Twisted Metal 4 Review

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Twisted Metal is my favorite vehicular combat series of all time. It has its ups and downs and most people will tell you the downs are Twisted Metal III and 4. I, personally, feel Small Brawl is the worst. If you were to ask fans of the series what the best game is, I guarantee you that Twisted Metal 2 and Black will be mentioned the most. If I had to pick between those two, I would side with Twisted Metal 2. I’ll take the cartoon-y comic book style and dark humor over the dark and serious tone of Black any day. Twisted Metal III and 4 are the outcasts in the series, mainly because of their different tones and gameplay which is the result of a different developer. I’m in the minority that actually enjoys III. Yes, the character storylines suck. I agree with that. But I find the gameplay to be solid even to this day. Developed by 989 Studios and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Twisted Metal 4 was released for the PlayStation in October, 1999. This is from the same developers that were responsible for III.
The story here goes that Sweet Tooth has taken over the Twisted Metal competition, overthrowing Calypso. The concept is still the same, though. Various drivers compete and the winner is granted anything they desire. There’s all sorts of new drivers and vehicles and you can actually play as Calypso this time around which I think is interesting. Unfortunately, the storylines or motives for most drivers suck and the humor isn’t on the same level as Twisted Metal 2. Basically, from a story perspective, it has the same problems as Twisted Metal III. However, everything does feel more over-the-top. The opening cut scene shows how Sweet Tooth managed to become the best contestant and take over and it’s actually a decent set up. But that’s really the only interesting thing in terms of plot. The backstories for many drivers are just uninteresting. And some of the wishes are really stupid. Sweet Tooth will often turn a driver’s wish against them but the humor is lacking and some endings feel anticlimactic. As you may or may not know, Rob Zombie’s music was extremely prevalent in the media in the late nineties and early two thousands. In fact, some of his music was present Twisted Metal III. Well some time after that game, it was decided that his music just wasn’t enough. It was time for the man, himself, to become a video game character. And that game happens to be Twisted Metal 4. He drives the Dragula because of course he does. It’s ridiculous because there is no reason for him to be here and his ending showcases what appears to be a portion of a music video. I really have nothing against the man or his music but his presence is so unnecessary that it feels more like a marketing ploy than anything else. The voice performances fit the over-the-top nature of the characters and their motives but the most noteworthy performances are the battle cries for custom vehicles. They range from ridiculous to cringeworthy but they are all humorous to some extent.
Just like the games that preceded it, Twisted Metal 4 is a vehicular combat game. You drive around arena’s trying to blow up every other vehicle or opponent using a varied arsenal of weapons. There is an actual save system implemented so you no longer have to rely on passwords to continue where you left off. The Tournament is where you battle through each arena and if you win the contest, you can see the ending for your driver. And you do have the option to compete with a CPU ally of your choosing but you won’t be able to see the ending videos. You also have to be mindful of how many lives you have. Deathmatch is where you can choose your vehicle, opponents, and arena and just battle it out for fun. There’s eight standard arenas, some unlockable deathmatch/multiplayer arenas, and numerous vehicles to choose from. Many of the drivers and vehicles are newcomers but several from previous games do make an appearance. Most of the returning vehicles are actually bosses. Beating the Tournament unlocks everything including all of the boss vehicles and, unfortunately, none of the bosses have a unique ending. In fact, there’s no driver information for them at all in-game. Because many of the returning drivers have no personality and most of the new ones are just uninteresting in my opinion, the game lacks a certain charm that the previous games had, including Twisted Metal III. You can actually create a vehicle this time around but the customization options are very limited. I even thought that back when the game was in its heyday. But I was also a kid and thought it was awesome, regardless.
