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E3 2011: Twisted Metal hands-on

E3 2011

Ever since its reveal at last year’s E3, Twisted Metal has remained sort of the odd duck – it was conspicuously omitted from this year’s press conference. Once a franchise to be reckoned with, it’s been nearly a decade since the last original console entry, Twisted Metal: Black. Over that time the console gaming landscape has changed, and for the most part, the auto-combat genre has been left in the dust.

As a fan of the earliest Twisted Metal titles, I approached new Twisted Metal with an open mind. Picking up the controller, I was informed I’d be playing straight deathmatch against the seven other attendees in my immediate vicinity. I had several options of vehicles to choose from, including Sweet Tooth’s signature ice cream truck, a helicopter, a station wagon resembling the ‘Ecto-1’, a motorcycle and several other fitting sets of wheels. Before I knew it the round had started and the choice was made for me.

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The van I drove was yellow, had some sort of creepy doll on top and handled like crap. Playing the new Twisted Metal was immediately disorienting, as it is the only driving game I remember playing this generation – other than Wipeout HD – that maps breaking and acceleration to the face buttons. The triggers are instead used for the basic, all purpose machine gun and your primary weapon. The control scheme recalls the older games and gives the driving an antiquated, nostalgic feeling.

As the match progressed I test drove several of the other vehicles and am happy to report they all had their own sense of heft. However, each retained the ability to quickly E-break into a 180, negating some of the impact. Consistent with previous Twisted Metal entries, the real separator between one car and the next were the ludicrous special attacks associated with each: one character could pilot an explosive gurney, while another could fling a taxi cab at an opponent like a slingshot.

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The demo stage was built around what appeared to be a movie theater, which had a few floors that could be explored. Most of the combat kept to the exterior of the theater and on the ground floor. Fights devolved into the same exact sorts of shenanigans you may remember from those sleepless nights playing Twisted Metal 2. Opponents followed me, taking pot shots at my rear bumper while I was going about my own business, following another vehicle.

Occasionally the action would be broken up by a player using Sweet Tooth’s recently unveiled mech form. Not playing as Sweet Tooth I wasn’t sure if this transformation was a new special attack or some sort of unique power-up, but the spectacle was humorous. It wasn’t clear if Sweet Tooth became more formidable either when in this form; he didn’t appear to become visibly stronger.

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By the time the round had ended I found myself finishing in a surprisingly close second. It had seemed I was dying left and right, but apparently, so was everyone else. Having played it now, it’s still hard to fully articulate my feelings about the new Twisted Metal, beyond the simple ‘It’s Twisted Metal’. I’m still interested in experiencing Eat Sleep Play’s original multiplayer modes, as well as their faction based campaign, but after playing straight deathmatch I feel generally apathetic about the title.

It’s Twisted Metal. It’s fun, but I just haven’t decided if I care. I have a few months to stew over it.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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