Developer(s) – 989 Studios
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s) – Jonathan Beard
Producer(s) – Jonathan Beard, Darrin Fuller & William Todd
ESRB – T For Teen
Released on Halloween of 1999, again exclusively in North America, Twisted Metal 4 split fans firmly down the middle in terms of quality, with it receiving mixed to positive reviews at the time. It delivered improvements on the gameplay and controls but introduced a very questionable cast of characters overall. In my opinion, the fourth game is without a shadow of a doubt the worst out of the original Twisted Metal quadrilogy, but I went into this game thinking I was going to end up giving it a far worse review than what I actually did. I was surprised in some respects playing this one.
Graphics – 8.5/10
In terms of technical design, there were some minor improvements made to the level of polish, but regardless, the game still maintains the higher frame rate associated with 989 Studio’s take on the series, which is impressive. The variety in level design and the intricate layouts of tracks are also maintained to quite a high degree. It’s by a small fraction the best-looking game of the original four. The only thing letting it down in terms of conceptual design is the design of the new characters, which is largely underwhelming. Characters like Pizza Boy, The Joneses, and Trashman leave a lot to be desired.
Gameplay – 8/10
The gameplay premise remains identical to that of the first three games; vehicular deathmatches over a certain number of rounds and a few boss fights thrown in additionally. But the improvements made to Twisted Metal 4 over Twisted Metal 3 including things like more weapons to use and more variety in boss battles. Another neat little feature the developers added is the ability to use certain elements of each environment in combat. For example, players can control a crane in the first level to damage other cars. It was the level of improvement that the series needed come Twisted Metal 3, and they’re welcome additions in the fourth game.
Controls – 10/10
There were also a few minor improvements made to the controls, including the new mechanics of manipulating the environment to the player’s advantage, and although the series didn’t really need any improvement in this respect, it’s always welcome to see minor tweaks implemented. I’m glad at least that the developers didn’t take it too far too soon, and try to incorporate all kinds of new mechanics and potentially ruin it in terms of controls at least.
Lifespan – 6/10
Clocking in fractionally longer than Twisted Metal 1 and 3, the game can be made to last around 13 hours with each playthrough lasting about an hour again. But I can’t help but think that if the boss characters were at least unlockable, or if the developers just had the inkling to add a few more game modes, which was at this point something the series desperately needed, then it could have been made to last so much longer than any of the previous three games. It was still quite a long time for a game like this to last, but by this time, there was definitely scope for expansion.
Storyline – 2/10
Again, the basic premise of the story remains the same; the world’s best vehicular combatants challenging for the title of Twisted Metal champion. This time, however, the mascot of Twisted Metal, Sweet Tooth, has overthrown the tournament’s regular organizer Calypso and taken his power to grant wishes to the victor; indeed, Calypso is a playable character for the first time in the series as he looks to take back his status. Unfortunately, that, along with the story arcs of a few other characters such as Mr. Zombie, Quatro, and Captain Grimm are about the only ones that have any substance to them.
Most of the new characters, like Pizza Boy, Meter Maid, Trashman, Goggle Eyes, and The Joneses have very nonsensical and unambitious wishes in scope. And although some of the endings to these characters are played for laughs, like Twisted Metal 3, it completely demeans what David Jaffe envisioned for this series. Twisted Metal 2 was the best in the series because it blended seriousness with humor pretty much perfectly. But when 989 Studios took the developmental rights, they made it into something much more slapstick and cartoony, and I’ve never been a fan of this. But Twisted Metal 4 is where this idea was cranked up to 11, and doesn’t work for me at all.
Originality – 6/10
The fourth game suffers from the exact same problem as what the third game does; some innovation made in some respects, but not enough overall. In terms of story, they started going back on what made the series great come the third game, but in the fourth, that is made far more apparent. It’s a shame how 989 Studios took certain elements of this series quite seriously and neglected others to the point where it becomes almost enraging.
Overall, Twisted Metal 4 is the worst game of the original four, but at the very least, it is still fairly enjoyable to play; even if the incentive for completing the game with every character is minimal. The series would take a far more interesting turn in the future, but for the most part, like Twisted Metal 3, I’m glad it stayed in North America.