Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.
The Twisted Metal franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary last week and in writing about it, I was reminded of all the fun times I had with the series in its 32 bit heyday. My middle school friends and I loved playing the first two entries, with the first being a “pass the controller around” setup and the second actually having co-op built in. It’s been many years since I’ve played through an entire entry in the series in one go, but Twisted Metal 2 was the apex of the franchise, so that’s the game we’ll be paying tribute to today.
The original game brought car combat to the masses, but had a slew of rough edges and a fairly low level of production values to it. That was part of the charm though, as it had an underground feel and an off-beat sense of humor to it. The idea of a weapon-filled demolition derby with a grand prize was a solid one though, and while Twisted Metal 1 may not have been the best way to execute the idea, the game was a fine proof of concept. Twisted Metal 2 had to improve upon things though, and unlike most sequels that were evolutionary, this was one was revolutionary and added a ton of little things that made a big difference in the total package.
Gameplay-wise, the follow-up added a lot of things like cheat codes, hidden attacks with button inputs, secrets, and Easter eggs. There was a ton of content to enjoy and even if you had beaten the game with everyone, there was something hidden somewhere for you to find. It might be as simple as a code behind a painting in the Louvre, but there a constant sense that destroying things could reveal not only a cooler-looking environment but also benefit you in some way throughout the game. Stage deformation is still something that isn’t done all the time, so seeing it back in 1996 was downright mind-blowing.
TM 2 begins simply enough in a sprawling Los Angeles-set stage. You’re introduced to environmental hazards here as grabbing a lightning bolt power-up and then smashing generators allows you to send a multi-directional lightning blast to the surrounding area. It’s very useful in larger skirmishes and can kill an enemy or two that you can’t see if they happen to be there. Otherwise, you’ve got a lot of teleporter areas to work with and some nice tunnel portions as well. One particular area gives you a ramp to hop onto a higher part of the tunnel and get power-ups — and a great vantage point to lay waste to enemies with homing or fire missiles. It’s a good starting level and shows off some sights that have aged nicely — like the Hollywood sign in the background.
After that open stage, you get thrown into a bowl-shaped area in Moscow. This close-quarters map is all-action and a true test of how well you can use the d-pad driving controls. Tight movements are required to move around and ramps add even more space to this short and sweet stage. Still, with one stage to get you used to open and small environments, the transition to the game’s legendary Paris stage is perfect. You know how to move to around each kind of locale, which will serve you well here. Battling it out the Louvre makes use of the Moscow bowl’s close-quarters skills. Firing at enemies can not only take them out, but also open up passages throughout the level. Using some C4 will deform the Eiffel tower itself and add a gigantic platform to the stage.
Using this unlocks a whole second sub-level of sorts as you can race around rooftops. It’s a small nod to the first game’s final level, and a test to try and beat enemies in these areas since so few weapons home in. Teleporters take you around the stage and can even give you a sniper-esque view of the city alongside a stunning view of the Eiffel tower itself. You’ll also get a glimpse at the rooftop section and realize that there’s something you can do either from the perch or the tower itself to access them. Tight streets zig zag you through from one side of the stage to the next, while a large fountain contains a few power-ups and a unique location for vehicular mayhem as well.
It’s one of the franchise’s best-remembered stages and for good reason. When the game was first shown off in EGM, the first level shown was the succeeding stage – Amazonia. It’s an area full of platforms, lava, and hidden passages. It’s kind of a bland location visually, and not just because of age — the never-ending tan and red motif just isn’t interesting. It is a forboding locale for the mid-game boss battle with Minion though. Beating him gives you access to another memorable stage – New York. Here, you’ve got skyscrapers to hop between and even a version of the Statue of Liberty that can be modified into a bikini-clad form. The most memorable area here for me is probably the hotel lobby-esque area surrounded by glass and high-class decor.
It’s followed by Antarctica – a very underrated stage, but one that features far more destruction than usual since it regularly has large chunks of it fall off. This can lead to some of the best victories in the game if you freeze an enemy and then send them plunging to their doom without a chance to survive. Holland is the second-to-last stage, and the most colorful in the game. It’s got giant fields and windmills and won’t take long to beat since there’s nowhere to run. It’s a fitting test of your skills up to this point and it’s fun to hide from enemies if you’re in a small vehicle by going into the fields and almost being completely out of their line of sight.
The final stage takes place in a neon-lit Hong Kong with the most expansive map layout. It’s a memorable location and has some fade in to show some of what is in the background without resulting in a lick of slowdown. A two stage boss battle sees you topple Dark Tooth – Sweet Tooth’s father, in two forms. Beating the game nets you a twisted ending from Calypso. The madman behind the tournament enjoys taking the wishes of the winners literally and using it to destroy their lives. Sadly, beating the game in co-op doesn’t net you an ending. It makes sense in one way since the game would then have to play two endings, but sure does suck to spend hours with friends to beat the game and then get nothing. Still, it’s a minor issue for a game that has stood the test of time quite well. It may have aged visually, but its stage design remains enjoyable nearly two decades after its initial release. Anyone wishing to play the game now can easily buy it on the PlayStation Store for only $5.99.