Review: Twisted Metal III (Playstation)

In this review, we prepare to have a blast with the Playstation game Twisted Metal III. We find out how this vehicle combat game plays.

This game was released in 1998 and is the third game in this series. It’s a follow up to the game Twisted Metal 2 which had potential, but extreme difficulty held the quality back. We also reviewed the original game, Twisted Metal which got a decent score here.

The game has a storyline that resembles the first two games. Calypso, the creator of the Twisted Metal competition, is holding yet another one. The prize is anything the contestants ask for no matter how big or small. It is up to the contestant the player chooses to win the whole thing.

There are a total of 12 characters the player can choose from (and apparently 2 hidden characters if you get your hands on the codes). A lot of the characters are carried over from the previous game such as Mr. Grimm, Outlaw, Thumper, and Axel. There are a few new characters such as Auger and Flower Power to refresh the lineup. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some characters have great speed and offense, but very poor armor. Other characters have great armor, but poor speed. Regardless of strengths and weaknesses, they all have one thing in common: they all have their own special attack. The special weapons can be anything from a flamethrower, to heat seeking missiles, to a multi-directional laser attack.

While these attacks can prove beneficial, they are hardly ever, if ever, enough. Throughout the levels, there are a number of common weapons that can be collected and used. These include the fire missiles, power missiles, and napalm attacks. New to the game is, well, nothing. If you’ve seen the weapons in the first game, you’ll see them in this game.

Aiding you are the health powerups. Like the previous game, these health pickups can restore your health partially while others can completely restore your health. New to this game is the fact that there is a visual difference between the two. The partial health items are blue and white while the full health icons are also blue and white, but also have a red background in the middle. As usual, there are also turbo pickups that can restore your turbo booster.

What is new are the special weapon pickups. These are level specific. Hangar 18 has the UFO weapon pickup and the Tokyo level has the Radar weapon. These weapons generally trigger something in the level that can be used to attack your enemies. Given that some of these levels pit you against a lot of enemies, you can use all the help you can get.

Level interaction isn’t just confined to the special weapons. You can also find specific structures to lure your opponents in before boosting out and triggering the lightening bolt weapon. A number of levels have these bolt weapons that zaps anyone near a particular structure (including yourself). It is also possible to lay a trap for your opponents in some levels. In the Tokyo level, you can lay a remote mine on the grating, wait for an enemy to drive on it, blow it up, and let them fall to their death on a giant fan below. Some structures can be blown up for hidden pickups as well.

Like the previous game, you’ll not only encounter a number of enemies along the way, but also bosses. These bosses are the return of Darkside (from the original Twisted Metal game), Minion, and the new enemy, Primeval. They appear when you defeat all enemies on a particular level.

Two new things in this game are the two different enemy regeneration systems. The common one are found in later levels where if you defeat all (or most) of the enemies, regeneration is triggered and two additional enemies appear to take you on. Defeat the additional opponents and you win. The other regeneration occurs during the final level. If you defeat an enemy as per normal, they will regenerate after a few moments. To stop this from happening, you need to destroy something in the level before you take on the enemies.

One good thing about this game is that it addressed the extreme difficulty found in the previous game. Two ways it seemed to do this is the fact that you face only a handful of enemies at a time as opposed to everyone at once. Once you are down to one opponent, it is more than possible to evade them and collect the health items if you are hurting from the battle. The other way is that special attacks are now much easier to execute. In fact, they are sometimes triggered by accident just by gentle maneuvering of your car. While this can be annoying at times, it’s much better than it being exceedingly difficult to execute. You still rely on a little luck in this game (especially with characters with little armor), but at least it’s actually winnable for average players even if it is somewhat on the difficult side of things.

A downside in this game is, once again, the physics. In this case, it can be way too easy to flip your vehicle. If you turn too tight, hit a small bump, or even get hit by enough shots, you’ll find yourself helplessly flipped onto your roof (even Grimm?). While the game can detect you as flipped and flip you back around, this system is far from perfect. Sometimes, you can find yourself on your side. Often this is when you are against a wall. If this is the case, then the game won’t detect you as flipped and you are left with trying to drive on your side until you can get yourself either fully flipped or back on your wheels. This can take some time and when you have enemies baring down on you, this can cost you a lot of health in the process. The engine also seems to struggle with hills and ledges. It’s possible to get stuck on a ledge and strange maneuvering may be required to save your skin. Meanwhile, if you are driving on hills, your steering winds up being all over the map, often leaving you swerving all over the place even though you were driving in a straight line – even worse when boosts are involved.

One criticism I’ve heard about this game is that everything here is just same-old same-old or old hat. While there are a few things that are actually new to this game, it’s hard to disagree with this criticism. This game needed to bring more to the table that was new and it never quite got there.

Another criticism was that the levels are plain and boring. For me, it depends on which level we are talking about. If we are talking about the desert level or the North Pole level, then I’ll agree with that. The levels do barren and empty – especially after the breakables are out of the way. If we are talking about the Tokyo rooftops or the Blimp, then the levels aren’t actually that bad in my view. Generally speaking, it can be hit or miss whether the levels are impressive or not.

A criticism I am personally giving this game was the endings. I can understand a few endings being bad. Unfortunately, every ending in this game is bad. No matter which character you choose, Calypso will screw you over in the end. It’s not the sole fact that all the endings were bad, it’s the fact that after you complete a few characters, the endings get extremely repetitive. Competitor bursts through the door, Calypso tells you what you wished for, Calypso grants the wish, ending bad for character while Calypso mocks you. There is precisely zero surprise after you complete two or three characters.

Generally speaking, while this game fixes the extreme difficulty issue that plagued the previous game, there are other factors that weigh down this game. These include the problematic physics and the repetitive and boring endings for each character.

Graphically speaking, this wasn’t Playstation’s finest hour. While it was nice to see more than just a couple bridges and slopes, the textures can leave a lot to be desired. The vehicles are quite average and the effects aren’t the greatest in the world (floating tire marks being one strange issue in this game). The camera does avoid some clipping that was rather painful in previous games, but all it does when you back up to a wall is point straight down to your car. This makes it next to impossible to see what is going on. When you play this game, this is not a matter of if, but when. Ideally, you would think the camera would just zoom in to the top of your car instead so you can see something still, but this game doesn’t do that. When you compare this game to other Playstation games like Gran Turismo or Vigilante 8, this game looks like it’s a bit lacking. When comparing it to other console games such as Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time or turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, it can even look rather ugly in comparison. While passable, this game doesn’t do much beyond that.

The audio is a bit of a bright spot in this game. The music works quite well. While the music wasn’t amazing, it was pretty good. The first and last level carrying particularly memorable tracks. The voice acting worked pretty well. A downside is that death sounds have been reduced down to one sound which was a bit disappointing when the previous game had two. The other effects were decent enough, though.

Overall, this was a fairly solid game. While a big complaint of mine in the previous game was addressed in this game, other problems still hold this game back such as bad enemies and problematic physics that too often see you on the roof of your car (or motorcycle). The level interaction players can have such as warping, traps, and special weapons do help the gameplay along. The graphics were passable, but nothing huge. The sound effects were decent enough, though the music was pretty good this time around. A half decent play all around.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game with all twelve main characters on Twisted Metal difficulty.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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