Home consoles haven’t seen a Twisted Metal game since 2001’s Twisted Metal: Black. Since then, the series had some PlayStation Portable releases, a false start as a PlayStation Network title, and an aborted stint as a multiplayer-only title. On October 4, 2011 Twisted Metal will hit the PlayStation 3 as a full-fledged game with single-player and multiplayer modes. I recently saw and played three multiplayer levels and had an absolute blast. While I can’t speak on the single-player mode, the multiplayer action left me with a blissful sense of frenzy -- exactly what I want from Twisted Metal.
Eat Sleep Play’s David Jaffe is heading up the game, accompanied by longtime series producer/designer Scott Campbell. Jaffe was quick to point out that Twisted Metal is the longest running series on PlayStation consoles (1995). Although the series has been around for a long time, newcomers might mistake the new Twisted Metal for a racing game (it’s not) or an action game (closer, but not quite). In Jaffe’s mind, Twisted Metal is a fighting game. The fighting just happens to take place in cars.
During his opening presentation, Jaffe showed off some of the vehichles/characters in Twisted Metal. He seemed particularly proud of Juggernaut, a massive semi-truck. As you’d expect from a vehicle this size, Juggernaut is extremely powerful but also very slow. To help compensate for its lack of speed and maneuverability, Juggernaut can fire off mines to vex nimble opponents. In team play, other vehicles can drive onto Juggernaut’s trailer (think Spy Hunter). Once a teammate is on board, they can hide out and wait to reach a health point or fire a turret for team attacks.
Talon, the helicopter, is the game’s lone aerial combatant. Its obvious advantages are firing away from the sky and being able to avoid attacks without having to worry about ground obstacles. Talon gets even more interesting in team play where its magnetic line can be used to pick up other vehicles. Allies can be whisked out of tough spots and transported to safety; enemies can be lifted in the air and dropped for heavy damage (and humiliation).
Meat Wagon was arguably the funniest vehicle shown. A cross between an ambulance and a Hearse, this car reminded me of Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters. Meat Wagon fires gurneys loaded with TNT that have terrified patients strapped to them. That’s awesome. There’s also an option to control said patient/missile like an RC car after they’re fired. That’s awesome +1.
Axel is back and he looks as ridiculous as ever. (How else is a man strapped to two giant wheels supposed to look?) His special attack has his two wheels completely encasing him, allowing him to mow down everything in his path. Jaffe equated Axel’s special mode to, “a violent Oreo cookie.” I guess that depends on how you eat them.
Jaffe pointed out that the wide selection of vehicles hits a variety of driving and offensive perspectives. The vehicles also have different advantages and rolls in team play. Having a large number of diverse vehicles can make multiplayer games an entirely different experience from match to match.
My first round of play took place in the Sunspring, CA level. The level was mostly flat, with only a few small hills and tall buildings. It was easy to navigate, find power-ups, and spot enemies. The round was set for a 16-player team-deathmatch. It was all about blowing up your enemies, avoiding enemy fire, and tearing up the environment. The action felt fast and visceral. Part of the chaotic nature likely came from most of us just having fun getting acclimated with the cool weapons and vehicles. Another factor was that most of us just weren’t interested in thoughtful team attacks.
BOOM video 8811
The second round was more interesting, partially because of the level and partially because everyone had a better handle on the controls. The setting was Black Rock Arena, which Jaffe equated to a desert concert venue used for Burning Man...but with lava pits, giant spiked wrecking balls, and spiked walls. The arena dynamically changed throughout the match, with walls appearing and disappearing. This made it impossible to memorize the exact layout. It also featured a flying health orb; you could refill your health or blow it up so that your opponents couldn’t recharge.
This session was more fun because teamwork tactics were more obvious. The best power-ups were located near the hazards. When a member of our team went for a power-up, the others would cover. I noticed other players using more advanced turret attacks and pulling allies out of rough spots. This round was definitely a different, headier kind of fun compared to the mindless violence in round one.
Last, but not least, was nuke mode in the Harbor City level. “This is the mode I'm most terrified of and most excited by,” said Jaffe. Nuke mode is an unusual blend of vehicular combat and baseball. Up to three teams alternate between offense and defense -- essentially playing an inning. On offense, the goal is to find and take control of a missile launcher to destroy enemy statues. Defenders must prevent the opposing team from reaching the missile launcher. Points are earned for destroying statues, successfully protecting missile launchers, and more. This mode is definitely not for players that prefer shooting the crap out of everything while shouting obscenities. More thought and teamwork are required for nuke games.
I was really impressed with Twisted Metal’s diversity in vehicles, multiplayer modes, and gameplay styles. The game offered visceral chaos and controlled frenzy. Most importantly, every mode I played was flat-out fun. While I’m definitely interested to see how the single-player mode is coming along, from the multiplayer sessions I recently enjoyed, Twisted Metal seems like it will be worth the wait.