’s statue, a massive neon effigy of their leader (i.e. Sweet Tooth, Dollface, etc.). This is actually tougher than it sounds; the missile moves fairly slowly and can’t climb too high, so the opposing team actually has a pretty good chance of shooting it down. Get it past them, however, and you’ll score a point and be one step closer to destroying the statue.
Like anything else that’s this elaborate, Nuke can be frustrating if you fail at the last second, but otherwise it’s a uniquely fun and involving departure from the other, more straightforward multiplayer modes.
Whether you’re playing solo or multiplayer, though, Twisted Metal is a pretty compelling package. The carnage is uniquely fun, the cutscenes straddle a line between slickly produced and cheesy, and the stories are surprisingly involving. And the soundtrack – which combines ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s metal with occasional gangsta-rap tracks – always manages to complement the action perfectly (and if you find that it doesn’t, you can edit the playlist). It’s got a few warts, sure, but there’s a lot to love here.
Twisted Metal: Black? Yes. Not only is 2001’s gritty, fantastic-for-its-time reboot showing its age, but the action in the 2011 version is a lot smoother and more packed with interesting things to do. Sadly, some of TM:B’s most brilliant touches – like being able to crash an airliner or unleash a destructive Ferris wheel – are absent from the new game, but the abundance of game types and cool secrets (not to mention working online play) more than make up for them. In any case, Twisted Metal comes with a free download voucher for Twisted Metal: Black, so you can grab it and judge for yourself.
Rage’s “Road Rage” multiplayer? Yes. Rage may look considerably prettier than Twisted Metal, but its car-combat multiplayer feels slow and dull by comparison, even ignoring the fact that it supports only four players. Comparing a shooter’s car-combat multiplayer to a game devoted entirely to the vehicular manslaughter might be a little unfair, but the fact that we’re doing it at all is a testament to how scarce decent car-combat games have become.
ModNation Racers? Depends on what you’re looking for; obviously, ModNation has it all over Twisted Metal when it comes to designing your own tracks and racing – something that, while new in TM, is still rare and not part of multiplayer. If you’re looking for the pure thrill of shooting missiles at other cars, though, Twisted Metal’s demolition matches are where you want to be, with action that’s freer, faster and far more violent than anything ModNation’s got under its hood.
While its character roster is smaller than previous games, and its multiplayer seems disappointingly basic next to its single-player campaign, Twisted Metal is nevertheless a compellingly badass game filled with fun things to discover and unlock. This isn’t a perfect Twisted Metal, but as comebacks go, it’s pretty strong.