My first gaming console was a GameBoy, and with it Pokémon Red. It started my early love for gaming. It wouldn’t be until my second gaming console with the original PlayStation that my love for gaming would be here to stay. Christmas 1996 was when I received it, and to this day it still works. My first game was Crash Bandicoot as it came with the console. I then played nothing else except the demo disc that had Tekken 2 and Jet Motto on it. Now here’s the thing I’m a little hazy on the details as this was when I was 6 or 7 years old. Side note, I’m getting old. At some point in time, maybe my brother bought it as the PlayStation was primarily in his room, but a copy of Twisted Metal 2 came into our possession. I thought great, a new game to play. Did I ever play the crap out of that game. This was the start of one of my favorite series of games that is only remembered by the few (millions) who knew how amazing it was.
Twisted Metal 2 is a PlayStation car combat game developed by SingleTrac, and directed by David Jaffe. It was released in October of 1996. The story of the game, centers around a tournament called Twisted Metal setup by a man named Calypso. If you win the tournament then you get a prize of any one single wish. However, you must be careful what you wish for. I remember booting up the game and seeing that intro for the first time and thinking one word: woah. It’s very quick and can pass by in a blink, but once that clown starts laughing, the engine revs, and the guitar kicks in you know you’re in for a treat. The single player campaign was where I spent most of my time. You had a choice of 12 characters with the option to unlock 2 additional via cheat codes, remember those? As the game implies, it’s a World Tour starting in Los Angeles, to New York (my favorite level and yes I am biased) through Paris, Moscow, Antarctica all the way to Hong Kong. You battle your way through leaving nothing but scrap metal and a few destroyed landmarks. I was blown away, pun intended. I usually played as Outlaw because of her special attack with lightning. It wasn’t until I learned about the code for the other two characters that I started to play as Minion, who was also a boss in the game. That was amazing to me that you could play as a boss character, because up to that point I didn’t know of a game where you could play as a boss. The gameplay was so different to me, and while I wasn’t that great at the game at first, it was something that I could pickup and learn rather quickly. I would try new cars but quickly go back to the same 3 characters to use. Then I discovered more codes for unlimited weapons and health, and it made me play the game even more. I could bulldoze through levels and it made it more fun. Each location had an event you could trigger. In the Paris level, probably the most famous part of Twisted Metal 2, you could blow up the Eiffel Tower￼ and create a new level on the rooftops. In New York you could shoot the Statue of Liberty and it turns into a woman in a red bikini. It felt very “adult” and something I shouldn’t be playing. It was just so much fun. I even had fun playing the next game despite what most fans consider to be the worst of the series.
Twisted Metal 3 was released in October of 1998, developed by 989 Studios. As the video above shows, it was very clear this was a different game not made by the same people. I still didn’t know much about games or their developers at the time, all I knew where the games themselves. I see Twisted Metal, I see a 3, I wanted it. It became very clear to me however it was different. Gameplay and all. I still had fun with it but not as much as I did with 2. Even as a kid I could tell that things were harder to control, that I couldn’t do certain things that I could do in Twisted 2 like turn in the air or turn on the ground even. The levels themselves didn’t feel fun either. Everything just felt clunky and I knew this wasn’t the same game that I played for two years previously. I did think maybe it was just me and I kept playing it, maybe I would get used to the controls as I went on. I was still able to play as Minion, so I was happy about that. I could still input codes to play with unlimited ammo and health. As I’m writing this however I honestly could not tell you what my favorite level was, because I just don’t have as many fond memories for Twisted 3 that I had for 2. I remember Washington DC, only because I can remember Calypso saying it was the nations capital every time. I eventually went back to play Twisted 2 over 3, because I just had that much more fun with it. The following year Twisted Metal 4 would be released, however I did not know this at the time or else I would have more than likely asked for it. To this day I still have not played Twisted Metal 4, but I have downloaded it for my PlayStation Classic mini, so one day I’ll play it. After seeing the intro for it I thought it was a cool premise but to most Twisted Metal fans, it wasn’t that great. 989 Studios didn’t understand these games, and it’s not their fault. They were given the franchise and were told to make a game and make it fast. I’m sure if they had time they would have been able to make much greater games. Before moving on, in regards to the original Twisted Metal, I never picked it up. Somehow the second game came into my life but the first did not until recently on the PS Classic as well. Playing it now it is a game of its time for sure but still enjoyable in its own right.
Now before I went into my Twisted Metal hiatus, I did have one more game that I played and enjoyed. As I didn’t get a PlayStation 2 right away, I stuck with my PS1 a little longer. And in November of 2001, Twisted Metal: Small Brawl released developed by Incog Inc, with some of the original creators back on board. Even at 11 I had a bit of nostalgia for a game that I played 4 years earlier, and decided to give it a shot. Small Brawl may not have been Twisted 2, but it was pretty close in terms of how it played and felt. I even remember the levels in this one compared to Twisted 3. The mini golf course level, the kitchen level and the amusement park were some fun ones. The story for this game was a kid friendly version, with the cars being RC Cars instead of actual cars with guns on them. After a bit of time, I stepped away from the series. I eventually got a PlayStation 2, but I skipped the Twisted Metal game for it at the time. Instead it wasn’t until 2005 when I got myself a PSP, that I would be reintroduce into the series.
