Developer(s) – SingleTrac
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s) – Michael D. Jackson
Producer(s) – Scott Campbell & Allan Becker
ELSPA – Suitable for All Ages
ESRB – T for Teen
Released back in 1995 as one of the earliest hit games on the original PlayStation along with the likes of Destruction Derby, Wipeout, and Pandemonium, Twisted Metal is a vehicular combat game originally conceived by the designer and future God of War creator David Jaffe, who came up with the idea after being stuck in a traffic jam wishing there were weapons mounted onto the car he was in. Though not being the first vehicular combat title, it undoubtedly brought the genre into the attention of the mainstream as well as into the realm of 3D gaming at the time. I personally think that the best of the series was yet to come, but nevertheless, the first game is pretty enjoyable.
Graphics – 7/10
The graphics on a technical level did pretty well to demonstrate what the original PlayStation was capable of rendering in its early stages, and it was fairly well polished for the time too. The best thing about the game’s graphics are the conceptual design, in terms of both the range of different areas the player must fight within, and the design of the characters; most of which became staples of the series later on such as Roadkill, Spectre, and most notably Sweet Tooth. What was made to look like a relatively generic car game on the box art was actually one of the more conceptually interesting games of the early stages of the fifth generation.
Gameplay – 6/10
The concept of gameplay is simple; destroy the opponent’s cars with what weapons are made available before the opponents kill the player. The player must win several rounds before reaching the game’s end boss Minion and being proclaimed the champion of the Twisted Metal Tournament. As this was the first in what would later become a series, a lot of the gameplay ideas perpetuated with relatively primitive, and there wasn’t a great deal of incentive offered to play multiple times except for finding out what happens to each character at the end of their respective playthroughs. More game modes would also be added to later entries to keep things diverse, but the original game offers a minimalist amount beyond the single-player or multiplayer modes. The facility to at least unlock Minion as a playable character wouldn’t have been a bad idea, I don’t think.
Controls – 9/10
The game’s controls for the most part are fine, but how comfortable the player will feel will depend on what character they’re playing as. Someone like Sweet Tooth for example, who has a heavier vehicle than others will be much more difficult to steer and to react to danger as quickly as what the likes of Roadkill or Spectre can. The poor framerate this game suffers from also doesn’t help matters either. This would be addressed in later entries, but in the original game, it becomes a significant problem.
Lifespan – 7/10
Each playthrough can be made to last around an hour, so there’s a minimum of 12 hours of gameplay time available, as there are 12 characters in total, which in all fairness, was far higher than the average lifespan of a game during the previous generation, so though it may not seem like a lot now, it certainly would’ve felt like a big deal at the time; at least until the likes of the Final Fantasy games came into the mainstream and set the bar higher still. Though I think there was a lot more the developers could’ve added to make this game last even longer than it does, it’s still a fair amount of time for a game of this kind to last.
Storyline – 6/10
The story of Twisted Metal tells of the Twisted Metal Tournament; an elimination-based competition whereby vehicular combatants must face off against each other in fights to the death to be declared the Twisted Metal champion. The tournament is run by a demented, yet extremely wealthy, influential, and supernatural man named Calypso, who grants the winner of the Twisted Metal tournament any prize they request with no limit on the prize, size, or even reality. The concept sounds excellent on paper and would be built upon both positive and negative as the series progressed, but in the original game, the story is told pretty much through text, similar to how the endings of the first three Mortal Kombat games worked, which for a console that was known by developers at the time to be capable of rendering full-motion video (FMV) was pretty underwhelming. There was a series of live-action cutscenes filmed for inclusion in the game and to be played at the end of each character campaign, but they were unfortunately cut due to the development staff feeling collectively uncomfortable about putting them in ultimately. It’s a shame because after having watched these cutscenes myself (being available on YouTube), they would’ve definitely added to the game’s atmosphere in a way that few games did at that time, and indeed what many games for the original PlayStation would go on to do, such as Resident Evil. But it didn’t happen, and the original game feels all the more watered down as a result, especially when compared to later entries.
Originality – 7.5/10
Although in some respects, the game feels like it could’ve been more than what it was for a number of reasons, the fact is that this game helped to bring a whole genre to the attention of the mainstream, and would usher in other games made of the same ilk, such as Carmageddon, Cel Damage and ModNation Racers, and mechanics found in this game would go on to be included in a vast number of games afterward, such as Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s not the most influential game ever made, but it’s certainly one of the earliest games that made players see the appeal of the original PlayStation early on.
Overall, the original Twisted Metal is a fairly enjoyable game with a great plot premise and an outlandish cast of characters. It’s not the best entry in the series (by far, that honor would go to Twisted Metal 2), but it set the standard in an acceptable manner.