Many of us grew up playing Super Mario Kart, whether starting with the Super Famicom original or even the modern incarnation on the Switch, but a few of us also remember the Twisted Metal series, a game that, like Mario Kart, relied upon multiplayer to really unleash the beast within for an experience that was unforgettable.
Easily the most successful entry in the entire series, Twisted Metal 2, developed by Sony Interactive Studios America/Single Trac and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 1996, the game also helped capture a particular cultural moment in video games and broader pop trends.
The original Twisted Metal on the PlayStation is renown for its twisted characters and insane gameplay, but the sequel, Twisted Metal 2, took everything introduced in the first game and cranked it up another notch. Brimming with 1990s edge, Twisted Metal 2 both innovates on the conventions introduced in games like Mario Kart and adds new… twists.
Mainly focusing on what would be called Battle Mode in other titles, Twisted Metal 2’s characters each bring something different to the arena. The main objective is simple and familiar to anyone that is a fan of so-called battle royale games now: Be the last player standing at the end of the match.
Like the first game, this game is fun as a single-player experience, with a fun if somewhat bizarre storyline to follow for each driver. Like the first game, once the player defeats all opponents and bosses, Calypso will grant his or her “wish,” often resulting in twisted endings that befit the name of the game.
But where the game really shines is in playing with other people. In split-screen co-op mode you can either battle head to head or take on the storyline together. Not only are both of these modes well realized but they’re extremely fun. Battle royale games are enjoying a moment right now, and it would seem that Twisted Metal is ripe for a revival. That said, Twisted Metal 2 might be jarring for modern players.
Though the co-op splitscreen head-to-head and dueling matches are loads of fun, the graphics do not hold up well when viewed through modern eyes. Looking like somewhat of a mix between pixel art and watercolor, Twisted Metal 2 was lampooned then for its lackluster appearance and this certainly doesn’t help it today.
What really buoys the whole experience and makes it a real gem for modern players is the variety of levels, characters, and the different narratives for each character. Like a fighting game, each character feels unique in a way that modern games don’t seem to be able to do. Character selection is intimately tied to play style and, in essence, becomes a proxy personality test. The soundtrack is what you would expect from a game with such overt heavy-metal influences. A mixture of good and bad, it doesn’t offend but it never makes you want to stop and jam out to it either.
Modern gamers willing to overlook a few things here and there will find a lot to love about Twisted Metal.