I have a special place in my heart for this series. I have been playing it since its inception in 1995. Twisted Metal was designed by David Jaffe (God of War series) and he has stayed with the series in some capacity, with the exception of the third and fourth entries. Here is a look back on the series that made vehicular combat a blast.

Twisted Metal (PlayStation, 1995)

1995 was a great year for video games: Chrono Trigger is released for the SNES, Command & Conquer has PC gamers drooling, and Twisted Metal makes its debut for the PlayStation. Vehicular Combat games weren't all that common back then with only a handful of destruction derby games on the market. Developer SingleTrac gave us a game that we didn't even know we wanted and we thank them for it from the darkest corners of our demented little hearts. Never has blowing up taxi drivers, secret agents, and insane killer clowns been so darn satisfying.

Originally titled High Octane, the first game in this long running series saw contestants rampaging through the streets of Los Angeles in the distant future of 2005. The Twisted Metal contest is in its 10th year and the winner gets whatever he or she desires. The creator of Twisted Metal is an enigmatic man named Calypso. He has the power to grant any wish possible; be it money, fame, power, or anything in-between.

 

Every character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Sweet Tooth drives like a bathtub on wheels, but his flaming ice cream cone attack deals major damage. Crimson Fury is the fastest and handles the best, but his armor is weak and his laser attack isn't that powerful. Each character also has their own story of why they entered the contest. Yellow Jacket is trying to find his long lost son. Outlaw is a cop that wants the streets to be safe again.

I adored the first game and had high hopes for the sequel... and boy, were my hopes ratified.

Twisted Metal 2 (PlayStation, 1996)

This is, in my opinion, the best Twisted game of the PS1 era. Twisted Metal 2 had more characters, more arenas, and a lot more destruction. Whereas the first game took place solely in Los Angeles, the sequel used the entire world as its battleground. Improved graphics and now fully voiced and comic book style winning movies gave this entry its own unique charm.

Traveling from Los Angeles all the way to Antarctica, Twisted Metal 2 doesn't hold anything back. Some of the contestants from the previous entry have returned, OutlawRoadkill, and Sweet Tooth just to name a few. There are some new faces as well such as the Formula 1 racer, Twister, and part man part car, Axel makes his debut. Each asking for their ultimate wish in hopes that Calypso will deliver.

The gameplay and environments are vastly improved and the destructible environments introduced here would go on to become a mainstay in the series. Destroying the Eiffel Tower is one of the first "holy shit" moments I ever experienced in a video game. Twisted Metal 2 was one of the best... if only I could say the same for the next one.

Twisted Metal III (PlayStation, 1998)

Twisted Metal III changed developers from SingleTrac to 989 Studios and with it, lost its charm. This Twisted Metal just didn't feel the same. I'm not sure if it was the writing, the characters, or the cheesy CGI winning movies, but something was off. This game lost the edginess that the last two games shared.

The ending movies were too kid-friendly for a Twisted Metal game. I suppose the new developer was trying to appeal to a broader market. The previous game had people being crushed, splattered, or just blown up. This one just had them being... inconvenienced.

While not the worst Twisted game, it still had it's good qualities. It still had the same level of destruction and mayhem, it still had returning characters, and it is still fun to pick up and play. However, if you are just getting into the series, I wouldn't start with this one. Come to think of it, I wouldn't start with the next one either.

 

Twisted Metal 4 (PlayStation, 1999)

This was 989's second attempt at the Twisted Metal license, and it didn't fare any better than the first try. Sub-par graphics, weak storyline, and down right offensive characters made the fourth entry in the once great franchise a swing and a miss.

Nothing is improved graphically even though the game is advertised as having done so. The arenas are bland and the gameplay is slow and boring. The AI is almost non-existent with other combatants driving into your line of fire and hardly even using any offense.

The characters are a slap in the face to fans of the series with such brain dead contestants as a Griswald family knockoff, a garbage man, and a highly offensive character called Drag Queen. The character is offensive to gays, Drag Queens, and trans women.

But hey, Rob Zombie is in it so... yay?

 

Twisted Metal: Black (PlayStation 2, 2001)

O... M... God! The original creators are back in "Black" (cue AC/DC) and we couldn't be happier. This game is the gold standard for what a Twisted Metal game should be. A darker tone, gruesome characters, massive arenas, highly destructible environments, hidden areas, different modes, and a kick-ass theme song.

