When I was five years old my uncle visited my house and brought some video games with him. One such game was the PS1 release of “Twisted Metal 2.” The fiery explosions of 32 bit car combat danced across the screen in a foreign yet inviting aroma of simulated destruction. I watched him play for half an hour, asking an endless stream of questions about everything I saw, when he finally looked at me with a smile and handed me the controller. This was the first time I had ever played a video game in my life, and needless to say I was hooked for many years thereafter.

               Over time there have been many hit or more often miss sequels, and my interest in the series faded. Then, just last year, Eat Sleep Play, the original developers of Twisted Metal 2, announced that they were rereleasing and reinventing the series. Suddenly, that long faded spark began to ignite, and I found myself more excited than I’d been for a long time. On Valentine’s Day it was released.  With bated breath I inserted the disk into my PS3 that same weekend, and was greeted by an experience that failed to disappoint.

               While Twisted Metal hasn’t lost its spirit in the last 15 years – one of its greatest strengths – it isn’t 1996 anymore, and it’s likely that the major appeal exists predominantly for long time fans of the series. The controls are more or less the same: pitting your vehicles in different settings throughout the world to demolish each other in the most outrageous ways possible. Weapons like missiles, turrets, napalm, and even remote control cars with bombs strapped to their tops are attained through pickups throughout the maps, while each character’s unique special attack charges over time. These special attacks span from turbo (for ramming vehicles) to a hurled flaming chainsaw to an ice cream truck transforming into a robot with a jetpack. The insanity of what goes on in the game is transferred to the level design, with destructible buildings any vehicle can just drive through as if they were paper, pedestrians running around in a panic as the world around them crumbles.

               The physics are perfect for combat, but terrible for the new racing missions peppered throughout the story mode. In fact, the story mode as a whole was a bit disappointing. Instead of each vehicle having a driver with their own z grade back story there are only three characters: Sweet Tooth the serial killer clown, Mr. Grimm, the game’s mascot and troubled ex-gang member, and Dollface, the psychotic, masked ex-supermodel. While Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck, Mr. Grimm’s motorcycle, and Dollface’s semi are all available to use, any character can now inhabit any vehicle. Unfortunately, the appeal to a Twisted Metal with a linear story isn’t very high, and while the concept and mechanics work fine, it seems like something is lost in the process. After getting through poorly constructed boss battles, enemy A.I. that focus exclusively on you regardless of all the other combatants they should be dealing with, and a lukewarm plot, I had begun to question the decisions Eat Sleep Play made when taking the game in this direction. That was before I played multiplayer.

               The game sports both old school split-screen and a bare bones online multiplayer system. There are some very basic rewards for experience points, but the gameplay itself is where Twisted Metal truly shines. Modes like Team Deathmatch and free-for-all are a blast as always, but they don’t compare to the madness of Hunted, where you receive points for defeating the player who is the “hunted” but then become the hunted yourself (I call it Murder Tag). My personal favorite is “Nuke Mode,” an insane three phase battle similar to capture the flag. This game is meant to be played with friends, either offline or online, and that is clearly where it finds its most comfortable place.

               This game did not disappoint me at all. It was entertaining, energetic, and over the top. If you could get over the lack of polish and sometimes frustrating difficulty due to imbalanced A.I. and a finicky physics system, then there’s the potential for hours of fun with your friends. I leave my controller decidedly satisfied with where the series is now, and optimistic to where it could go in the future.