Evidently, many players had a problem with vehicles flipping over in Twisted Metal III. It was kind of annoying but it never ruined the experience for me. Well in Twisted Metal 4 it was rectified. If a vehicle flips over it immediately flips right side up. There’s almost no delay. Each vehicle has different stats in handling, armor, special weapon, and speed, and they’re all equipped with dual machine guns with infinite ammo. The vehicles come with their own unique special weapon that needs to regenerate after use before it can be used again and I find that Sweet Tooth’s special is just overpowered. Ridiculously overpowered and it homes in on opponents. It can drain all or almost all of an opponent’s health in one attack. I understand that he’s a boss, the final boss to be exact, but the special is just outrageous. Oddly enough, some of the new vehicles introduced have very similar or outright copied specials from vehicles in the previous games which makes these newcomers feel less unique. You can perform energy attacks by entering a specific combination of buttons. They do drain through energy which regenerates over time and they can prove to be a big help during battles. You can freeze opponents, turn invisible for a limited time, activate a shield for a limited time, fire rear attacks, unleash a massive attack which is a barrage of projectiles, jump, and hyperspace teleports you to a another location in the arena. Vehicles with little armor can be destroyed rather quickly so mastering their handling and knowing when to use energy attacks will help you survive. Usually, these vehicles can quickly escape from dangerous situations but you want to do your best to stay out of harm’s way. Vehicles with a lot of armor tend to move slower but can tank more damage before blowing up.
Scattered around the arenas are health and weapon pickups. Weapon pick-ups are stored in your inventory and can be used to obliterate your foes. Classic weapons like fire, homing, and power missiles make a return as well as weapons from Twisted Metal III like the Speed and Rain missiles for example. You can set an opposing vehicle on fire with napalm, blow them up with the remote bombs, and you can inflict tons of damage to multiple foes if you manage to find and activate the Lightning weapon. None of this should be unfamiliar to veterans of the series. Twisted Metal 4 adds several new weapons to the arsenal. My least favorite is the freeze bomb. It’s like the remote bomb but it can freeze any vehicles in the blast radius. The freeze energy attack is enough in my opinion and if playing solo, the opponent AI can sometimes be freeze whores so the freeze bomb just makes things more frustrating. You can lay down proximity mines, great for trapping opponents but you can trigger your own mines so you need to be careful. They’re similar to the mines in Twisted Metal 2 except these are actual weapon pick-ups. The Auto Lob weapon allows you to launch numerous missiles high into the air and then they home in on an opponent. This weapon can inflict a lot of damage, especially if the opponent is frozen. Then there’s the M.I.R.V. and Rain 2 Missile, both of which are actually quite similar. M.I.R.V. is an abbreviation for Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicle. Both of these weapons will fly through the air while simultaneously launching projectiles at opponents. The Rain 2 Missile launches fiery projectiles which will set vehicles on fire.

I am happy to report that the opponent AI is carried over from Twisted Metal III. This is good because it means AI opponents will actually attack each other and go for health when they need it. The AI is one my favorite things about these two games. In the first two, the AI would basically drive around aimlessly until you came around. It was always noticeable and kind of ruined the immersion of being in a contest. Twisted Metal can easily be seen as a multiplayer series, however, the opponent AI in this game does make for some fun battles when playing solo. As a kid, I spent most of my time playing against the AI in Deathmatch just like I did in every other game. However, attacking each other and going for health is the only really smart things the AI will do. I’ve seen opponents not attack when they had the opportunity and drive into danger when they should be driving away from it. They seem to attack each other more often when you’re around and the player will always be the priority target.
If you play with a CPU Ally in the Tournament mode, the opponent AI often targets the ally instead of you. Before this review, I don’t think I ever played with an ally in this or Twisted Metal III. I wanted to check it out just to see how helpful and/or smart the friendly AI is. Based on my experience, the ally does prove to be a solid companion. It will attack and blows up opponents and since AI opponents will often target the ally, it draws opponents away from you. The ally can make the tournament significantly easier. If you choose Sweet Tooth as your ally you don’t really have to do much since his special can easily wipe out every opponent in only a few minutes. After blowing up all the opponents in an arena in the Tournament mode, you’ll have to take out that arena’s boss. The bosses can take more damage than the standard opponents and they can be very aggressive. One arena pits you against two bosses simultaneously. As mentioned before, several of the returning vehicles appear as bosses so most of them should be familiar. In fact, there’s only three bosses that are actually new vehicles. Minion, my favorite vehicle in the series, does return as a boss and, honestly, I prefer his tank from Twisted Metal III.