This game has one overarching story which sees Calypso visiting an insane asylum to recruit drivers for his Twisted Metal tournament to which the victor will receive what he or she has always wanted. The game includes 8 levels and two bosses - both of which are a bitch to take down - and the sheer amount of chaos happening all around you is enough to make even the most avid of anarchists stay at home and lock their doors... Not that it would help.

This is without a doubt, the best Twisted Metal game in the entire series and the developer (now called Incognito Entertainment) could only get better from here. Well, sorry to burst your bubble butts...

Twisted Metal: Small Brawl (PlayStation, 2001)

Twisted Metal went from being all the way at the top to being rock bottom. Twisted Metal: Small Brawl was released a few months after Black and boy is it completely different. Gone are the gory cutscenes, the dark tone, the stellar environments, and what we are left with is the equivalent of a vehicular combat game if it were made by Fisher Price.

Taking place in a small suburban neighborhood, the town kid bully Calypso holds a contest to see which kid on his block would emerge victorious in an RC car battle. They mainstay characters are here, but as kid versions: Mr. Grimm is a Halloween obcessed kid in a costume, Outlaw is a kid playing cops and robbers, and Sweet Tooth is a mischievous kid in clown makeup.

 

It seems like Incognito made Black for adults and Small Brawl for children. I guess the reason why I hated it was the fact that I was 14 in 2001 so my tastes had matured to more violent bits of mayhem.

Twisted Metal: Head-On (PSP, 2005/PlayStation 2, 2008)

Twisted Metal: Head-On is the first (and only) portable game in the series and goes back to the series roots. An unofficial direct sequel to Twisted Metal 2, Head-On sees the return of characters from the second game. TwisterGrasshopper, and Mr. Slam all make a comeback and make references to their previous win - though not directly.

The comic book style endings are also back this time and it still keeps the same dark humor from Twisted Metal 2 as well. The music fits the tone of the game nicely with heavy metal themes and orchestral pieces. The only downside of Head-On is the limited controls. Since the PSP lacks a second analog stick, you have to use the d-pad. Luckily I had just finished playing though the early PS1 era games so it wasn't too weird for me, but gamers who have never played the earlier games (before Black) would find the controls a bit awkward.

In 2008, the game was repackaged for the PS2 as "Extra Twisted Edition." The remaster included better visuals, behind the scenes features, and a beta version of a scrapped sequel to Twisted Metal: Black titled, "Twisted Metal:Lost." Lost plays identical to Black and includes two new characters, Gold Tooth (a reskinned Sweet Tooth) and 12-Pack. There is also a demo of a once planned platformer game based in the Twisted Metal universe. The PS2 remaster is worth the purchase if just for the extras.

Twisted Metal (PlayStation 3, 2012)

"Meh." That's the word that would sum up the final entry in the Twisted Metal series. Simply titled, Twisted Metal, you only focus on three characters... Yes... Just threeSweet ToothMr. Grimm, and Dollface are the only combatants in this year's contest. However, each character can drive a variety of different vehicles. Sweet Tooth can drive Outlaw, Spectre, or his infamous Ice Cream Truck - but so can the other two. That seems like a cop out to me. Instead of making a game with a multitude of playable characters, developer Eat Sleep Play only focused on the two franchise veterans and then threw in a character from Black (though not the same girl).

The action is face paced and crazy enough to feel like a Twisted Metal game, but they added henchmen and handguns to the game for some reason. I guess cars with guns destroying other cars with guns wasn't enough guns for them. Oh, you can also fly a helicopter in this one. I suppose cars weren't enough for them either.

The only enjoyable part of this game was Sweet Tooth's storyline. It felt like a horror movie from the killer's perspective. They also left the game open for a sequel, but with David Jaffe leaving the franchise, I doubt we'll ever see one.

While the series had a few duds, it is still remembered fondly as the King of car combat games. It's a series that helped set the PlayStation apart from the competition. Although the series may have ended, it had a good run. It will forever live on in our memories as a series that made the world just a bit more... Twisted.

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  • J.W. Moore

    Editor/Columnist/Retro Game Afficianado

    J.W. has been gaming since he got his first NES on his 5th birthday. Since then, his love of video games has only gotten stronger. An avid collector of video games, he owns everything from the Atari to the Xbox One. With over 1000 console games and just as many PC games, his love for gaming continues to grow.

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