Hands-on Preview: Twisted Metal
Alternatively titled “Return of the Ice Cream Truck from Hell.”
I took my first official foray into the PR side of the gaming world today to preview the upcoming PS3 game Twisted Metal. I went in not knowing what to expect, and somewhat nervous. But the game?
I LOVED IT. Bet that caught you off guard. Especially considering that I’m not a huge fan of shooter games on principle, and putting me behind the wheel of a virtual car is never a good idea. (Unless it’s Mario Kart. Don’t ask me why.) Also, yes: it is possible to wield lady-parts and get a kick out of blood and violence in games. Especially after just finishing up my midterm exams. There was something awesome about driving though buildings, blowing things up, and having a general disregard for the safety and well-being of anyone or anything but yourself (including the pedestrians, who left lovely blood splatters on the screen when you ran them over). It was a wonderful stress-buster. (Please note this game is very highly rated, and not appropriate for children. At all. Seriously, don’t do it.)
I met with Chad Cox from Sony Santa Monica downtown in the PR offices to learn about the game, play the demo, and ask some questions. Twisted Metal is to be released for the PS3 on February 14, 2012, so the version I got my hands on was nearly complete.
First off, for those of our readers who not familiar with the series, here’s some background information. Twisted Metal is a vehicular combat game (yes, really) which also happens to be the longest-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise, beginning with the release of Twisted Metal (the first one, not the upcoming PS3 version) in 1995. In the previous games in the series, players choose a character who used a specific vehicle and that vehicle only. You followed their story as you played through the campaign mode, as each was fighting to win the competition as the host, Calypso, would grant a wish to the winner.
The basic story hasn’t changed. However, in this version, you can only play as one of four characters, each from the different factions. Players start out as Sweet Tooth, the deranged serial killer clown who chose his family as his first victims. Once you finish his story, you unlock the next one, and eventually all four characters (Sweet Tooth, Dollface, Mr. Grimm and Preacher) have their stories told. As of the time of this article, I was informed there are roughly 45 minutes of cut scenes in the game all told. This count may go down as the game is finalized. Also, there are three different difficulty levels: normal, hard, and twisted. Be afraid, be very afraid.
One of the new features this version boasts is its multiplayer modes. Previous games in the series may have had local-split screen capability so you could play with your friends, but according to Chad this is the first game in the series to be designed from the ground up to be a muiltiplayer game. With seven multiplayer modes (including local split screen, online 2-player split screen, and online battles with up to 16 players) I don’t doubt it.
Now, what about the gameplay? First off, the game boasts eight different environments including: a suburb, amusement park, LA rooftops, Watkyn’s Harbor, Diablo Pass, Metro Square, and Black Rock Stadium, a Twisted Metal staple. Between the eight, there are 35 different maps available in different sizes, depending on the size of the group. I was glad to learn that like other Twisted Metal series, though unlike most racing games, crashing into and/or destroying things is not only okay, but encouraged. (I told you, I cannot steer for crap). In fact, destroying certain things will open new areas, or give you awesome weapons, as I found out when destroying the clock tower yielded a mega gun power-up. Plus it’s just fun to ram the Statue of Liberty’s head around Times Square like a soccer ball.
One of the coolest of the new features of this version is that you get to choose your vehicle. All of them have strengths and weaknesses, as well as special attacks. Including a freaking helicopter named Talon. Granted, it’s weak on firepower and easily susceptible to freezing and being shot out of the sky, but who cares? Other vehicles include a motorcycle (high damage, but very weak) Darkside Returns (a cab truck), Sweet Tooth’s ice cream truck (which fires missiles that can go through walls while laughing at you), a hearse that fires a coffin filled with dynamite as a weapon, and Chad’s favorite, the Juggernaut (seen here at a PAX preview).
Yup. It’s a giant semi-truck. It’s hard to drive well and very slow, but the amount of damage it can cause is massive. There’s a machine gun turret on top which, if another player drives into the back while your doors are open, can be controlled by another person on your team. But you’re vulnerable to twice the damage when the doors are open, so be careful.
The Meat Wagon is my personal favorite. Much like the hearse, it fires explosives at people, but this old school station-wagon-style ambulance fires a man strapped to a gurney with a load of explosives with him. You can even pilot him yourself, though the original vehicle is vulnerable to attack at that point.
The controls for the game follow the classic Twisted Metal style, which some players used to other games may struggle with for a little bit. I found it very simple to pick up personally, which is nothing short of a miracle given my previously-stated reputation with such things. They also follow what Chad called “Twisted Metal physics”, which are inherent in other aspects of the game, and allow you to quickly turn in place without moving either forward or backwards. Also brought back from previous games are the energy attacks placed on the D-pad: mine, freeze, a short shield (very much an energy hog) and the ability to fire some weapons backwards.
Many weapons from previous versions are back, including the homing missiles, fire missiles, charging weapons, and the turbo feature. Shotguns are a new addition to the arsenal, and do very high damage up close. Weapons can be picked up at various places all over the map, and re-spawn depending on the number of players and the size of the map.
Despite the fact that it doesn’t match my “usual” style of game, I very much enjoyed the demo. I would love to be able to get my hands on it again. It’s looking like a fantastic game and I don’t want to wait until February for the finished project.