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Twisted Metal (PlayStation)

82
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kyle Levesque (621)
Written on  :  Mar 19, 2012
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

In many ways - the most ambitious in the series.

The Good

Let me put this into perspective:
  • I'm not saying this is the largest TM game.
  • I'm not saying it's the best in the series.
  • I'm not just trying to get a rise out of you - I mean it.

Good. Now, when I say this is the most ambitious game in the series I'm talking about the ambition it took to build the game engine - from the ground up. We take it for granted now that games exist with physics and damage and weapon trajectories and acceleration. Building the set of rules to govern these things is really god-damn hard, especially when you have to do it from scratch. These guys did, and they made something that fused genre's like racing, platforming, and combat into one game. That is ambitious, and that is what I'm talking about. Every other game in the series rests on the shoulders of what they struggled to realize in this one; and even if they are technically better or better realized half the work was already done.


Now let's get to work:

LET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
  • It is weird to say, but the vehicle acceleration physics may be the most realistic in this first outing. You feel nervous coming up to the ramp with the semi-truck because it doesn't feel up to making the jump.
  • Another area that surprises me is that some of the weapons are more realistic than in the sequels. They are toned down, and in ways more practical than they become in later installments. You have caltrops here - that makes sense.
  • The cohesion between the levels is nice, you can honestly believe that the various tournament sites take place in LA. There are levels that ad a platforming element but they are frankly understated compared to later games.
  • Something I didn't remember until I replayed it is that there are guys dressed like rebel pilots (from Star Wars) shooting at you all the time. These guys have jet-packs and rocket launchers and can actually be a threat.

LET'S TALK GRAPHICS
  • As you can see from the screenshots, we're dealing with some 1st gen PS1 graphics here. It's interesting how differently they handled models and textures back then! What I like is how much extra stuff they did - they didn't have to put in street lamps and traffic lights that change colour, but they did.
  • The vehicle models are respectively different from almost any distance, even without radar you can tell who's who.
  • The 1st person view is one of the things really realized in this game - you can see the wheel, the dash, sure it's 2D but the effort there is unmistakable. Why didn't this carry on?

LET'S TALK SOUND
  • Metal is in the name, and Metal you got. Back in 1995 the CD aspect of these games was something developers were beginning to catch on to - on the PS1 you could actually listen to the CD tracks on the disc via the system browser, and with Twisted Metal you'd actually want to.
  • Explosions, impacts, and special effects were cutting edge back then. They sound a little tinny today, but I still like them.

LET'S TALK STORY/ATMOSPHERE
  • Later installments would cement a unique moving-comic like style for the story lines. This time around they went with a static text intro and a live-action ending. The live-action endings didn't make it into the final game, frankly because they were crap. This left a minimalist-feeling text into and ending. This actually fits the era well where the game-play was the reason to play.
  • The Suberbia level is still impressive to me today. It is a huge undertaking and a very realistic approach to the vehicle combat game. I actually like to play it a little more in TM:2 (it's un-lockable), but it is still top-notch.
  • The character archetype's are really fitting for the era as well. It's hard for me to explain (especially to younger gamers who started on the PS2, etc) exactly what was 'cool' in the mid-90's, but this was the kind of stuff we really went for. I can tell that the dev's didn't make this for the 'target audience', they made these characters because they thought they were unique and interesting. It's a mix of Terminator 2 sensibilities, Bill & Ted, slasher flicks, everything 90's.

The Bad

LET'S TALK GAME-PLAY
  • AI in early games lacked finesse. This is the evolutionary jump between mega-man and what we have today - enemies had to have attack patterns to function, but were also on sub-routines where they'd wander around. What this results in is an enemy who will rape you one second and meander the next. A bit lop-sided.
  • Later installments would see a division of weapons and abilities known as the 'special' bar. This game has many, many weapons that you have to scroll through including freeze missiles, and backwards firing missiles. Although I recognize this as a more realistic (kinda) way of doing it, it does make it hard in the heat of battle - you blow through your arsenal trying to kill a guy and wind up shooting missiles out of your butt instead of towards him.
  • I've always liked the 'destruction derby' element of TM where larger vehicles can ram you. Here it is taken to almost realistic proportions, and that can seem very unfair. Darkside can half-way kill you with a ram into a building, making playing as Spectre and Mr. Grimm a daunting experience.
  • Pitt Viper. Just Pitt Viper.

LET'S TALK GRAPHICS
  • Straight lines seems like something that should be easy to do, but everything gets so wavy on the buildings and vehicles. This really pulls you out of the graphical perspective. Look at the side of the building in the screenshots here, what the hell is with that?
  • The scaling suffers, none of the cars are scaled properly, especially Grimm.

LET'S TALK SOUND
  • The voices are frankly crap.

LET'S TALK STORY/ATMOSPHERE
  • I get the premise and set up, I understand the why and how, but they really should have done better back-story on Calypso, or limited his powers to being rich. The super-natural aspect of it bothers me because it is inconsistent. From game to game they tweak him between megalomaniac and ancient power - too many questions. They should have defined him here.

The Bottom Line

This game is easy to find, and worth having. If you want a 'pretty jewel case' one for your collection - good luck. I'm not that kind of guy, I just want to experience. I like Twisted Metal 1. I really do. It never felt as real as it did driving around the 'Suberbia' level. This looked like a real neighborhood with fast food restaurants, gas stations, etc. No cartoonish nature to it.