E3 2011: 'Twisted Metal' Demo Hands-On Preview

Twisted Metal Demo Impressions E3 2011

It's hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since the original Twisted Metal debuted on the PlayStation (1). At first David Jaffe's over-the-top demolition derby/fighting game mash-up seemed like a simple concept - but even Jaffe couldn't have imagined what was ultimately in store for the franchise.

To date, the Twisted Metal series is comprised of eight installments (and one online expansion) - with the ninth title set to debut this October. While that game's simplistic, Twisted Metal, title might seem to indicate that the upcoming installment is a back-to-basics reboot of the franchise, the final gameplay would indicate otherwise. We went hands-on with the Twisted Metal multiplayer demo at E3 2011 - and, without question, Jaffe has put together the biggest, most over-the-top, title of the franchise.

There's no doubt that many fans have been eagerly anticipating the follow-up - especially since the last all-new Twisted Metal title, Twisted Metal: Head-On, came out in 2005 for the PSP. As recently as 2008, Eat, Sleep, Play released the PS2 console port Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition but much of the content was rehashed from the PSP title. Really, the last Twisted Metal developed entirely for a home console was released one decade ago, Twisted Metal: Black - an especially dark and gritty take on the franchise that was a premier "next generation" title.

In Twisted Metal, players will once again step behind the wheel of an iconic vehicle to duke it out online (and in their homes) for ultimate bragging rights. But Jaffe and Co. aren't just bumping up the graphics and relying on the brand to sell players, the team at Eat, Sleep, Play has put together some of the most chaotic and disturbing modes ever featured in an online arena - even more disturbing (albeit less misogynistic) than the "Capture the Babe" mode in Duke Nukem: Forever.

Twisted Metal Axel

The mode demoed at E3 was dubbed "Nuke Mode" and, in short, served as a "capture the flag" type of competition with a Twisted Metal twist - instead of a flag (or treasure chest or package, etc) players would capture the opposing team's leader and drag them across the level (flailing behind the vehicle) until they reached a grinder/missile launcher - which, when the loser was sacrificed to the grinder, released a nuclear rocket that the player must then fly into the opposing team's statue. After a certain number of rockets hit the statue, it falls - and the match is over. While that might sound overly-complicated, it's surprisingly straight-forward in the frantic and chaotic 8-on-8 open world battle.

Similarly, the controls were somewhat of a challenge to pick-up and play - and will definitely take some getting used to (in order to take advantage of all the options and weaponry effectively). That said, Eat, Sleep, Play has built in a myriad of weapon options and car designs for multiple play-styles - meaning that, while the game might be intimidating for newcomers, they'll still be able to find success even if they rely on the basic firing options (machine gun/missiles). With a bit of practice, it shouldn't take too long before players discover some of the cooler features in the gameplay, such as Sweet Tooth's alternate mech mode, which was featured in the Twisted Metal E3 trailer:

Even though the trailer is somewhat cinematic, it gives you a good indication of the scope Jaffe and his team were driving toward in the design process - i.e. over-the-top mayhem.

While we've still yet to see the other factions in the game, the ability to select from the various vehicles - even if you're on Sweet Tooth's team, for example, actually makes a lot more sense than it did when we were first introduced to the game back in 2010. While seeing your clown character driving Axel's mega-wheel contraption might seem off-putting at first, given the on-screen chaos and emphasis on team play, it was a smart decision to allow players to choose from the various cars - while still repping their faction.

In general, the 8-on-8 "Nuke Mode" was an encouraging sneak peek at the game - especially since the trailers haven't always a) been very encouraging or b) painted a clear picture of the various gameplay modes. As a result, it's good to know that, with the game in your hand, the core Twisted Metal experience comes rushing back - in all it's glorious mayhem.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick and tell us what questions you still have about Twisted Metal as well as which unannounced characters you're hoping to see make the cut.

Twisted Metal releases October 4, 2011, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

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