Publisher: 989 Studios

Release Year: 1998

Twisted Metal III

This review is written by Jake “The Voice” Parr. You can follow him on Twitter @JakeTheVoice123

Tossing bananas out of go-karts, going off-road in rally cars, zipping along tracks in hovercraft – these kinds of games are fun. However, SingleTrac’s Twisted Metal series was a vehicular deathmatch frag-a-thon that proved to the world that blowing one another up in buggies, trucks, and even a demonic ice cream van can be just as enjoyable, if not moreso. Twisted stuff, indeed.

989 Studios stepped into the equation to create the third and fourth entries in the series. Despite high-expectations, Twisted Metal III disappointed many fans after its North American-exclusive release in 1998.

The titular Twisted Metal tournament invites drivers to battle one another in a series of gauntlets around the world for a grand prize: a single wish, no matter how outlandish it may be. Say goodbye to those fantastic comic book-style cutscenes from the previous game. Instead, this one has fully-3D cutscenes to tell the story, which are cursed with stiff animation and lazy writing. Hey, at least the opening looks cool.

Compared to the previous game, Twisted Metal III has some good visuals. It’s no major improvement, but the vehicles and environment look smoother, and the heads-up display is a lot more compact and informative compared to the clutter of green text smeared across the screen. It runs at a better framerate, too, and supports 4-player split-screen. However, the new physics engine is a bit iffy – you can drive up steep walls if you try hard enough, but can’t seem to steer without swinging around wildly while you’re accelerating. Though it’s only a video game, so there’s no need for any semblance of logic here… right?

Gameplay has not changed all that much, naturally. All you need to do is eliminate the competition, including the mini-bosses on tournament mode. Weapons like homing missiles and bouncy bombs are available to collect, but you can always rely on your machine guns or vehicle-exclusive special moves to dish out damage. Secret button combos will activate things like invisibility or a freeze ray, of which the AI will use a lot.

Health power-ups are available, but they reappear a bit too quickly, and the AI will automatically hone towards them. As a result, some matches will drag on at times. Worst of all, there are no other game modes outside of the story mode and deathmatch.

You can tell 989 Studios lost all interest in creating a likeable cast of characters to go with the line-up of vehicles. Instead, you’ve got a hotrod-driving pyromaniac who looks like a mix-up of Krusty the Clown and Keith Flint from The Prodigy. Even recurring characters look laughable; the soul-reaping biker Mr. Grimm resembles that of a decaying tramp. To top it all off, with exception of Mel McMurrin as Calypso, the voice acting is utter bum. Even the ending cutscenes are dull, and often contradict what the characters are fighting for in the first place.

While nostalgic fans will praise the second game for its great levels, in honesty, it did have a few rubbish maps (‘Field of Screams’, anyone?). Twisted Metal III’s level design is not that different: areas like Hangar 18 and Calypso’s zeppelin are symmetrical snorefests. The better picks include the icy, bumpy North Pole, and the twisty streets of London, all of which have destroyable secret areas with weapon stockpiles hidden inside.  

Big points go to the soundtrack of the game. Rob Zombie’s horror movie-inspired tracks like “Meet The Creeper” and “Superbeast” go hand-in-hand with the anarchic gameplay (there’s even a Xmas-themed remix of “More Human Than Human” in the North Pole!). The same can be said about the blend of guitars and fast-tempo drum ‘n’ bass beats by Pitchshifter. Plus, the instrumental, in-house rock tracks are a decent listen, too. Plenty of head-bangers await in this one.

Truthfully, Twisted Metal III is not a bad game, though it lacks a lot of polish. Plus points include its smooth framerate, decent visuals and Metal-centric soundtrack. While the gameplay is what you would expect from a Twisted Metal game, some of the levels are far too boring, and a lack of extra game modes severely hampers its replay-value. On top of that, while there are a decent selection of vehicles, the drivers are ridiculous and their endings are a lackluster watch, too. There are nuggets of fun to be had in this one, yet, alas, it pales in comparison to its predecessor – it’s a soulless sequel.

