If you were hoping for Twisted Metal III to be mediocre, your wish has been granted

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Philippe Gloaguen
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This kusoge will take you to the link where Rob Zombie runs into his grandmother

Twisted Metal was a PlayStation institution. Much like Tony Hawk's seminal titles Pro Skater and Resident Evil, it blew up its genre, giving rise to a slew of suitors. For Twisted Metal, it was a vehicular fight; average everyday cars with guns taped to them fighting for supremacy. Games like Interstate 76 and Carmageddon would rally to try to take the throne over the next decade.



It was followed a year later with Twisted Metal 2, a game that had a significant impact on my childhood. It was scary, edgy and the right amount of goofy. Uncomfortable cutscenes, scary characters, lots of fire; it fits the mid to late 90s theme of pushing the boundaries of taste. It was also really, stupidly fun.

But then developer Singletrac was bought out and the rights to Twisted Metal remained with Sony. They handed the development over to 989 Studios, one of their divisions that normally only acted as a publisher. Their first release was Twisted Metal III, and we're going to need the jaws of life to wade through that wreckage.

It's a bad start before you can even choose your car. The cool and disconcerting comic book-style cutscenes have been replaced with raw PS3-era 1D animation. It's also hard to ignore that Rob Zombie is screaming as the fighters are demonstrated. Then there's grandma in a monster truck. Look, I know some of the Twisted Metal 2 fighters were kinda out there. Axel was just a guy between two tires. But Rob Zombie, love him or hate him, has a certain atmosphere that Grandma can't breathe in.



At the very least, Twisted Metal III isn't a big departure. You always choose your favorite family sedan and compete in a variety of arenas in a deadly battle royale. Regions continue the sort of round the world mood with levels taking place in Washington DC, the North Pole, and London. The foundation is there; they just decided to build the house with whipped cream.

Mechanically the game has undergone an engine change and it doesn't feel right. Reviewers at the time were pretty disturbed by it, and while I can't say I was overly offended, it's different enough to feel like a knockoff. Where I strongly agree with these reviews is that the levels are rubbish. There are a few decent ones, but most of them are just big open arenas with little to explore. Twisted Metal 2 had these elaborate maps where you could destroy things to change the landscape. Here you might as well be in a bowl for a lot of them.

Some are decent, like the North Pole, but for some reason they've dunked Santa's workshop right in the center of it. This is a great example of how confusing this game is. Here we have a world where people kill each other to make their greatest wish come true, but also Santa Claus exists to deliver presents to all the good girls and boys.

I can't think about it without a huge spiraling juxtaposition in my head. I remember the opening cutscene of Twisted Metal 2 where a guy is bleeding out in the street yelling, "Calypso, what have you done!?" and then here we are at Santa's workshop. Playing the two games back to back could give you a boost. To be honest, I don't know what else you would use as a setting for the North Pole, but they made a stop in Antarctica in the previous title and they didn't even have to get into the mountains of the madness. Although, really, that would have made a lot more sense.



The change in tone is practically offensive. The first two games were darkly goofy, but here we have a game that looks like it was put together by people just trying to fill in the blanks. Take the character of Bruce Cochrane, for example, who was in the first three Twisted Metal games driving Thumper. His wish in the first game was to clean up the violence in his neighborhood. In the second, he wanted to rule the world. In the third, he wants to "hang out with his homies forever." It's cute, I guess, but what was stopping it in the first place? Why did he need to kill people to get this? Did his parents set a curfew for him? Can his mates only stay with him for short periods?

Wishes, in general, are pretty dumb if that's not enough of an example. There was a wide variety of it in the first two games, with some challengers using it to get back to tournament brains Calypso. Often these were monkey paw scenarios where Calypso twisted the winner's wish into something horrible. Here they are all on one note, and they are all bad. I don't want to spoil any of the endings, but I will say they have all the creativity of a math equation.

Personally, I was disappointed with how they handled Calypso entirely. In Twisted Metal 2, he just showed up for cutscenes, and he was just a really scary dude. He was played by Mel McMurrin, as he was in this title, who did a great job setting him up. His voice is full of joy at the thought of people mutilating themselves. Here, not only is it considerably less threatening, but they've overused it to introduce each of the levels. It sets a different tone for his character when he warns you of the dangers you face. It makes him sound less sinister and more buddy like he punctuates his sentences by winking at you and nudging you in the ribs.



It's like someone threw all those wonderful toys right in 989 Studios' lap and turned them into a diorama. Rob Zombie aside, the tone is much lighter, but it manages to be less fun. Twisted Metal hit a sweet spot when it came to jitters, and rather than trying to figure it out themselves, the new devs just rolled over and went back to sleep.

What's truly humbling is that Vigilante 8 released earlier this year, introducing one of the first significant contenders to the vehicular combat throne. It gave us a slightly different take on the formula, but it was done with brilliance and creativity, something that Twisted Metal III is completely missing. To illustrate this point, I played Vigilante 8 a lot in my youth. I never played Twisted Metal III until I was an adult.

We would eventually get our stupidly edgy Twisted Metal back with Twisted Metal: Black. This was after 989 was dropped from the franchise and the reigns passed to Incognito Entertainment, a company formed from the remains of SingleTrac. At this point, however, vehicular combat games were on their way out. We would have a few more interesting entries in the franchise, but it's been quiet since 2022. It's a shame because I think the genre could benefit from recent advances in technology, but no one seems interested.

As for Twisted Metal III, it's the absolute nadir. Twisted Metal 4 was perhaps a slight improvement, but it's still worth forgetting. It's like seeing a beloved horror franchise turn into a straight-to-video series where none of the actors return and get a PG rating. It's like receiving a packet full of candy, only to find out that the candy is really just chalk. You can eat chalk in small amounts, so let's admit our disappointment and pretend it never happened.

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