Although it had long been rumored as a possibility, David Jaffe revealed last year at E3 that Twisted Metal was indeed making a comeback. In a not-so-subtle fashion, an ice cream truck driven by a blade-wielding Sweet Tooth lookalike took the stage at the Sony press conference and Jaffe emerged from the truck, letting us all know that the long-running series would finally be appearing on the PS3. They've been busy reshaping and refining the final product, which still isn't due out until October of this year. But during Sony's E3 Sneak Peek week, they gave us a chance to play the game and to introduce some new features. "Me and my team can't wait to read your previews," Jaffe mentioned, "it's kind of like a big focus test for us."
Consider us tested. The original Twisted Metal came out on the PlayStation over 15 years ago, and the game's most recent release, the Twisted Metal Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition, was actually just an updated PS2 port of the original PS1 version. Clearly, the series needed to come to Sony's warhorse PS3, and to do it in a spectacular fashion. Sony no doubt has plans to fully revive Twisted Metal into a multi-title franchise, and the reboot, relaunch, reload will most likely get plenty of attention. It launched vehicular combat back in 1995, and it now stands poised to bring it back to the forefront.
Jaffe himself took to the stage to first introduce us to two new vehicles in the game, a massive truck called Juggernaut, and a two-wheeled deathtrap known as Axel. While Juggernaut dwarfs Axel, they both have interesting abilities and features. In its special attack mode, Axel can close up its wheels and encase the driver inside, like he's sandwiched in an Oreo cookie, and deals our destruction derby-esque damage when in that form. Three hits to another vehicle while balled up should destroy it. It's also one of the zippiest vehicles in the game, and its small size makes it harder to target.
Juggernaut, on the other hand, is a gigantic, lumbering beast of a truck. Its special ability is to open the rear doors, where two of your allies can zip inside and then man the two turrets mounted on top of Juggernaut. One of them fires 360 degrees and can launch missiles as well, and the other one is a front-mounted turret that Jaffe calls, "The most powerful turret in the game." It is limited to a front-facing 230° range of motion, but is terrific at dealing steel-jacketed lead rain. Both turrets draw from the same ammo pool, so you'll have to keep an eye on that. Of course, if the Juggernaut gets destroyed while both turrets are manned, that takes out three of your team members in one fell swoop. The Jug can absorb a lot of damage, but it's not invulnerable.
The Juggernaut wasn't made available to us during the event, but the Axel was and it is a lot of fun to drive. It's not well-armored, so you'll have to zip around and avoid fire as best you can, but closing up in cookie-mode is extremely enjoyable. Your enemies aren't quite sure what to do when they see an enormous tire bearing down on them. We also took some time driving the other vehicles that have been revealed before: the Talon (the helicopter with a magnet slung underneath), the Spectre (a speedy spy gadget-laden car with the Japanese "Rising Sun" coating the body, and Vermin (the rodent-catching van that fires awesome user-controlled "Rat Missiles."
We drove the cars and both gave and received pixelated death in three new arenas: Sunsprings, CA, a suburban area complete with a movie theater, a high school, and a vibrant downtown that you can pulverize to bits. There are plenty of areas to explore, and taking vehicular combat into the halls of the high school will let you live out your teenage fantasies. Based on Suicide Slide from Twisted Metal 2, Blackrock Stadium is a gigantic arena built with Twisted Metal in mind. It's a death-filled pit, ringed on the bottom with lava pits that will damage (but not kill) you, with a central "floor" level that reconfigures itself automatically from time to time, and a track circling far overhead that you can access from multiple locations. All the while, thronging crowds in the stands cheer on your actions. We closed things out in Harbor City, which is an industrial wasteland out in the middle of nowhere. There are warehouses, oil refineries, underground tunnels, strip clubs, and a water canal dividing the map.
With great levels comes one thing: level destruction. Back at E3, Jaffe admitted that a lot of people complained about the level destruction in the early build of the game. But, they've spent a lot of time working on it, and these maps definitely showed an enormous range of destruction that you can cause by shooting things, or just by driving your vehicle through them. You can collapse structures, break down fences, enter buildings, find new paths, and blow up lots and lots of things. When engaged in pursuit or fleeing from enemies, you'll frequently find that the best path isn't around something. Instead, it's right through it.
We also played some new and improved game modes. Team Deathmatch is self-explanatory, and a good drop-in spot for familiarizing yourself with the game and the controls. You can change vehicles each time you respawn, giving you the ability to try out pretty much everything you have your sights set on. Team Last Man is similar to TDM, but you're pulling from a shared pool of lives, meaning that when you run out of lives, you won't be back at all, and you'll be reduced to the role of spectator until the match is over.
Both of those are standard fare these days, but the game mode that really impressed me was the revamped Nuke. Nuke is set up like baseball, according to Jaffe, and is played in innings. Previously, both teams were trying to score shots on their enemy's giant statues with nuclear missiles in an effort to bring them down. You fire a missile by capturing faction leaders and sacrificing them at a launcher to fire a missile, which you then steer towards its final target. Jaffe and crew have tweaked this mode so you're only on offense or defense, not both. Now you'll be either trying to protect your faction leaders, or capture them, while trying to shoot down missiles, or make sure the enemies don't shoot down your own.
This one simple change has made Nuke extremely dynamic, and it was hands-down the most fun I had playing the game. The enormous statues that represent your team look like they were ripped right out of the playa at Burning Man, and plowing slow-moving missiles into them is a lot of fun. So is dragging an enemy faction leader behind your car in search of a nearby launcher, while avoiding incoming fire from your opponents. You score either by prevent the enemy from launching a single missile, or by scoring a hit on their statue, and since everyone at the event was relatively at the same skill level, the games tended to be very close score-wise. It's a welcome change to your standard Capture the Flag mode, and since each car arms the launcher in a different way, there's a lot of variety and combinations to try out.
For instance, the Spectre is one of the fastest cars in the game, but it isn't extremely well-shielded. So, you can zoom over, nab a faction leader, then have one of your buddies in a Talon chopper pick you up with the magnet, and fly you to the closest launcher while you continue to fire while dangling underneath, trailing the faction leader behind you. If that's not Twisted Metal, then I don't know what is.