Most of the tournament arenas are pretty large and are more complex than those in Twisted Metal III. Instead of the contest taking place in various cities around the world, the arenas are now set in more generic and “out there” locations. You’ll blow opponents up around an oil rig, at a carnival, on a highway, in a bedroom, in a futuristic city, and a construction yard, among some others. Boost pads can send you speeding across the arena and jump pads will launch your vehicle to higher elevations. Parts of the arenas can be destroyed, revealing pick-ups and/or paths to new areas. Explosive barrels are everywhere and there’s some kind of green liquid or surface which can be set on fire. You’ll have to be careful to not fall off ledges to your death in the Oil Rig arena and some arenas like the Construction Yard include fire spitters. Certain arenas contain what I call an interactive element that can aid you like the crane in the Construction Yard. You can use it to pick up and drop opponents. There’s a ship or hover car or whatever is that will transport you to goodies in the Neon City arena. I find some of the arenas in this game to be too complex for their own good. Sometimes it feels like it takes way too long to locate an opponent. The Maze is easily the worst offender. It literally is a maze and it can become tedious driving around for minutes just looking for opponents only to unload all your weapons into one and then have to drive away to collect more weapons before going on the hunt again. Many arena’s include numerous branching paths and areas at different elevations. There is unlockable arenas for the deathmatch/multiplayer and I’m not a big fan of any of them. They all contain simple-looking textures and they just don’t convey the same tone and atmosphere as the standard arenas. They feel lifeless.
Visually, I would say Twisted Metal 4 looks a bit better than Twisted Metal III. It looks more detailed, anyway. It’s an original PlayStation game so it’s got the grainy and pixelated look. It definitely looks dated. I did witness some pop-in but, overall, I don’t have many gripes with the presentation. Explosions look cool, each Tournament arena looks different and unique, and after taking enough damage, the vehicles will show visible damage and deformities which is pretty neat.  When it comes to the music, I am not a huge fan of the soundtrack. I like the Rob Zombie tunes but that’s it. The sound effects are pretty good. You can hear projectiles whizzing past your vehicle, explosions sound booming, and when a vehicle explodes, you can hear the driver scream. On the technical side, the frame rate will dip frequently, especially when there’s a lot of action on-screen. In the tournament mode, more opponents will spawn in after a certain amount blow up and I’m guessing this is to keep the performance somewhat stable. Vehicles would frequently get stuck in the environments, usually on ledges but other than that, I didn’t encounter any serious issues.
Growing up, I played the first four Twisted Metal games a lot. And out of that group, I played 2 and III the most. Objectively speaking, I would say Twisted Metal 4 is better than III from a gameplay standpoint. It refines the mechanics, I think it’s a bit faster-paced, there’s plenty of vehicles drive, and you can even create your own. Personally, I’m really not a huge fan of this game. When I was a kid, I would play this for a while before eventually swapping the disc out with 2 or III. Twisted Metal 4 doesn’t come anywhere near the atmosphere, tone, or humor of 2 in terms of quality and enough was changed to make this entry feel very different. The atmosphere doesn’t even match up with III. It’s just different. It’s not necessarily bad but I just can’t get into it. Plus, I don’t really care for most of the music. I prefer the tunes in the first two games over almost everything heard in the sequels. During this playthrough, I remembered what I disliked the most about Twisted Metal 4. The arenas. There’s not a single arena in this game that sticks out to me. I don’t have a favorite. Every time I would have to choose one for a Deathmatch, I would always struggle to pick one. Even as a kid. None of them impress me. But I can’t really knock the game for them. They’re diverse, they encourage exploration, and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with most of them, although I do think The Maze is awful. Ultimately, I think the gameplay is fine and better than that of its predecessor but I’m not a huge fan of almost everything else.
I think Twisted Metal 4 is better than III and it resolves some of the issues players had with III but I don’t think it’s as good as any of the games directed by David Jaffe. However, it’s action-packed, over-the-top, you can play it with friends, and there’s plenty of reasons to return. But I, personally, find it to be the least immersive game in the series. It just didn’t captivate me or hold my interest for long. With that said, I would absolutely recommend it to fans of the vehicular combat genre. The storylines for the drivers are pretty bad and the gameplay is more like Twisted Metal III than 2 so if you’re in the minority that enjoyed III, you’ll probably like this.

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