RETRO REVIEW–Twisted Metal 2

Sweet Tooth beckons...again.

Sweet Tooth beckons...again.

In what I hope becomes a regular feature, we will re-examine classic video games from systems of the past.  What makes them a classic?  What aspects of the game make it an enduring hit?  I will attempt to shed light on these questions and many more through the Retro Review.  Anyway, here goes…

TITLE:  Twisted Metal 2

SYSTEM:  PlayStation 1

RELEASE DATE:  October 31, 1996

Twisted Metal 2 launched itself into the Pantheon of Video Games by expanding on the relatively unique concept of vehicle combat  introduced by the original Twisted Metal.  Cars, monster trucks, payloaders, really anything you can mount an engine and at least two wheels duke it out in a wide-ranging variety of environments that left the 16-bit gaming generation in its dust.

Play can take place on your own in a tournament fashion, as you advance through each level after your vehicle is the last car standing (or rolling).  Match games allow for playing just one level at a time, but this author would suggest playing with your best bud on Coop Mode.  The Coop Tournament plays just like the single player version, but tag-teaming with a fellow vehicle can lead to some impressive and devastating combination blows.

Three elements of this game make it stand out head and shoulders above other games of its generation:  The weapons, the depth of the vehicles, and the physics.  Three sequels were released in the coming years (TM3, TM4, and TM Black), but none could match what was perfected in the PlayStation’s infancy.

The arsenal available is wide-ranging and effective.  Fire, homing, and power missiles are the main long-range weapons.  Napalm is a uniquely potent choice, as it delivers a blow but also sets your opponent on fire (and yourself if too close).  Perhaps the best name that came out of this array of destruction is the ‘Rico’ bomb, short for ‘Ricochet’.  No one that I have ever played with has called this device a Ricochet Bomb.  It is ALWAYS called the Rico Bomb.


  1. Homing Missile–Just let ‘er rip and it will hit something.
  2. Napalm–The key to ‘explosive’ combination attacks.
  3. Power Missile–Really packs a wallop, but lack of homing detracts.
  4. Fire Missile–Abundant with a little homing ability.
  5. Rico Bomb–Great for hurling opponents over ledges.
  6. Remote Bomb–Takes a little skill to set off so it doesn’t hit you.
  7. Lightning–Honestly, why is this in the game?  Worthless.

The vehicles/characters available to select from offer their own variations in abilities and attributes, with each having a unqiue special weapon.  All vehicles are differentiated by armor, special weapon, and speed/handling.  In order to pull off some of the ‘quests’ described below, having a minimum amount of armor is a must.  There, of course, is an inverse relationship between armor and speed, as the more armor a car has, the slower it gets.  The best characters tend to strike a good balance between the two.

Special weapons vary from long-range devastation like Mr. Grimm’s Screaming Soul to close-in destruction wrought by Axel’s Supernova Shockwave.  Some vehicles are cursed with special weapons that require contacting opponents, which causes damage.  Hammerhead’s Monster Crush and Grasshopper’s deplorable Leap ‘n’ Slam take the cake as the worst specials for this very reason.

A great user combo involves Mr. Slamm, the payloader character.  His special weapon uses his loader bucket to grab an opponent and slam them up and down, bashing them against the ground.  This isn’t too exciting, but try this:  Homing missile-freeze-power missile-ram-slam special-napalm-fire missile.  That should be enough to kill most enemies without them striking back.


  1. Axel-Armor allows ramming before Shockwave for big damage.
  2. Shadow-Soul Shadow best special; Goes through walls and canyons.
  3. Thumper-Only slow regeneration of Flame Thrower detracts.
  4. Mr. Slamm aka McSlamm-Owner of deadliest user-combo.
  5. Outlaw 2-Taser hit-and-run attack complements speed.
  6. Warthog aka War Pig-Hard to manuever, solid otherwise.
  7. Mr. Grimm-Huge special weapon regenerates slowly, no armor.
  8. Twister-Unadulterated speed, but special sucks due to no armor.
  9. Roadkill-Boomerang is big time hitter, but needs open space.
  10. Spectre-Much better in the computer’s hands.
  11. Hammerhead-Slow and crushing special is terrible.
  12. Grasshopper-Should be ranked lower, but not possible with only 12.

 Trial-and-error and an obscene amount of hours spent perfecting this game has taught us to put a high-armor vehicle as Player One when playing in the ever-popular Coop Mode.  This is because of one opponent:  Spectre.  His Ghost Missile can penetrate even the best hiding places and while it hits with minimal damage, he can regenerate the weapon at an alarming rate and he just keeps bringing it.  But, only Player One is a target.  If a less well-armored vehicle like Mr. Grimm or Outlaw 2 happen to be in the lead spot, long, drawn-out battles will be extremely difficult.

What proves to be the distinguishing quality between TM2 and its successors is the physics.  Or lack thereof to be more accurate.  Turning can be done on a dime in TM2, no matter what your vehicle of choice happens to be.  Axel can change direction and execute a Crazy Ivan (from The Hunt For Red October, where subs abruptly pull a 180 to detect enemies chasing them) with the help of the hand brake (X button) and a Turbo assist.  Not so in future games.  Vehicles that do not handle as well take 40 acres to turn and greatly reduces the value their armor has. 

TM2 is one of those games where if you can imagine it, you can do it.  This fact is amazing considering that A)  It was made a dozen years ago and B) It hasn’t been replicated in future installments.

Even the best games can get old after awhile, when new, sparkly games are released on even newer, sparklier (sp?) systems.  But coming back to a classic like TM2 with an intent to perfect gameplay or do something that has never been done is just as fun, and much cheaper.

One of my favorite quests is attempting to complete the Coop Tournament without taking a Health.  This has been done 3 times, each time with me taking Axel and my good friend Eric Hoffmann taking Shadow.  The most trying level when executing the No Health Quest is definitely Holland.  No places to hide, 9 enemies, all compacted into the second smallest battlefield (next to Moscow).  This level always gets us on the edge of our seats, literally.  It is the only way to play.

Another quest is to take a randomly selected team through the Coop Tournament, losing as few lives as possible.  Each player ranks their favorite vehicles from 1 to 12 and then a standard deck of 52 cards is used to let fate decide the teams.  Draw an ace, you get your top vehicle.  Draw a queen, you get the worst vehicle on your list.  Draw a king, and it’s up to you.  The twist is, the combined value of the team’s vehicle rankings (1 + 12 = 13) gets multiplied by the number of lives left at the end (max of 5).  This challenges a player’s skill set with the entire array of characters and requires teamwork to support the weaker player.


You know you are playing a great game when it works it’s way into your dreams, or worse yet, into your every day actions (think Grand Theft Auto 3).  I recall driving home from Storm Lake my freshman year at Buena Vista after a week’s hard work on TM2.  As cars would approach, I would tap my pickup’s steering wheel Left-Right-Up in an attempt to freeze them and then blow them up with a missile of some kind.

If that isn’t enough, Hoffmann owned a copy of TM2…but didn’t own a PlayStation.  Case closed, Twisted Metal 2 is an undeniably classic game. 

For those of you fortunate enough to own a PS3, TM2 was released as a cheap download through the PlayStation Store last fall.  No need to go digging for your old disc or rummaging through a used game store.  Just pay a small price and download it directly to your hard drive. 

What are you waiting for?  Sweet Tooth is calling…



~ by goetgre on December 8, 2008.

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