The PlayStation Portable (PSP) was the first console that I saved money for to buy. And with it I bought two games. Ridge Racer and Twisted Metal: Head On. With Twisted Metal I wanted to go back to what I felt almost 10 years ago. And did I. The game felt like a true sequel to Twisted 2 in every way. I played for hours. This was the first game in the series where I wanted to play as all the characters and unlock all of their stories to see what would happen. I started to really fall for the lore of the games and see it they tied back to earlier ones. Aside from the campaign, for the first time in a very long time I could play multiplayer as the PSP and Head On had online play. I rarely did multiplayer back in the day because honestly, I didn’t have many friends to come over to play with. One of the many reasons I stick my head in gaming to begin with. Now with this new portable however I could play with others. I remember staying up all night to play with many people. There was even a group I would meet every so often and we could just chat in the text chat feature. This was before social media was big so sadly I did not stay in contact with these guys but I wish I did. There would even be nights we wouldn’t play a match and only chat. I can’t say how many hours I spent playing Head On. It quickly became my favorite Twisted Metal game based on that alone. Everything felt as it should and the levels were some of my favorite. Russia and Tokyo Rooftops were my favorite levels. Egypt was fun as well. It was around this time that I went back to grab Twisted Metal: Black for the PS2. The internet at this point was close to how it was today so I knew what to expect from Black, being a darker take on the story, but I didn’t expect this dark at first.
It was different. Much darker and faster than ever before. And I loved it. I loved the world it built and I loved how gritty it was. This was the second game in the series I wanted to play as all of the characters to see all of their stories. They were all fantastic in their own way with really twisted (ha) results. This was when I was getting into story more in games and I just loved the world and the lore within so much. When I learned that Minion was once again in this game I wanted to unlock him. He was my go to character in the Twisted games so I had to do it. However with the music in this game being so intense and the atmosphere so well done, it made me kinda scared. Especially when I finally unlocked Minion.
The beginning song gives me chills every time. The atmosphere of the game was just incredible. I regretted not getting it when I first got my PS2, but I was able to enjoy it at the time.
After a few years however I once again moved on, leaving Twisted Metal behind. I got myself a PS3 and new games for it as well. While I occasionally went back and played Head On on PSP, it was starting to get stale. Even the people who I had played online with stopped going online. I didn’t thing there was going to be another game in the near future. Until a PS2 version of the PSP game released in 2008, Twisted Metal Head On: Extra Twisted Edition. It came with a new level, as well as bonus features and Lost Levels for Twisted Metal Black. It also came with a digital copy of Twisted Metal Black for PS3, so I scooped it up. There was also a documentary on the series up to that point which I enjoyed. Within the documentary came a tease. Twisted Metal on PS3. However it never came, and I didn’t think one would come. I stopped caring about it, but in the back of my mind I hoped one day. Then E3 2011 came.
David Jaffe walked on stage, the creator of Twisted Metal and told the world it would return on PlayStation 3. February 2012, the game released titled Twisted Metal, like a soft reboot of sorts and I was so pumped to get it. Before the game released I went back to play Twisted Metal Black and Head On again to prepare and I was back into it. February came around and I played it for a good while. It was fun, fast just like Twisted Metal Black. It visually looked amazing. However being an early adopter, the game had bugs and online was barely playable. The trophies which I talked about on a recent podcast, were incredibly hard and if you go to my Trophy Profile, you’ll see I only did about half of them. While the game had some shortcomings, I still enjoyed what I could out of it. I even went back recently to play it again. It’s one of the reasons I was inspired to write this post. I went on a Twisted Metal spree and watched a very interesting retrospective of the games by GhenryPerez who talks with David Jaffe about all of the games. It got me back into the series. I looked to see if I could get the old games on PlayStation 4, and Twisted Metal Black was on there. I purchased it and nostalgia hit me instantly. This is why I love this series, the fast action packed mechanics and world. I also tried searching for more retrospectives but it seems there aren’t many. Which is why I wrote this post to remind people of this series. It’s a series that I feel isn’t recognized as much as others are, and understandably so it’s for a select group of people. For those people however, these games are amazing. They speak to us in many ways from the characters that we resonate with, to the music to just the whole vibe of the game itself. To me, it was one of the games I was able to play that made me feel comfort in knowing I could always turn to it when I felt sad. It gave me hope even though the characters went through hopeless wishes. The destruction I could cause made me feel like I was destroying my own sad thoughts. It then turned into a happy game where I made friends online. I will always be thankful to this series for being there when I needed it. This series will always be remembered by me and the memories I have of playing it will always stick with me. Other fans have their own memories, and their own reasons for why this series is special to them. While the last game came out 8 years ago as of this post, I hope that there will be another in the future. You can bet I’ll be there waiting for it when a new entry when it does.