Twenty years ago, Sony and SingleTrac released their first entry in the gun-toting destruction derby and vehicular combat series, Twisted Metal. It's time we look back at the octane-fueled mayhem of Twisted Metal and the large influence the original game had in putting the first PlayStation console on the map.
Due to some personal differences between his fellow game designers and the company suits, David Jaffe, a tester and designer for Sony, was given a final chance at trying to create a new game. Jaffe, who would later go on to direct the first two God of War titles, met with the Evans & Sutherland military computing firm to collaborate on making a new 3D video game engine (mind you, this is still the early years of the Sony PlayStation and 3D gaming wasn't even close to being perfected). The designers joked around about using guns and missiles to clear out the traffic jams they were stuck in while on the way to work, and the idea for Twisted Metal was born.
Jaffe's team at SingleTrac was joined by members of Evans & Sutherland and developed Twisted Metal alongside the aerial combat game Warhawk, originally intending for both titles to be a single game. Unfortunately, the team had to compromise on multiple, smaller levels as opposed to their original concept of having one giant stage, and the aerial combat had to be separated from the ground-level vehicular warfare, which resulted in the project being split into two different games.
Twisted Metal ended up having arena-style battles throughout the streets of LA, taking place in an apocalyptic version of 2005. There was an underground arena, a stage set in LA's warehouse district, a freeway stage, a rich Beverly Hills setting, the demilitarized suburbs and a battleground taking place on a skyscraper rooftop. Every playable vehicle available had a pair of machine guns that were fairly weak but had infinite ammo. Each car had a special attack unique to that vehicle. Scattered throughout the stages were different types of special weapons, including missiles, mines and traps. The goal of each stage was to survive and destroy your opponent(s).
The game had a fairly diverse roster of cars, with each ride having its own attributes, a special weapon and some kind of kooky/cartoony driver. Sweet Tooth was an evil, weaponized ice cream truck. Yellow Jacket was a wrecked taxi cab. Darkside was a black semi truck that did more damage crashing into other vehicles as opposed to using projectiles. Outlaw was a rigged police cruiser armed with an omni-directional taser. Thumper is a Caddilac low rider with a hidden flamethrower. Crimson Fury was a Lamborghini Diablo that was the fastest car in the game but also one of the weakest. Pit Viper was a dune buggy that was both sturdy and quick. Warthog was a military Humvee. Mr. Grimm was a chopper-style motorcycle that was light on defense but heavy on the weaponry and maneuverability. Spectre was a James Bond tribute in the form of a 1965 Aston Martin armed with dual machine guns. The game even had a monster truck called Hammerhead. There was an unplayable final boss in the form of Minion, the winner of the previous Twisted Metal contest taking place before the first game. Minion's car was a giant SWAT tank that had near-perfect stats and access to most of the roster's special weapons. In Twisted Metal 2, Minion returned as a sub-boss and was unlockable as a playable character via a cheat code (remember those?).
Twisted Metal wasn't particularly pretty to look at, as most 3D game were extra blocky and polygonal during the mid-1990s, but it certainly got the job done. The game's story mode was relatively short, able to be finished in one sitting (with just 6 or so fights ending with a 1v1 match against Minion), but it was still enjoyable. The two-player gameplay mode certainly atoned for a relatively short story campaign. Nevertheless, Twisted Metal was embraced by fans, making it one of the first must-play games of the Sony PlayStation. Sony would go on to green light a multitude of sequels over the years, including 2012's Twisted Metal on the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately, David Jaffe seems confident that the 2012 release will be the last entry of the franchise for quite a while, which suggests that the game may not have met sales expectations. Nevertheless, we salute Twisted Metal as it was one of the first new IPs that helped put the original PlayStation on the map and was a progenitor to the vehicular carnage we'd eventually see in the Grand Theft Auto series.