Twisted Metal Hands-On, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love 'Nuke' Mode

David Jaffe, co-creator of the 16-year-old Twisted Metal series, has an entertaining way of describing the things about his new game, a new Twisted Metal for the PlayStation 3. One was his description of the game's new Juggernaut vehicle, a semi-truck that can load teammates into its armoured bed "Spy Hunter or Knight Rider style". I like references like that.

The other was how he described the newly revealed Axel, the two-wheeled vehicle familiar to anyone who's played a Twisted Metal game. That vehicle has a special attack called Warwheel, which compresses its wheels together into a protective shell, projecting deadly spikes designed to pierce other cars up close. Jaffe called it a "violent Oreo cookie" of a vehicle.

He also says that this new Twisted Metal, due October 4, is the "distilled essence of Twisted Metal".

"We were able to, I feel, really get close to that initial vision of Twisted Metal from '95," Jaffe said at a preview event in Los Angeles. "It feels right, the spirit, heart, voice and soul of it is still beating loud and clear."

Twisted Metal is the longest running franchise for the PlayStation, Jaffe noted at last night's event. His team's latest effort feels like a mix of something old and familiar mixed with new conventions, a game that pays attention to what popular first-person shooters and fighting games are doing in the online multiplayer space.

Jaffe was there to deliver news about Twisted Metal and give us more time with three of the game's multiplayer modes.

The Vehicles

We were introduced to the Juggernaut, a massive tractor trailer that's slow-moving, but deadly. As already mentioned, teammates can enter the truck, should the driver of the Juggernaut open its doors, and turn the vehicle into a terrifying weapon. In addition to its standard weapon set, two players can hop into the Juggernaut and man its two powerful mounted turrets.

We also got a look at some of the tricks other vehicles are capable of. We've seen the Talon, the game's lone helicopter before, but we got a chance to go hands-on with its most interesting capability, a magnetized tow cable that can lift allies and enemies off the battlefield. While the Talon is inherently weak, the ability to pick up a foe, lift him into the sky, the drop him to his death is so very rewarding.

Other vehicles were on hand, like the exterminator's truck, the Vermin. It has a mounted missile that can be deployed and controlled remotely for maximum damage. There was the Death Warrant, a muscle car that can launch powered up "Blood Missiles". The Junkyard Dog, the medic/towtruck of the group can launch taxis as its special attack. You may have already seen the Reaper, a motorcycle that outfits your player with a bazooka, a chainsaw, a flaming chainsaw and the ability to launch propane bombs.

The Spectre, the Roadboat, the Meatwagon and Axel rounded out the selectable vehicles. The Outlaw, an SUV, was not playable but visible. Here's where you'll play with them...

The Arenas

Our demo started with a few rounds of deathmatch in the familiar town of Sunsprings, complete with malls, gas stations and other suburban amenities. We'd played it at E3 last year and found it largely unchanged, with the exception of new, more believable level destruction.

More interesting was the Black Rock Stadium level, which introduced level dangers like a lava pit and swinging spike pendulums. It was also a level that dynamically changed its architecture during battle, with platforms rising and falling, offering access to and cutting off access to the power-ups scattered around your typical Twisted Metal level.

Black Rock Stadium also features level support items, like a floating health orbiter, which repairs your vehicle if you can track it down. Jaffe showed another level support feature, which lets you ensnare members of the audience watching the Twisted Metal carnage, launch them into the battlefield, then run them over for health and power-ups.

Deathmatch, Last Man Standing & Nuke

Twisted Metal has the requisite "meat and potatoes mode" Deathmatch, which we played as Team Deathmatch in Sunsprings. More interesting, however, was the Team Last Man Standing variant, in which players draw from a set pool of lives.

But most interesting was the mode that David Jaffe showed onstage at E3 last year, Nuke. This is the initially complex team-base mode that puts a spin on Capture The Flag. Players are required to snatch the opposing team's Faction Leader, drive their flopping body to the nearest launcher, lob them into that device, then guide a remote controlled missile in the giant, neon effigy of the enemy faction. When I saw this displayed at E3 2010, it felt too chaotic, too confusing and too complicated to work.

I was wrong. Nuke not only works, it's potentially the most compelling thing about the new Twisted Metal.


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