Hands On With Twisted Metal PS3
You know how awesome it felt the first time you took a sledge hammer to a lump of concrete and bashed it into dust? If you’ve ever played a Twisted Metal game, damn right you do. There are few things easier to explain why they are fun than a fighting/shooting game about cars rather than martial arts warriors, which is why it has been way too damned long since the last proper new installment in the series. Luckily, Sony seems to think so too and at long last we’re getting a proper console version for Playstation 3.
Simply called Twisted Metal, it’s due for release October 4th and we got to spend some quality time with it during this week’s Los Angeles leg of Sony’s Worldwide Studio tour (see our coverage of Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, and Resistance 3). Having made it through in one piece, we’re happy to report that it promises to be every bit as sick, offensive, exaggerated and insane-to-the-max that previous installments have been. After spending 4 hours with it, we are in love.
Before actually playing we were shown the new extended trailer that shows off not only the incredible update the Twisted Metal series is getting, but also (as confirmed during Dave Moss’ interview with co-producer Chad Cox), the fact that all cut scenes were filmed using live actors. We didn’t actually see any of these cut scenes during our hands-on time, but what little we saw of the live action footage looks pretty excellent. While no plot details were revealed, it comes off as creepy, melodramatic and stuffed full of excellent 1990s style cheese. Think goth metal + Nascar + a heaping spoonful of Bwahahahahahahaha and you have an idea of the tone.
After the the trailer, we saw the first of three presentations delivered by David Jaffe, each focusing on the the level we would subsequently play (which we’ll discuss shortly). The first presentation was also the meatiest of the three, featuring some of the new features being brought into the series. First among the features is the array of kick ass new new vehicles, like the incredible Juggernaut, a nearly invincible semi truck, and the Helicopter, the first ever flying vehicle in a Twisted Metal game. Both of them were excellent choices to show off the way this version of Twisted Metal will encourage epic co-op play. Players will need to pull off some extremely tricky moves that, when executed correctly will turn a barely coordinated demolition derby into ballet of doom. Best example: The Juggernaut’s rear door that opens, Knight Rider style, allowing up to two other players to drive their vehicles into the trailer. At that point, those players stop controlling their vehicles and instead man the Juggernaut’s turret machine gun and missile launcher.
As we already mentioned, the Juggernaut is practically invincible, which means one player gets to drive a giant tank truck around smashing everything while two friends blast anything that gets remotely close to it into oblivion. There were more wonderful vehicles, of course, including a helicopter and my favorite, the Meat Wagon, an ambulance with rockets and the cruel ability to fling patients strapped to a gurney at opponents as a secondary weapon. And the game is full of that kind of sick wickedness. Everything is taken to the nth degree and given a steady diet of steroids and extremist literature until it explodes in… well, it’s pretty extreme, OK? Giant wrecking balls, nuclear weapons and flattened suburbs abound, and that’s almost the tame stuff. We haven’t even covered the screaming pedestrians who dispense power-ups when you drive over them. Every point we saw felt like one beautiful, sick joke after another.
As for actual play, we can report the controls handle beautifully. You steer with your l-stick and man the camera with the r-stick. Primary weapons are fired with L2 and secondary with R2. You cycle through your available weapons with L1 and R1. Triangle arms your secondary weapon’s auxiliary function – for instance, the meat wagon can fire a remote-controlled patient strapped to a gurney (snicker). With the d-pad, you can fire a freeze bomb (up), activate a shield (right), drop mines (left) and even reverse fire (down). Click R1 and L1 (or circle) to execute a hop. Square accelerates, and X is your handbrake. Double-tap square to get a short term boost useful for taking ramps or simply plowing into your enemies.
It sounds complicated but this system is actually much simpler than previous incarnations of the game. The configuration is either mapped extremely well or I spend all my spare time car-murdering people because I took to the controls like a fish with a machine gun takes to killing massive amounts of other fish in water. Best of all, while the cars each have different strengths and weaknesses, they all handle like a dream. Handbreak turns are literally on a dime, allowing you to execute extremely fast reversals, a useful ability when there’s something like 19 other cars in the arena driving everywhere, many of them aiming to gang up on you. Combine that with the hop and boost and if you chose the right car, some particularly nasty secondary weapons and you can pull of some extraordinary, and hilariously cruel feats.
During the evening, we enjoyed brutal mayhem in 3 different multiplayer modes (in three different arenas).
* The first was a Team Death Match set in ‘Sun Springs, California’. This mode is a free-for-all in which all the members of one team try to kill all the members of the other team until the team with the most points is declared the winner. While this didn’t do much to encourage coop play, it did show off how much you can smash. By the end of my round, nearly every residential dwelling in the picturesque setting had been leveled and the major buildings (like the suspiciously Cinemark-esque movie theater) were badly punctured.
* The second mode was Team Last Man Standing (set in Black Rock Arena, inspired by settings in Twisted Metal 2). This mode places an ingenious restriction on teams. Rather than each team member having a certain amount of extra lives, the pool of extra lives are shared among them. This means the team itself can only suffer so many deaths before they become mortal for real. As a result, it’s in the best interests of each team to team up, specifically to place vulnerable units near stronger units to prevent having your lives bank whittled down, and adopt tactics designed to benefit the whole rather than skilled individual players. As with the third and final mode we played, there wasn’t enough communication and cooperation between attendees of the event to put these concepts to good use, but no doubt once we have the game at home, this will be one of the better challenges.
* The final arena we played was a Nuke battle set in an LA River-inspired arena called Harbor City. This mode is a sort of capture the flag in which each team takes turns defending a landmark (in this case, a statue) while the other team attempts to destroy it. And by destroy, we mean ‘launch a nuclear bomb at’, hence the title. Some team members are assigned to man guns near the base of the statue, while the rest drive their vehicles around defending or attacking as the level demands. A particularly mean aspect of this mode is the ability to kidnap one of the team members assigned to guard the statue, drag them to a rocket launcher and ‘sacrifice’ them by flinging them into the launcher, triggering the bomb. Which is then followed by a ginormous and bright nuclear explosion.
During the presentations, Jaffe was quick to note that the game isn’t anywhere near finished, and that elements we experienced might change between now and October. However, he was insistent that what we were going to see would show off improvements made since last year’s somewhat tepid E3 reception, and that as they’ve gotten closer to gold they feel they’ve managed to create a game that feels closest to what they were originally going for way back in 1994. Their goal, as he put it, was to top everything they’ve done before. We can’t speak to their state of mind but we can confirm they’re onto something pretty great.
It wasn’t a flawless experience. Since the game isn’t finished the levels we played were glitchy. During the second half of round one, the consoles for an entire team froze up and the round had to be restarted. We were also deprived of access to the the Juggernaut during the second and third battles, which was annoying since we’d just been shown how incredible it is. Even so, who cares? The truth is, we need more of this kind of gleeful mayhem in games. As long as they get the kinks worked out before October, we might have an instant classic on our hands.