Wednesday, June 10, 2009

AdVantage Point: Twisted Metal World Tour (1996)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book and let him to pick out all the advertisements for video games.
This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations, stream of consciousness.

Y'know, in the process of scanning through advertisements from the nineties, I'm reminded that mental illness was actually quite popular at the time. I mean, sure, post-grunge rock and the anthems of Generation X made that known, but video games were right there to capitalize on the madness too. On reflection, I wonder if the anti-Mortal Kombat wowsers might've had legitimate reason to worry about the potential reactions of their disenfranchised youth... That's actually not the point today, but reflective food for thought. (No, not really.)

E3 2009 has officially passed us by, and as already noted on this blog, I'm left feeling cold.
Actually, when you consider that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is one of the few upcoming titles I feel was of note, feeling cold is quite appropriate. Once again, that's not the point of today's post.

As you can clearly see, this edition of AdVantage Point features the paranoid fever-dream image that was used to promote the first TM sequel. A game that I will stubbornly only ever refer to as, Twisted Metal: World Tour .

The connection comes from rampant rumours leading up to E3, speculating the long awaited announcement of a PS3 instalment for the series. Adding to the existing maelstrom of hype was a supposed David Jaffe e-mail featuring an easily deciphered reference to cars, obscured by blur in it's released form. Given that a new Twisted Metal was already confirmed, I was a little disappointed that no game was announced at the expo itself.

For those who played before the days of the PS2 deviations, World Tour just about has to be the epitomy of the series. I never did manage to get my hands on Head-On which, for all intents and purposes, sounded like a return to the PSX classic with a bundle of exciting extra materials stashed in the boot. That's a positive potentially lost on newer generations of gamers, who, for some strange reason, often don't seem to care about anything more than the immediate experience of gameplay.

Admittedly, it's really splitting hairs, but in World Tour there was more than guns and shooting at play that made it so memorable. All the games have featured variations on the character-driven vehicles and their loose tournament stories, but it was World Tour that hit upon a combination of mid-nineties glorification of violent insanity and a comic book sense of humour that made it an experience with more personality than the bullets and wheels that drove the game.
Persistent layers of pseudo-secrets and ever-increasing challenges gave the game a faint sense of mystery that was also much appreciated. It played in to the personality that permeated throughout the design aesthetic, complimented well by the intro and ending sequences that featured crudely animated comic book-style sequences. Plus, you can drive around the Paris rooftops by blowing up the Eiffel Tower! Who doesn't love the sound of that?!

It wouldn't be unfair to describe Twisted Metal as Mortal Kombat on wheels.
In that respect, I have to admit to being slightly puzzled by my own dedication to the game. It isn't smart or even technically sound, but I suppose it was just that sense of character and style that was a piece of a larger puzzle of diversity in the PSX catalogue, which helped make the game so fun. Which in itself is another detail that makes it reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, which also doesn't always get the credit it deserves for it's vast cast of characters and more in-depth story [than Twisted Metal].

So I'm a little sad that no new Twisted Metal was announced.
In this landscape of meandering disinterest Sony seems to be showing with the PS3, the prospect of a new Twisted Metal carries with it the additional layer of console exclusivity. I'm not about to claim any undying dedication to a brand name, but after a decade of PSX and PS2, I can see the same potential for enjoyment in the PS3, albeit, untapped. The success of the previous machines clearly owed much to the presence of exclusive titles. I don't know that a vehicular combat game is going to drive those sales further, but with the loss of exclusivity to favourites like Tekken and Final Fantasy, it can't hurt to have something unique, and slightly different.

At the end of the day, the presence of that argument does speak to the age of Twisted Metal.
With any luck, a new coat of pixels and a return to the character-driven fun of the first two games can induct yet another generation of fans beyond even those who jumped aboard on the PS2.

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