Overview

The plot behind Twisted Metal: Black begins within a sanitarium where all would-be Twisted Metal combatants are located in their padded cell, when a man called Calypso appears. Calypso is looking to hold the ultimate Twisted Metal Tournament with the most insane drivers around and makes you an offer you can’t refuse, become the ultimate champion of this tournament and you would be granted whatever you wish ,a single wish, whatever your heart desire, with a sick twist to the wish you’ve made.

Gameplay

You enter the tournament as one of several characters, including some of those old favorites from the previous installments. There are about 11 wonderful battlegrounds for a single player to sink their teeth in to, as well as more than 18 deathmatch battlegrounds to humiliate your friends on. These levels are well detailed and range in size from small to huge. Interactivity in the level is the key here, as you can use your surrounding to your advantage.

The level designs are superb. Each level contains exactly what you would expect from it’s name, whether it be the huge car compactors in the Junkyard Level or the huge movie screen in the Drive-In Movie level. Speaking of the movie screen, almost everything in Twisted Metal: Black is interactive. Yes, that means that you can shoot out the supports holding up the movie screen, making it fall down and delivering damage to any unlucky opponents underneath the screen. You can blow the supports out of the ferris wheel in the Suburbs level, making it roll through town and eventually crash into the ocean, destroying everything and anything in its path. These are just a few examples of the level of interaction in the game. Each level contains the appropriate number of weapons, health packs, etc, that you would expect from a level of its size, which comes in 3 flavours,small, large and massive!! .For these 29 battlegrounds you will have 14 beefed up vehicles that are as whacked out as their twisted driver counterparts.

The game runs at an amazing sixty frames per second, rarely dropping. Even then, it is hardly noticeable. The artificial intelligence (AI) in the game is very difficult, but not frustrating, as you don’t find them cheating. They simply use better battle strategies and tactics, and once you learn their ways of attacking, you can then find their weaknesses and use those to your advantage. Speaking of tactics, this game is not one that you can just step in and expect to blow up the other one to eight opponents. You must have a strategy to win, whether it be doing many hit-and-runs, gathering up as many weapons as your car’s cargo bay will hold then using your shield and dispensing all of your ammo at once, or a combination of both. Each vehicle has a noticeable difference. For example, it is better to do hit and runs with Mr. Grimm, as he has speed on his side and very little armor. On the other side of the spectrum, it is smarter to unload all your ammo at once with Junkyard Dog, as he has tons of armor, and hit and runs wouldn’t work well with him since he doesn’t have that much speed. Each car has its own unique special, as well as one or two hidden specials that are left to be uncovered . The weapons also have strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Power missile delivers tons of damage while sacrificing a target-tracking radar. On the other end, the Homing missile is almost always guaranteed to hit its target, while giving up a decent-sized warhead. The one-player Story Mode will keep you busy for at least a week or two, depending on how much you play and what difficulty you play at. The game allows up to four players to play at once, always at an almost steady sixty frames per second, thus losing just minute amount of detail, but still maintaining framerate.

There are a large number of different weapons and power-ups available with each vehicle, ranging from the standard machine guns to the ever so popular gas cans. Along with these weapons, we can’t forget about the special attacks that the vehicles can do. Each vehicle has its own rating for special attack power and can vary in style and execution. The weapons in this game are very well thought out and can challenge players to use them strategically.

If you’ve played any of the previous games you’ll find yourself feel right at home with Twisted Metal: Black. The gameplay is fairly straightforward with the driving being accomplished by the controller’s dual analog stick and the weapons selection / firing being executed with the shoulder buttons on the controller. When controlling the vehicles you’ll notice that they are completely arcade-like with just a dab of realistic physics here and there. For example, heavier vehicles are much harder to stop when spending down the roads and will tend to slide but spending up to top speeds takes no time at all. As a result of this players will experience a great handling system. I find that this was a good thing because who has time to struggle with the controls when your battling against your friends.

