The beautifully stylized, adrenaline packed world of Heavy Metal Machines (HMM) reinvigorates the Automotive Battle Arena genre. The beta took me back to the hay day of the Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 franchises while older players will recall Rock n’ Roll racing and Combat Cars as more direct sources of inspiration for HMM. Veteran developer, Hoplon Infotainment, may be better known in Latin America having released games like Taikodom and Apocalypse: Party’s Over from its offices in the incredibly beautiful Florianópolis, Brazil. HMM is intended to be a global affair with servers located in North America, South America, Europe, and most recently Asia. I expect this title to develop a robust competitive scene of 4 vs. 4 bomb delivery action (more on that below) as players in the beta are already quite competitive and are chatting away in the Heavy Metal Machines forums.
I don’t usually start with the art work in a game but it’s impossible to ignore the cohesive, hyper stylized world inside the walls of Metal City. The artwork is a wicked fusion of Mad Max and Darkest Dungeon tones blended with a darker version of the DC Comic’s color pallet. The game has a ominous appeal to it, but not in a depressing way. Metal City is gloomy and damp, anchored by blues and purples but is splashed with the bright yellows and reds of lava and fire.
While we will discuss the characters more below they are heavily stylized in their appearance which is consistently complimented by the machines they drive, abilities they use, and music they rock out too.
The art work alone could sell Heavy Metal Machines for many gamers and is sure to catch people’s attention like it did on the floor of Twitch Con 2016 which I where I met the Hoplon road team.
Elegant simplicity of objective and control scheme make this title easy to pick up while skill shot based abilities and fast moving vehicle action make it hard to master, exactly what you want in a competitive team game. While you can play with a controller, I haven’t tried it yet, so I can only discuss the mouse and key board controls. Holding down Left Mouse Button accelerates the car forward, Right Mouse Button flips the car around to drive in reverse, Q and W pop your basic abilities, R pops your character’s ultimate ability, and E gives you a burst of speed. Most (if not all) of the abilities have fairly standard cooldown mechanics that any MOBA or MMO player will be familiar with. Your ultimate must be charged up by dealing out damage or healing your friends so creating chaos for the opponent is reward by allowing you to create more chaos! Nice!
The core game mode is a 4 vs. 4 bomb grab and delivery arena. A bomb spawns in the center of the map and teams charge into battle, grab the bomb, and attempt to drive it to their opponent’s spawn location. You are free to drive almost anywhere on the large, symmetric map unless you are carrying the bomb which forces you to follow a longer, winding path. Tight turns, pools of lava, and zones that will knock the bomb out of your possession demand skilled driving. The other players are unencumbered by the bomb allowing them to cut corners and zip through short cuts ensuring they can catch up to the bomb carrier forcing high speed team fighting and chaotic offensive or evasive driving depending on your role. Scoring the bomb three times will result in a win!
During game play you can earn “Metal” by beating up on the opposition that allow you to buff your vehicle and its abilities in various ways. You can pick from an assortment of generic boosts like additional health and higher damage or you can directly boost the effectiveness of your abilities. These customization options only last for a single match meaning that you can experiment with different builds and adapt your build to counter the bad guys or compliment your friends.
More recently an in game VoIP has been added WHICH I LOVE. I can’t stress this enough, yes it leads to people flaming, yes you will have mic trolls, and soundboards can be annoying (or really awesome if done well) BUT nothing showcases a community’s culture or encourages competitive play like VoIP in game. I’ve spent way too many hours playing Counter Strike and I firmly believe the allowing for mic communication in game is a core reason that the Counter Strike franchise has had so much staying power in the eSports universe. Players can strategize, communicate on a deeper level, and even when players are being salty, VoIP can encourage a competitive culture that drives eSports participation in a game. There have been complaints about flaming and mic spamming (I have been flamed on stream) but I think the benefits of open, in game VoIP far out weight the costs in a game built for competition like Heavy Metal Machines.
The motif of a Gwar Concert meets Mad Max Fury Road and what must have been a comic book obsessed art team to create the Metal Heads that populate Heavy Metal Machines’ Character selection screen. Every character has a story, style, and sound track with move sets that compliment their personalities. Run the bomb to its final destination with a speed metal obsessed “transportor” class or knock your opponents off course with crowd control heavy “interceptors”. Feeling like more of a soft rock fan? That’s ok, HMM has support characters that allow you to heal friends, debuff bad guys, and out right silence the enemy jam session.
My favorite Character at the moment is Full Metal Judge, technically an interceptor, FMJ can lay down the damage with a front mounted gatling gun while pulling away from the pack with a ramming ability that doubles as a speed boost. Worth mentioning that I haven’t tried out Killer J, a clown of questionable morals, who was released in a recent patch.
Overall the game is polished and very playable in every way you’d expect from an experienced studio. The interface makes sense, the control are pretty tight, the queue system works reliably enough during peak times, collision (a very important aspect of the game) is predictable and generally consistent, and the dev is wide open to criticism responding quickly in forums or on Discord. That being said I have a few points of criticism and suggestions for improvement!
The VoIP could be open during the character select screen so that teams could more easily communicate composition and character selection. that being said make it more obvious how to mute annoying players if needed.
Players dropping from matches leading to unbalanced 3v4 (or worse) fight. I wont comment on this much since Hoplon has already addressed it in a recent post. The gist is that players are dropping from matches more frequently than expected and the game does not attempt to replace the lost player at this point.
While simplicity of objective and the games easy to grasp control scheme are some of the game’s greatest strengths they do create a depth of content issue. After testing out a few characters you’ll eventually find a character you resonate with and likely stick to them as you grind your fame up and level up the driver to unlock new skins. Once you complete your daily quests it’s the same map and game mode over and over again. The ability to upgrade cars in match can break this up if you are willing to experiment with builds but this can only go so far. What the game could use at a minimum are additional maps or possibly some additional game modes. Hoplon has already addressed some of these concerns in a recent post stating that “our main – competitive – game mode is the bomb delivery. Which does not mean that we will not build other modes or that the current map will be the only one ever. We fully plan in adding more maps for the bomb mode, and – eventually – adding different modes altogether.”.
Some of the abilities are meant to be held down as opposed to pressing and quickly releasing the button associated with an ability. If a player actually reads the tool tip this is pretty obvious but assuming that most players don’t actually read menus there may be a UI change that could make this game mechanic more obvious to new players.
Always important to reiterate that the game is in beta at the moment so expect the items above to improve over time. Try this title out for free while you can!
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