Relevant Twisted Metal III Auctions from eBay

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Release Year: 2000

TimeSplitters

This review is written by Jake “The Voice” Parr. You can follow him on Twitter @JakeTheVoice123

Only one video game franchise was mad enough to let players fight robots and zombies with tommy guns and mines in a Chinese restaurant, if they so desired: TimeSplitters. In 1998, Free Radical Design rose from the ashes and, two years later, unleashed the first entry in what would be one of the most unique first-person shooter series ever created.

An evil race of aliens known as the TimeSplitters have travelled through time with one goal in mind: exterminate the human race. The plot is sparse from this point onward, as expected from late-nineties and early-millenium shooters, and merely serves as a backdrop for the real fun.

The game’s story mode takes place across different time zones, from a futuristic interplanetary travel station to an Egyptian tomb expedition from the 1920s. The objective is simple enough: fight through a linear level of enemies, grab a special item that they’re guarding, and rush to the exit. Some levels may require backtracking to the beginning with said item to win, while others have the goal in other parts of the map. To make matters worse, the TimeSplitters will appear once you’ve nabbed the goodies.

Altering the difficulty will affect the number of enemies, your starting location, and even expand the level. Admittedly, it’s a mindless run ‘n’ gun affair with a few cheap enemy placements at times, and after a while it may feel a bit repetitive. Still, it puts up a great challenge, especially for speedrunners. An unlockable challenge mode adds 27 challenges to the mix, some of which involve shooting heads off of zombies, escorting an ally, and so on, thus adding some much-needed variety.

Arcade mode lets you go bonkers with its plethora of maps (some being plucked from story mode, while others are exclusive to the multiplayer). Want to play a deathmatch in a haunted mansion with plasma weapons and revolvers, or horde as many bags as possible in a supermarket armed with bricks? Sure, why not? Nearly all of the weapons are equipped with alt-fire modes to add a bit of spice to any gunfight.

Over 50 playable characters are available. Gangsters, robots, mutated rednecks, an 6-foot tall gingerbread – you name it. It does have its fair share of generic, forgettable characters, like “green zombie” or “Female SWAT”. For some bizarre reason, unlocking characters as an opponent in the arcade mode does not make them a playable character just yet – the ability to actually play as them is a seperate unlock. Still, with the amount of characters on offer, from serious one to silly ones, there’s something for everyone.

If you don’t feel like playing up to 4-players on split-screen, you can still have lots of fun against the bots. While the AI is programmed to pop out of cover or roll into a fight in the story mode, the baddies in the arcade mode can have their skill altered between one to five-stars. Their rank will affect their accuracy, reaction time, and their agility. Fighting against the top brass will be a bit trickier, as they’ll sometimes duck, roll, and even spray their weapons wildly if they’re under fire. Each game can have up to ten bots, so that means more allies or opposition.

The game’s mapmaker mode was a very unique inclusion for a console game at the time. It’s surprisingly easy to get the hang of sticking pieces of level geometry together, and filling them with weapon and player spawn points. Considering how difficult game creation kits for the PC were at the time (and still are, to be fair), the team were thoughtful enough to avoid over-complicating things. Levels can even be decorated with different themes and appearances, too.

Graeme Norgate’s TimeSplitters soundtrack is an eclectic blend of genres, ranging from industrial and orchestral to fast-paced electronic beats. Each and every last one of them are perfectly suited to each level, and will have you nodding your head and whistling along in no time. Fans agree that the Chinese Restaurant theme is a funky, oriental-themed gem. TimeSplitters may be showing its age after eighteen years, but, for the time, the amount of variety on offer was truly staggering. With its large line-up, wicked weapons and memorable maps, the game still has a lot on offer. While the later games in the series offer even more content and polish, the original entry in the series is still simple, barmy fun to this very day.

Relevant TimeSplitters Auctions from eBay

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