Review: Twisted Metal 4 (Playstation)

In this review, we blast our way through the Playstation game Twisted Metal 4. We find out how this vehicle combat game plays.

This game was released in 1999. This series started early in the Playstation’s life cycle with Twisted Metal. That game got a decent score. The series was followed up by Twisted Metal 2 which got a rather average score due to its difficulty. The series did pick up a bit with Twisted Metal III which got a decent score again. So, we continue this series with the 4th installment of the series.

The plot is different from the previous Twisted Metal games. In this one, Sweet Tooth wished to be the star of Twisted Metal. Calypso grants his wish and, in the process, ends up taking over the Twisted Metal competition. Humiliated, Calypso re-enters the competition along with 12 other contestants. While other characters have their own agenda, Calypso vows to get the ring back – the object that allowed him to grant wishes in the past.

One immediate thing that sets this game apart from others is the fact that there are 13 characters instead of the usual 12. To make things even more interesting, players are also given the opportunity to even create a custom car. Players don’t get a lot of options for creating custom cars, however, there are minor ways players can mix and match things to get what they want. To even further add to the mix is the fact that if you beat the game with anyone, then you’ll unlock 9 additional hidden characters. These characters are all the bosses you face in the game itself. Total non-custom characters in this game is 22.

While this sounds exciting in terms of amount of content, the thing is, it is only the original 13 characters that have a full-fledged profile and ending. Winning with anyone else will get you a generic ending.

In the game itself, there are 8 arena’s players go through. With the exception of Oil Rig, defeating every opponent means you take on the level boss. In Oil Rig, you actually take on two level bosses at the same time instead of one. A few of these bosses are new to the series, however, most of them are reoccurring characters from previous games. This includes Axel, Thumper, Auger, and others. Most of them will have the word “Super” in front of their names. Defeat the level boss and beat that level.

In terms of weapons, a lot has been carried over from the previous game. Each character will have their own special attack that gradually recharges on its own. While some games only give you your special weapon ammo, this game also allows you to carry a few additional weapons at the start. There doesn’t appear to be any ability to carry over weapons from previous rounds like the first game in the series.

Many general weapons are carried over from the previous games. This includes remotes, ricochet bombs, fire missiles, and power missiles. Interestingly enough, there are a few new weapons to be had here. These include the MIRV missiles, freeze remotes, and the Auto Lob. This is great to see because there was something new to try in this game in terms of weapons.

Also making their return are the special attacks. If you execute a certain combination on your control pad during a battle, you can use some of that special energy in the form of an attack or special defensive move. Like previous games, this meter will recharge on its own.

Items have remained largely the same from the previous game. The blue health will recharge some of your health while the red health will fully recharge your health.

One notable enhancement to this game is the fact that you have a new form of environment interactivity. The biggest is found in the first level with the ability to control the crane. Other forms are the zippers and jump pads.

Making their return to the game are in-level secrets. Sometimes, it’s a matter of tracking down the correct patch of wall to shoot open. Other times, you can just hit the correct portal to get access to the secret area. What is new is the fact that the game offers hints to some of the bigger secrets in the game during the load screens.

One thing that was hit and miss in the previous game was the level design. Some levels were not bad while others left a lot to be desired. In this game, the level design was definitely greatly improved. There really wasn’t any one particularly weak arena in this game that I could think of. They all had their own unique attributes.

Another thing I complained about in the previous game was the fact that the physics left a lot to be desired. Some of the physics problems in this game were fixed, but not everything. The hilly area’s were simply more or less removed, so it became a non-issue. Meanwhile, ledges were still very problematic. It was more than possible to get stuck on one and you need to either use creative steering, boost, the secret jump ability, or a combination of those three to get yourself unstuck. Otherwise, you can just let an opponent blast you off a wall, but that is a less desirable solution. In addition, the game sometimes gets you stock on the rear two wheels. Your vehicle isn’t tipped over enough for the game to correct, but you start doing a useless dance in the middle of the arena depending on how you land. This problem isn’t exclusive to the human player as the computer opponents will sometimes end up doing this as well. On the plus side, flipping cars over is now instant as opposed to doing an animation to flip your car over. So, that was one of a few improvements over the previous game.

One final note is that this game has increased the number of lives you get in the game. Instead of the standard 3 lives, you actually get a total of 5 free lives.

