10 Thoughts On… the Twisted Metal Demo (Sony PS3)

Words cannot express my excitement for the return of Twisted Metal. It has been seven years since we last saw a new game in the franchise, and four years since Head-On got ported to the PS2. With David Jaffe back at the helm of the franchise that made him famous and the power of the PS3 to work with, expectations are high.

The demo went live last night, and I spent quite a bit of time with it. As a diehard fan of the series since the PSX days, it was simply a blast. If the full game meets the promises of this demo, this could truly be the greatest game of the series.

1. Let’s start with the online. Rather, I wish I could. I tried about two dozen tries, but I couldn’t get the damn thing to start a match. This seems to be a common problem, so I’m hoping that something is done relatively soon to fix this. For those that can connect, there are two modes on display. The first is deathmatch, which is basic slaughter at its finest. The second is Nuke, which is the premiere mode in the game. It involves capturing a leader, dragging him to a missile launcher, and then launching a missile at a giant statue. It sounds nuts. I wish I could have tried it.

2. Thankfully, the demo has some single player options as well, and I went to town on these. First up is a pretty nice training mode. This will tell you how to pull off basic controls, as well as how to use the special attacks for each vehicle. There are all sorts of changes to the classic scheme. For example, there are three super attacks that use a meter. These are the classic mine, shield, and freeze moves. Rather than input special commands, you need merely press the corresponding face button. This is cool, but you can’t abuse the moves too much. Freeze and shield take a lot of meter to use, and the meter refills slowly, so they need to be used tactically. This is a welcome change that allows players to use these moves without memorizing button inputs.

3. The other single player mode available is a straight up deathmatch. You battle against six computer controlled enemies and play continues until you die, or everyone else does. The level on display here (the name alludes me) is pretty interesting. It has all sorts of buildings that you can enter, as well as plenty of things to demolish. The health stations from Black are gone, replaced by traditional pickups that regenerate over time. There is a certain chaotic feeling as you madly dash to find health. The map on display was huge, containing a stadium, rolling hills, a small town, a church, a grocery store, and several other points of interest.

4. One of the biggest reveals for this game was Talon, the playable helicopter. Firstly, let me say that it controls like a dream. Secondly, let me add that the ability to fly is nicely balanced by the fact that the chopper can’t take a hit worth a damn. Still, it has the special ability to pick up enemies and drop them from great heights. That’s just badass. On top of that, avoiding obstacles on the ground and getting a bird’s-eye view of the action is amazingly helpful. Although, it’s much harder to enter a building and make off with a health pickup. Seriously though, this machine is pulled off so well, one wishes all those other TM games had a helicopter as well.

5. Besides Talon, there are seven other playable vehicles in the demo. There is a good mixture of old favorites and some new blood. A couple of the returning cars are Outlaw and Darkside from Twisted Metal: Black. These guys pretty much handle as you remember, but the addition of a second special ability comes in handy. One new guy is Meat Wagon. This station wagon/ambulance has the unique ability to launch a gurney as an attack. What kind of an attack is that you ask? Why, pretty darn awesome because on the gurney is a patient with explosives strapped to him! The secondary ability allows you to control this gurney, which is also pretty damn cool.

6. Overall, I found the cars pretty well balanced. The fast vehicles can drive circles around the competition and do tons of damage, but can’t take a hit. The motorcycle known as Reaper was a great example. His special did the most damage out of any other attack in the game, but a few direct hits put him in mortal danger. A big truck like Darkside, on the other hand, can soak up damage like a sponge, but the poor handling makes it hard to land a clean shot. It also makes it easy to get ganged up on.

7. Two new weapons are the sniper and the shotgun. Both of these are very nifty and fit the game like a glove. The shotgun is a short range blast that does tons of damage up close, but is completely useless from a distance. The sniper is a risk/reward weapon where the longer you can keep a target in sights, the more damage you can do. Basically, the sniper makes a better shot the longer you hold on.

8. The graphics for this game were pretty killer, at least in the demo. The vehicles and drivers look great, there are some nifty animations, and it never gets old watching the cars change up weapons. It truly felt like Twisted Metal had reached the current generations, and it was great.

9. The audio was also fantastic, with tons of licensed tracks on display. Featuring artists like Rob Zombie, Haggar, and The Chemical Brothers, the soundtrack was diverse and extremely fitting. It looks like Twisted Metal 4 has finally been supplanted in that department. There’s also the ability to use your own soundtrack, which is a nice feature. There was an original tune that played during the menu, and it was one of my favorites. It was a hard rock/calliope mish mash that worked on every level.

10. All told, I can’t wait for this game to come out. I’m a little bummed about it needing an online pass, and I’m worried that the connection issues might continue in the main game. However, the gameplay felt tight, balanced, yet still classic. Twisted Metal appears to be back and better than ever. It hits shelves on February 14th, the same day as UFC Undisputed 3. It’s like somebody decided to rip my heart in two, as I won’t be able to decide which game to play first.

(Oh. It should be noted that the online part of the demo will only be available until February 7th, so play while you can!)

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