Twisted Metal Hands-On
Twisted Metal sure has come a long way since it debuted on the PlayStation back in 1995. Part of that credit goes to the diabolically outrageous – yet thoroughly enjoyable – sequel on PlayStation 2, Twisted Metal Black. It’s here that producer David Jaffe and his team took off the seat belts and went on a truly demented ride. It’s been a while since we’ve been on that kind of road trip, but it returns in full force next month when Twisted Metal makes its debut on the PlayStation 3. We recently went hands-on with a near finished build of the game, taking online multiplayer to its limits with members of the development team at the Consumer Electronics Show.
First off, if you loved that well-meshed control style of precision driving and reckless combat from previous games (namely Black), then you’ll love how Twisted Metal handles. Most of those same control traits have made their return here, from being able to power brake and get the jump on your enemies, to letting loose with a flurry of lock-on missiles and turning your foes into smoldering wrecks within a matter of seconds. But it’s not just repeated formula here. Jaffe and his team have added some new tricks, mainly through power-ups and team play.
Power-ups enable you to soup up your vehicle to super strength, gaining the upper hand on your enemies for a few seconds and getting back into battle as a result. We’ll take Sweet Tooth, for instance. Normally a psychotic in an ice cream truck, he can activate his special ability and transform his vehicle into a large mech unit, romping and stomping and kicking vehicles to the curb.
As for calling upon teammates, secondary gunners lean out of your vehicle and provide extra firepower when it’s needed the most, and they lock on to vehicles particularly well, as long as they’re within your firing range. You can also attack from the air for the first time in the series, using helicopters of all sorts to pick up cars and temporarily disable them, or take them off the battlefield while others gain the upper hand. Though we didn’t get to fly that often, this is a new factor of the game that you’re bound to love.
And, of course, there’s the wanton destruction, something that Jaffe and his team have damn near perfected this time around. Not only do you get to plow through enemies with your weapons, but items in the environment can also be totaled. If a house stands in your way, you can drive right through it, provided you’re going fast enough and have some sufficient strength to soften the blow. We never had so much fun plowing through a grocery store like we did here – mainly because we didn’t feel like having a jail sentence. Go figure. Running over furries definitely has its moments as well. Damn freaks.
Best of all, Twisted Metal is built primarily for multiplayer enjoyment. You can still play solo through the game’s story mode, but the real joy comes from logging in to PlayStation Network and making others cringe when you hit the arena. Up to 16 folks can take part in an event, and only once did we run into any sort of lag, mainly because an overseas player managed to use one of the bigger trucks in the game. That’s not to say the retail version will experience the same problem – Eat.Sleep.Play will have all the bugs ironed out well in time for the game’s release on Valentine’s Day.
Honestly, multiplayer works fundamentally well here, even better than it did in the online disc that was released for PS2 years ago. It’s built into the main game, and taking on opponents and lining up in the lobby is a damn near trouble-free experience. The car combat is well balanced too, and there’s plenty of room to run, so if you’re new and just getting your tires wet, you’ll have no problem adapting. With over 15 drivers to choose from, each with customizable tools and weapon loadouts, your options are just about limitless.
Twisted Metal also has some fantastic visuals. You would think for such a prolonged series that it would begin showing age, but that's not the case. The maps are excellent, whether you’re killing people mid-day or taking out a whole neighborhood block at dusk. The frame rate is pretty damn smooth too, even when you’re playing online (save for that one session, but again, no fault to the developers). And the explosions? Meaty and satisfying – especially if you’re doing the damage.
Kudos to Sony for showing us a good time with Twisted Metal, but the fun is just beginning. The game is set to do some major damage next month on the PS3 (complete with a downloadable version of Twisted Metal Black in tow, if you get the Limited Edition), so stay with us with a blow-by-blow account of the final game, complete with score. It’s just about time to do some damage. Even if you don’t have the transforming ice cream truck.