Difficulty was always a bit hit and miss for this series. This game in particular, the difficult veered off into the other extreme of the spectrum in that it was a little too easy. When you first start out, the major challenge ends up being not falling off the oil rig before you try and survive Sweet Tooth’s special attack in the final level (where you’ll likely use up a few lives on the first few rounds). The game gives you ample chances between making the opponents park next to you whenever you are frozen to meandering around every once in a while whenever you keep your distance. While the more difficult elements can be a bit annoying at first, as you get used to more efficiently killing your opponents and knowing where the health and the areas prone to lightening, the game eventually gets to the point of having a pushover difficulty. The only way to increase the difficulty is to increase your rank. To do so, you need to actually keep playing the same character long after you beat the game to keep increasing the rank. The higher the rank you get, the more difficult the game ends up being. Generally, you’ll likely see a rank of 9 or 10 by the time you beat the game. While fighting opponents at a difficulty of 10 can give you a mild challenge, it’s not as though you’ll be hugely challenged either depending on the vehicle of choice. While it was an interesting feature to have a ranking determine the difficulty, it might have been better just to have that difficulty setting in the options menu instead.

While low difficulty is problematic in this game, the repetitive play also makes this game less than thrilling after a while. Every character goes through the exact same arena’s in the exact same order. The endings do spice things up and incentivize the player, but even that becomes not enough after a while. By the time I got to the 10th character, I was dreading having to go through the game an additional 3 times just for the sake of completing the story modes of all the characters. If I wasn’t intending on writing a review, I might not have gotten much further past the 10th character strictly out of boredom.

On a more positive note, the endings were definitely improved over the previous game. Sometimes, characters will get the ending just like what you saw in the third installment of the series, but others end up being unpredictable and, at times, amusing. So, credit where credit is due, the endings were a big improvement over the third installment.

The thing about this game is that, while it is an overall improvement from the previous game, it still manages to fall behind other games. A game close to this series, Vigilante 8, features an actual mission tree and character unlocking tree. Not only does the order of arenas depend o the character you have chosen, but each level opens up with a screen that adds to the characters overall plot. The character unlocking tree also gives the players goals to spice things up. You must beat the game with certain characters to unlock other characters. In this game, just beating the game once unlocks every character in the game. A problem similar to that of Road and Track Presents – the Need for Speed where nothing is ever really unlocked, but rather, everything the game has to offer is immediately available to play in any order by the player. This game isn’t that extreme, but is a mere 1 step away from it.

The other thing is the fact that other games also feature in-level objectives the player has to complete in order to unlock the ending. While the secret areas do spice things up somewhat, other games have found ways to make things much more interesting beyond secret areas. Because of this, this game, while an improvement, still lags behind other games that were released at the time.

Generally speaking, there were some interesting improvements to play. The endings were a big improvement over the previous game. The new general weapons make things rather interesting in the arena itself. The re-occurring elements largely helped move things along as well. The problem is that play gets exceedingly repetitive after a while. You play the exact same 9 arenas in the exact same order at least 13 times if you want to see all 13 endings. At first, this is not a bad proposition given the level design improvements. Unfortunately, it becomes really boring after a while. While this game is a big improvement overall over the previous installment, other games are able to easily outshine this one anyway, leaving this game in the dust. This is especially so with the mission “tree” and how you can unlock characters as well. The generic endings for the hidden characters didn’t do this game any favors either.

Graphically, this game does improve a lot over the previous game. The textures in each environment is an improvement over the previous game. Compared to other games released in this year, this game does struggle somewhat. These games include Destruction Derby 64, Donkey Kong 64, and Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil. It does hold out its own, though draw distance and odd ways glass explodes do contribute to holding this game back somewhat. Great graphics for a Playstation game.

The audio was surprisingly weak in this game. The music, while nicely fitting for many of the levels, aren’t exactly amazing by any means. I struggle to think of anything that was particularly memorable, though the music for Neon City and The Bedroom are probably the closest to being memorable. The Dragula track, which garnered praise when it appeared in Gran Turismo 2, just ends up being lost in the action in the first level. The music that appears in the Minion’s Maze level is a remix of Superbeast. The original version appeared in Twisted Metal III. The remix version just seems dull in comparison. That’s what makes the soundtrack surprisingly weak. The sound effects were decent enough.

Overall, this game has its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include the level design, new weapons that can be picked up, and the endings. The weaknesses include the fact that it was a little too easy, play was extremely repetitive, the character unlocking system left a lot to be desired, and the physics (while improved, still left a lot to be desired). The graphics were great for a Playstation game, though it struggles to compete with other games that were released at the time. The audio was surprisingly weak – especially given that this game has a history of actually having some good music. While a custom character/car system was an interesting concept to add in this game, it winds up getting lost in the shuffle largely due to the games other weaknesses (mainly repetitive play and easy difficulty). If you are already a fan of this series, this game will definitely work as a nice addition. For those new to the series, this game will be very forgiving to newcomers, though don’t expect to be totally entertained as you try and get every possible ending. An average play.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game with all 13 characters. Beat the game with one hidden character (Sweet Tooth).

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 66%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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