In the mid-’90s, David Jaffe gave gamers one of the first must-have titles for the original PlayStation. Twisted Metal had personality oozing out of every pore, and backed up its wicked sense of humor with fantastic car combat gameplay. Its sequel improved upon everything that was beloved about the original, but a switch in developers caused the rest of the PSone titles to be mere shadows of their former selves. Jaffe brought the series back to the quality it had once seen with the PS2’s Twisted Metal: Black, but the series has been dormant since its 2001 release (outside of a PSP title and subsequent PS2 port). At E3 this year, Sony sent the message loud and clear: Twisted Metal is back.
Jaffe’s Eat Sleep Play studio presented its new take on the series at the end of Sony’s press conference, and it is wilder than ever before. While still focused on insane characters driving ridiculous armed vehicles, it appears that multiplayer will be more of a core element to the title than we’ve seen in the past.
While local multiplayer has been a series staple since the beginning, online play has never really taken off. Twisted Metal: Black Online was released during a time when most gamers didn’t have their PS2 connected to the Internet. Twisted Metal: Head On for the PSP allowed online play, but the handheld nature of the game didn’t offer the scope of a console title. With the series heading to the PS3, this will be the first true chance for Jaffe to show off car combat with an online focus.
The team showed off Nuke mode in-depth. It plays like the most deranged version of capture the flag that you’ve ever seen, with bodies being dragged behind cars in place of flags. We saw two factions – Clowns, led by Sweet Tooth, and Dolls, led by Dollface (driver of Darkside in Twisted Metal: Black). The endgame is to destroy your rival faction’s massive effigy that’s looming over the city. How you accomplish this is a bit involved.
Things start out in basic CTF format, except the flags are represented by your rival faction’s leader. In the demo we saw, Sweet Tooth and Dollface were manning turrets deep in their own territory. Your first objective is to secure the rival leader and drag them near your team’s missile launcher. Driving over them automatically ropes them to the back of your car, and their body comically flails behind the vehicle as you speed back to your part of town.
Once you get them within your missile launcher’s perimeter, it starts belching flames and transforming. Keep the leader within the circle long enough and you can sacrifice them to this demonic contraption. This launches a missile, which you then steer towards the other team’s effigy. As it’s in the air, the other team must scramble to shoot the projectile out of the sky or destroy the pilot near the launcher itself.
It’s a wild and ridiculous multiplayer mode, but we’d expect no less from a franchise featuring a homicidal clown as its mascot. This new title may have more of a focus on factions and team play, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing the series’ trademark story segments. According to Jaffe, “We’re going for edgy Twilight Zone stories rather than the dark, depressing stuff we did in Black.” He also said that the team is pushing for a Teen rating that would be more in line with Twisted Metal 2’s style rather than the grisly violence of Twisted Metal: Black.
Vehicles won’t be tied to specific characters this time around, as they need to be more flexible for online play. So far, we’ve seen a handful of the 12 to 16 total cars expected to be in the final version. Roadboat is a large vehicle that can pull in enemies with a magnet. Once attached, it can fling them across the environment or ram them into walls. Vermin is an exterminator vehicle that launches remote-controlled rat missiles. If you select the tow truck, you’ll be able to spawn taxi cabs behind you to use as makeshift projectiles. An ambulance launches a helpless patient on a stretcher that you can steer and remote detonate. If you’re not worried about armor, you can pop wheelies with the motorcycle and toss flaming chainsaws at your foes.
A brand-new addition to the series is the helicopter. With it, you can easily transport your teammates across the map to health pickups or multiplayer objectives or drop enemies from great heights. However, the increased mobility comes at the cost of flimsy armor.
Longtime fans are no doubt familiar with the method traditionally used to fire supplementary weapons like freeze blasts and mines. Instead of having to remember fighting game-style button inputs this time around, all of these functions are assigned to the d-pad. As your energy meter fills up, you’ll be able to deploy mines, freeze enemies, shield yourself, or rear-fire with the press of one d-pad button. In addition, the jump ability is as easy as pressing L1 and R1 at the same time.
This new installment seems to hit every checklist point that a fan could have – more accessible moves, a wider selection of vehicles, and (most importantly) fully fleshed-out multiplayer. Odds are good that 2011 will properly introduce a new generation of gamers to the carnage of Twisted Metal.