The co-creator of Twisted Metal, David Jaffe, wanted to make a game about the Chinese military invading the United States once upon a time. Heartland for the PSP would have been "a very liberal response to the Bush administration and the Iraq War," Jaffe has said, a first-person shooter that evoked intense emotion.
While Heartland never saw the light of day, something close to it was recently released, THQ and Kaos Studios' Homefront. Both told Red Dawn-inspired tales of a U.S. invasion, with Heartland featuring China as the aggressor, Homefront using a unified Korea. (Homefront was originally envisioned with a Chinese threat.)
Speaking with Jaffe recently, I asked him about his impressions of Homefront, which explored similar themes, albeit with a different approach than Heartland.
"I think we were both aiming at the same target," Jaffe said of Homefront. "I think we were going to try to hit it different ways based on what little of their game I played." While the co-founder of Eat Sleep Play says he found Homefront "a little boring," he said it was the game's emotional take that turned him off.
"I'm not a believer that the way to evoke emotion in a game is to basically take what works in a movie and shove it into a sort of semi-cutscene," Jaffe said, pointing to the game's extended bus ride sequence, in which the player watches various atrocities. "The reality is when you're giving me control of a situation like that I'm no longer experiencing like I'm immersed.
"I don't really feel like I was living it," he added. "Their execution was pretty good, but it wasn't enough for me to elevate it beyond the standard shooter or captivate me enough to keep playing.'
In describing his own Heartland, Jaffe said last year, "What I really wanted to do was to create a first-person shooter on the PSP that really tried to evoke emotions beyond the traditional emotions you get in a first-person shooter – you know, adrenalin and competition. I wanted to also evoke fear and sadness."
"It was basically an invasion of the United States by a greater military power and you basically played a reserve guy who was trying to get back to his family. It was really sort of my attempt at speaking through video games about George Bush the second and the war and all that stuff. That's what Heartland was."
Jaffe said that thinning development resources was partly to blame for the demise of Heartland, a game that also didn't seem like a good fit for the studios creating it. The game designer is now hard at work on a new Twisted Metal, coming to the PlayStation 3 this October.