Unless you count the continued popularity of Mario Kart, we’re a long way from the ’90s heyday of car combat games. Modern multiplayer combat primarily concerns games in which people shoot each other, but David Jaffe, Scott Campbell, and their team at Eat Sleep Play are aiming to amend that phrase to end with the words “with cars.” They’re working on a new Twisted Metal title, the first original one to hit consoles since Twisted Metal: Black launched on the PlayStation 2 a decade ago.
Twisted Metal (PlayStation 3)
That decision makes a lot of sense, since it will likely take more than a few hours to understand Twisted Metal’s chaos. Multiplayer is the focus of this game, and it’s clear that Eat Sleep Play is devoting a great deal of development time to important facets such as balancing vehicles’ abilities and tweaking weapon damage, but the modes and options are so numerous and varied that I found myself overwhelmed during the demo. Jaffe has likened Twisted Metal to a fighting game, and the comparison seems apt -- I don’t have any understanding of the minutiae of fighting games, and it’s impossible for me to have fun with them unless I’m playing someone who’s just as clueless. The depth here is staggering; with such a steep learning curve, it’s important for the game to teach newbies well, and ensure that they can have fun, too.
I played in three different levels: one set in the suburbs, another in a theme park, and a snowy take on New York. Although there’s plenty of work to be done before the game’s Valentine’s Day launch, the environments impressed me with their size, destructibility, and variability. The level set in a fictionalized New York is full of secret shortcuts, and its verticality -- you can go up into buildings, or head down into the subway -- provides for great hide-and-seek gameplay. The theme park balances a large open area, complete with a Ferris wheel that can be detached from its moorings, and winding narrow paths on its outskirts. The suburban landscape is sparsely populated and offers near-total destruction. All of them seem to offer play spaces that are “fair” to both sides without having mirrored halves.
While online play is the star of the show, the game also offers local split-screen action for up to four players, just like old times. However you play, you’ll need to invest a good amount of time to learn the ins and outs of Twisted Metal, even if you’re not new to the series. Thankfully, it looks like it will be worth it.