Excellent rounds up everything that has to be said about the sound category. You can determine what type of missile is hunting you down just by the sound of it, from the whining of the Homing missile to the laugh of Sweet Tooth as he transforms into a mech from his usual ice cream truck self, firing dozens of missiles at you. The machine gun sounds just as you would expect a machine gun to sound. The game music sets the pace accordingly. If you are idling in a corner of the map with the opponents far from you, the music slows down and everything becomes quieter. If you are battling it out intensely, the music changes into more upbeat tunes , mimicing the intensity of the battle at hand. The voice-acting of the characters is awesome. Their emotion fits their character, so you can expect a hillbilly voice from the once-farmer Billy Ray, while getting a grim, hard-style tone of voice from the SWAT sniper, Agent Stone.

Graphics

First off, the game direction turn to the worse, in a good way.It is darker in theme, and darker in plot , hence the name Black in the game title. Simply put, this game is perhaps among the most graphically impressive game out for the Playstation 2 right now. The particle effects,plums of smoke and fire that come out of a missile are simply jaw-dropping. You will want to fire missiles over and over again, regardless of whether or not they are directed towards an enemy, just to see the particle effects at work. What is perhaps most impressive is when you fire a Zoomy, which is a weapon that fires ten missiles at an opponent, all with their individual smoke trails. No game to date has ever used the particle effects of the Playstation 2 as well as Twisted Metal: Black does. Each car is rendered meticulously with detail, right down to the machine gun and its chain of bullets: you can actually see the chain of bullets move into the machine gun, then see the empty shells get ejected from the gun. This is just one of the few examples of the amount of detail being put into the game. When you pick up a weapon, a compartment opens and the appropriate weapon pops out, waiting to be fired. Each weapon has its specific place on the car, whether it be the gas can popping out of the trunk or the homing missile being brandished from the side panel of the vehicle. All these weapons popping out of the vehicles are captured beautifully, not missing one animation, giving it a slick and smooth feeling. The cars show visual signs of damage as you get hit, whether it be that gaping hole in the roof or losing a bumper.

The level designs are superb. Each level contains exactly what you would expect from it’s name, whether it be the huge car compactors in the Junkyard Level or the huge movie screen in the Drive-In Movie level. Speaking of the movie screen, almost everything in Twisted Metal: Black is interactive. Yes, that means that you can shoot out the supports holding up the movie screen, making it fall down and delivering damage to any unlucky opponents underneath the screen. You can blow the supports out of the ferris wheel in the Suburbs level, making it roll through town and eventually crash into the ocean, destroying everything and anything in its path. These are just a few examples of the level of interaction in the game. Each level contains the appropriate number of weapons, health packs, etc, that you would expect from a level of its size, which comes in 3 flavours,small, large and massive!!

Fun Factor

Twisted Metal: Black offers a decent number of gameplay modes. As you play you’ll see that the developer had put a lot of effort into making the single player experience more then just a shooting gallery. There are three single player modes to choose from. The traditional tournament story mode, the skirmish mode, and the endurance mode. All of these modes are very challenging playing, with strong AI and are, most importantly, fun. Just one thing though: the AI is extremely vicious so I would recommend you start off playing at an easier setting so you can avoid getting frustrated to quickly. Aside from the great single player experience there is also the multiplayer mode where you can choose from 2-4 players in either deathmatch, cooperative story, or last man standing. Both the single player and multiplayer modes will keep you returning night after night for more action.

Overall

Has the series redeemed and resurrected? You bet your ice-ream truck it has! Everything about the game reeks of greatness and style, from the gorgeous graphics, to the slick and sweet gameplay, to the perfectly-done sound. Every Playstation 2 owner that is an action-junkie or just owns any game with action in it had better move this up to the top of their Playstation 2 Must-Buy List. The only thing that could make the Twisted Metal series better is already in development, and that is Twisted Metal: Black Online, which is coming this winter.

Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com