Twisted Metal review: Fast, frantic, fun -- but too often frustrating

For many PlayStation owners, Twisted Metal was that console's equivalent to the N64's GoldenEye. Countless hours of split-screen multiplayer action occupied living rooms and dorms in the late 90s. Several other releases over the next decade and a half kept the brand strong. With the advent of online play, it's only fitting that Twisted Metal gets a modern day upgrade in the form of the new PS3 game of the same name. While online play is certainly this title's most appealing feature, those without a broadband connection will still find plenty of fun.

The story mode in Twisted Metal is dark, and is where much of this game's Mature rating comes from. Plentiful swearing and gruesome cutscenes tell the tale of three main characters: Sweet Tooth, Dollface, and Mr. Grimm. If you care to watch the short movies between bouts, you'll see that these characters are deeply haunted. They're each out for blood, and it's up to you to deliver.

The story can be completed in a day or less, and while there are several different battle variations, they all feel the same. Objective A) Blow everyone up. Objective B) See Objective A. That's what most events boil down to. It's quite repetitive, and boss fights and occasional races only mix things up a tiny bit. Also, each and every opponent is out to get you, it seems. During deathmatches or endurance battles, finding health boxes is a must. You'll have to use quick turns and every rocket you can find just to survive some of the harder fights. The sense of pride from defeating giant Juggernaut semis is well worth the frustration if you can outsmart your vehicular opponents.

Offline, challenge modes and the ability to setup your own splitscreen contests are available. This is a great option, and something most multiplayer titles have drifted away from in recent years. So yes, you can once again battle roommates and siblings to the virtual death in a plethora of multiplayer maps.

Online is pretty well packed with various modes and rewards. Ranking up allows you to purchase vehicles and skins, which is nice because you only have three cars to choose from at the beginning. Online play was smooth, once I was able to actually get into a game. Standard modes like deathmatch and team deathmatch are available, but my favorite new mode is Nuke. This take on capture the flag has players kidnapping an enemy leader, dragging them with a rope behind the car, then launching that body across the map in a missile to destroy a towering statue. All the while, the enemy is trying to destroy your car and your missile. It ranks right up there with Gears of War 3's Meatflag as a wonderful spin on classic CTF.

Sadly, this is the latest game to use some form of an online pass. If you don't buy Twisted Metal new, you'll have to fork over $10 to Sony to play online. We found message boards flooded with players having trouble getting their rightfully purchased online pass to work. Hopefully, this is just a launch-week problem. The online play is the big appeal to Twisted Metal, and it would be a shame to have lingering problems for what is otherwise a fun game.

Artistically, the game looks pretty decent, nothing overly spectacular, and the sound is passable. One big plus, though, is that the framerate holds up well even when rockets and bombs are exploding all across your screen. The controls are very tight, especially for the zippy racers (*cough* KAMIKAZE *cough*) that cut on a dime. Spend time in training to learn the nuances of each auto, and thank me later.

Twisted Metal is certainly a fine addition to the iconic PlayStation series. The game is best enjoyed online, when everyone is being attacked, not just you. Get connected, destroy some Meat Wagons, and have a blast. Twisted Metal is available now exclusively for the PS3.

Overall rating: 8/10

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