Twisted Metal Demo Impressions

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m a huge Twisted Metal fan. Twisted Metal 2: World Tour was one of my favorite games for the original PlayStation, and Twisted Metal: Black was the first game I got for the PlayStation 2. So I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the PlayStation 3 version of the franchise. When the demo dropped, I hopped right on in. After spending some time with it, I can comfortably say that I like were the series is headed. It’s been a while since I’ve played any of the games, but after an hour or so, it all came back to me. Everything started to feel familiar and natural.

While the formula has pretty much remained unchanged, the guys over at Eat Sleep Play have offered a few new things to keep the veterans on their toes. There are the basic things, like new weapons, that are to be expected. The sniper rifle rewards players for keeping their target in their sights for longer period of time, while the shotgun is most effective when you stay up close an personal with your opponent. Some classic weapons return but have been tweaked to have a charge up ability, which gives them the potential to do more damage. So you can either spam your opponent with a bunch of weapons that range from low damage to medium amounts of damage, or you can be surgical with your attacks by using weapons that can offer a large amount of damage if you take the time to master them. It all really depends on the your play style you feel most comfortable with. This becomes glaringly obvious when you realize that each car actually has two different special attacks that favor each strategy, as opposed to the previous games in which each car only had one special attack.

Something else that is new to Twisted Metal is the introduction to a helicopter vehicle. At first, you may think that this would be over-powered, but once you notice that it has low armor and can’t easily get to cover, it becomes clear that it is also a victim of balance, just like every other vehicle in the game. Some cars are faster, have stronger special attacks, or can take more damage. So, do you want to jump in and out of battles while doing drive-by attacks, or charge right in like a mad mad with a death wish? It’s up to you.

Also, remember in Twisted Metal: Black when you would destroy an enemy car and a little man on fire would come running out of it? Well that’s back, and running over the little flaming people grant you health or weapons. Awesome.

The demo offers up three different game modes, along with a brief tutorial mode for learning your essential controls. Each game mode that that is offered feels relatively different from the others, even though the core mechanics are still in place. The single player “Challenge” mode pits you against 6 other cars were the action is constant. You rarely have to go hunting down an enemy vehicle, because they always seem to find you. I’ve found myself playing more in a defensive manner where I’m frequently trying to flee a battle in order to find some health, because  the match is over if you die once. There’s is also the online “Deathmatch” mode. This is a free-for-all against 15 other players in which you get points for destroying other cars or assisting in the destruction of an opponent. In this mode, I would actually go around hunting out other opponents or jumping in on a brawl that’s already in progress. Survival felt like was less of a concern, because you could die multiple times in this mode.

Finally, there was the “Nuke” mode, which is a new addition to Twisted Metal. This is similar to a capture the flag mode, but with flags being replaced with the other team’s leader, nuclear missiles, large statues to destroy, and innings. Each inning has two parts: attacking and defending. While on the offensive, you must try to breach your opponents defenses, capture one of their leaders who is manning a gun turret, and drag him behind your car until you reach one of your trucks that is equipped with a nuke. Once there, you will watch a “sacrifice gauge” fill up before you feed it to hellish-looking, nuclear-equipped truck. When said truck is satisfied with your sacrifice, it will launch a nuke that you have to guide toward an large effigy of the opposing leader. Every time you hit the effigy, your team gets a point. Hitting the effigy three times in an inning will destroy it, yielding more points and switching it to your opponents’ turn to attack. When you are defending, well, you have to stop the other side from doing what you just did. Stop them from getting the leader. Destroy a car before they can sacrifice your leader. Shoot the nuke down if it’s headed toward your effigy. It’s pretty straight forward.

The innings in “Nuke” are actually a really great idea. It helps bring order to the chaos by giving you a set goal at any given moment. You’re either defending or attacking. You don’t have to try and split your focus between both actions and get lost in the fray. While the multiple steps that need to be taken to score a point may seem daunting, all they do is just add to the tension. The capture, the the sacrifice, and the missile launch are all necessary junctions that can be screwed up/with to stop that point from being scored. There’s also a great sense of teamwork achieved in the process. Taking down an enemy helicopter that’s attacking your ally who is trying to sacrifice a leader creates such an incredible feeling of accomplishment. It feels similar to when Han Solo swoops in to save Luke Skywalker as he attacks the Death Star in “A New Hope,” and I hope that reference wasn’t too nerdy for you.  “Nuke” is definitely something I will return to on a regular basis.

Another thing that is appealing about “Nuke” is that it makes you appreciate just how big the levels are. When you have to drag a captured leader from one end of the map to the other, the scale of it all really dawns on you. The stage that you mostly play in the demo is Sunsprings, California. Just the high school in that level would have been enough for one of the earlier games.  Now, you go from a high school, to a stadium, to a hospital, to a mansion, running down countless houses, trees, and civilians in the process. Then you blow up two large satellite dishes to unlock even more of the stage. There’s a lot to explore (and destroy).

Visually, Twisted Metal doesn’t really do anything too impressive. The models are good. The textures are good. The lighting is good. There’s a lot of explosions and a lot of particle effects. It’s definitely an improvement from the PlayStation 2 days, but it doesn’t really do anything to stand above and beyond the crowd. I’m not hold this against the game by any means. I just didn’t see anything that jumped out and made me go, “Wow!”

The audio in the game is pretty good as well. Explosion go “boom” and crashes go “crash.” They added a voice over that makes you aware of things like when your special is ready to use again or if your health is low, which, believe it or not, is really useful. Amongst the chaos of everything going on around, you can easily forget to check something as important as your health. It’s a welcomed addition. The sound track is also very solid, but also harbors one of my few gripes: Rob Zombie. In any other setting I don’t really mind his music, but in this game, it just harkens back to the dark period of the series when it was being developed by 989 Studios. Replace Mr. Zombie with this, and all will be better.

All in all, the Twisted Metal demo really impressed me and has me eagerly awaiting the release of the full game. It feels good  to get back into something I spent countless hours on as a kid. It’s familiar enough to bring a sense of nostalgia, but adds enough so that it doesn’t seem like it will get old fast. I’m really interested in seeing how the XP and leveling system works. The demo is out now, and I highly suggest you give it a try.  The full game will be available February 14th for the PlayStation 3.