Twisted Metal Black
Calypso has returned. The competition begins anew. Twisted Metal Black has reared its head, and the world will never be the same. Incog, Inc., the developer of Twisted Metal Black, has created a bitter, angry little game, rich with atmosphere and dark comedy. Dispensing with many of the comic aspects from the original four games, Twisted Metal Black is still a car combat game, just one that looks as if it has come from the mind of a twisted, blackened soul.
Driven by unknown forces, Calypso frees several patients from the Blackfield Asylum, a house for the criminally insane, many of them previous competitors. Sweet Tooth, Darkside, Mr. Grimm and more return to wreak havoc and compete for a prize that only Calypso can offer. They all come from dark and twisted backgrounds, and were imprisoned thanks to their own doing. Many of them barely recall their past, waiting only for the moment they can strike back at the focus for their vengeance. Responsible for nearly reducing the world to rubble, and having started the Twisted Metal competitions, Calypso has finally returned to start his new competition. Anxious for players and willing to grant one wish to the winner, Calypso freed the drivers from their horrid prison and armed them with specially built cars.
Twisted Metal Black is a car combat game on a scale never before seen. You've got fourteen different vehicles, a host of levels, and numerous insane weapons with which to pound the competition, all while racing around heavily detailed maps that offer many different secrets for the inquisitive player. The cars are all heavily maneuverable and armed to the teeth, promising for hours of explosive fun.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
For those of you who played the original Twisted Metal games, you'll find that the controls are just the way you left them. If you've become accustomed to the Analog buttons on the Dual Shock 2, you'll find that they now control acceleration and steering, and can be used for fine control or wild stunts. Very unrealistic, and at its most basic a car combat game, each car is very maneuverable and packed with weaponry that will let you lay your enemy low.
Controlling your car's movement can be accomplished with the analog sticks or the directional pad and, depending on your preference, you may need to experiment with both. You've got a machine gun with unlimited ammo, which occasionally overheats if you use it too much, but the special weapons are where the game excels. You can pick up missiles, rockets, satellite attacks, and you can even hurl gas cans at your enemy. Each driver's vehicle comes with a special weapon of their own, most of which have incredibly unusual effects, like the shockwave of Axel's mean machine.
I don't have many bad things to say about the gameplay in Twisted Metal Black, but I do have some. This game is tough. Really hard. Even harder than the first Twisted Metal games, and that's something I though impossible. Still, it really excels as a good challenge at the easiest setting, even if you may want to curse its name sometimes. Occasionally the controls can be a little difficult, and hard to work with, especially given the chaos going on around you, but enough experience should render that moot for anyone.
Twisted Metal Black surpasses all hopes and needs for a good multiplayer experience, giving you the ability to play split screen, or even quad screen with the help of a multitap. Although the multitap game is a little hard to pull off, given the small screens, it makes the game very enjoyable. There are special secrets in the Story Mode you can unlock to add more stages to the multiplayer game, and there are even special stages that only show up in multiplayer mode. Given the quality of the level design and gameplay, multiplayer mode is a joy to play.
Twisted Metal Black shows exactly what designers had in mind for the use of the PS2. Extremely high quality models and skins let you see such details as a transforming ice cream truck, or a repentant sinner being launched at an opponent via the Preacher's special weapon. Each stage in the game is absolutely huge, nearly all of it packed with destructible terrain (like small buildings). One thing I found most enjoyable was the weather effects, as many of the stages have some sort of strange overhead phenomenon to pay attention to. The levels aren't sparely decorated, with many buildings and a lot of extra things to shoot at, like the airliner circling overhead in the Junkyard stage.
From the chilling soundtrack to the disturbing ambient sound, Twisted Metal Black accomplishes what it set out to do. Frighten. Taking a less cartoon-like path than its predecessors, the game reinforces the gothic tone with strange, quick sounds, and background music that would feel right at home in a horror film. Obviously designed with an overall 'theme' in mind, Twisted Metal Black's audio is an excellent accompaniment to its gruesome story.
The soundtrack itself is excellent in that you don't really notice it until it matters. You'll have been lulled into a quiet, serene moment, only to be shocked with a blast of violin or horn music. Ambient noise and sound effects are rounded out with realistic screams, tire screeches, and the occasional (but distinctive!) noise of a fender-bender. If you listen closely at the main menu, you'll occasionally hear the giggle of a small baby.
How can you not love a game that features the Rolling Stones classic 'Paint It Black? as a theme song? From the first time I loaded the game and heard those few tantalizing notes, to when I finally beat it and was treated to a Twisted Metal Black music video, set to the full song, I knew that this immortal tune was the last piece in a great game.
In yet another amazing show of detail, the manual doubles as the journal of No-Face, one of the drivers in the Twisted Metal Black competition. Frantic, hand-written scribble tells you, piece by piece, some of the back story behind the competition, and sets the stage for this orgy of car combat. Besides giving you a brief explanation of the game controls, the manual also has small tips and hints in the car, weapon, and map descriptions, helping you get a quick start on finding some of the game secrets.
Incog, Inc. designed this game with a Mature ESRB rating in mind, and they meant it. Much darker and horrific than the first Twisted Metal games, Twisted Metal Black isn't something I'd recommend for our younger readers. Nearly all of the characters in the game are flawed, evil people, who have obviously committed some atrocity, condemning themselves to this hell. All, and I do mean all, of the art and CGI (as well done as it is) adds to this very horrific setting. Of course, if a game of blackest shade is what you're looking for, then bon appetit.
Twisted Metal Black is one of the most entertaining games I currently own. With a few strategies gleaned from the Internet, I've managed to beat the game with two different characters, and I still don't feel the need to put the game down. It isn't every day I manage to find a game with this much replayability, and I think that speaks a lot for the effort and eye to detail that Incog, Inc. put into this game. Excellent graphics, audio, and gameplay all balance to create a truly rewarding game. If anything, the only complaint I could possibly raise is that, as a car combat game, there isn't a lot of story material, even though Twisted Metal Black is certainly packed with more than most. Still, that's a small sacrifice for a game of this quality, and I'm happy to give this a 93 rating.
Download Twisted Metal Black
If you were a fan of the original Twisted Metal game on the PlayStation, whether you like the rest of the series or not, definitely keep an eye out for TM Black. The pivotal members of the first Twisted Metal design team are adding their special touch to Incognito Studios' PS2 offering, and it looks fantastic. Taking a much darker, sinister approach than the previous games (hence the name), TM Black will rely heavily on environmental factors in each arena for greater depth of gameplay. Whether it's shooting down a passing jet, sending it careening into your opponent, or toppling a water tower on him, TM Black takes the series to a higher plane, both graphically and interactively. The demo at Sony Gamers' Day showed off a wicked transforming version of Sweet Tooth's truck in a cutscene that was simply incredible to watch. No definite word on when the game will be available, but judging from the early state it's still in, we wouldn't expect to see anything until early 2001. But if it means a return to the series' roots, we're happy to wait.