Pros: Fast, intense action combined with a true feeling of dread
Cons: Don't play it alone after midnight
The Bottom Line: Back in black, I'm back in black...
As far as I'm concerned, the Resident Evil games now have some serious competition for being the most disturbing games ever made. As I shut off Twisted Metal: Black for the first time, I felt chills of cold dread pour down my back. I haven't felt so disturbed since the first time I saw The Exorcist. That night, I had nightmares about being eaten alive by an oversized ice cream truck.
While I've always liked the idea of vehicular combat, I haven't actually played a Twisted Metal game, or any vehicular combat games for that matter, since the first Twisted Metal. I hope one of you can fill me in on the details of the later games of the series, or at least tell me when it evolved from the ironically, darkly funny series that was started by the first Twisted Metal back in 1996 into the just plain dark, disturbing opus that is being presented to us now.
Twisted Metal: Black is a game that will linger in your dreams, haunting you day and night until the day when you finally say, "I can't take it anymore! Away from me, evil being!" and throw the disc into a bonfire while waving a cross above your head to ward off the evil spirits that may arise from the flames. Everything about this game reeks of Satanic infestation, from the dark backgrounds to the despairing musical score. This is definitely one game that you will not want to play on your own after midnight.
Indeed, the Twisted Metal series really seems to have come a long way from it's roots. The first game, released back in 1996, introduced a new idea and presented it in an atmosphere that would have made a great setting for a Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson video, with guitar grinding hard rock tunes livening up the musical score. The game itself was, at it's core, a demolition derby taken to the extreme, featuring a dozen or so colorful cars, each utilized with a machine gun, rocket launchers and a unique special weapon. The purpose of the game was to simply hunt down and blow the other cars in the arena sky high. And the game didn't take place in some willy-nilly county fair mud pit with all the onlookers sitting neatly in arranged rows (well, one of them did), but right on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where any innocent bystander killed in the action was simply written off as collateral damage. Yeah, it may sound a little violent, but it was all in good video game fun. Its not like the violence was graphic or anything-cars blew up, people simply disappeared upon getting hit, and the designers weren't even so sick as to let you run down the little dog that you occaisionally saw wandering the streets. In other words, it was a game that you may not have objected to your ten-year-old playing.
Well, all that's changed with the PS2 series flagship. Gone are the demonically colored backgrounds and guitar riffs. Replacing them is an epic far more intense and disturbing. The first clue of what you're in for is the package description: They say the mind bends and twists in order to deal with the horrors of life... ...sometimes the mind bends so much it snaps in two. The second clue is the manual, which is presented in the form of a journal written by one of the drivers. The third clue is the opening guitar riff of The Rolling Stones' ode to the depressed, Paint it Black, playing in the background as the title screen camera runs us through a string of crash aftermaths. After you select your character, you get treated to an opening cinema in which your character gives his/her reason for being in an asylum, as well as his/her motive for entering a car combat tournament being run by the mysterious Calypso. Many of these characters have done hard time in the asylum, and since a lot of them have vows of revenge on the line, you know they mean business.
After the opening cinema, you automatically get thrown out into the middle of the action with a handfull of other drivers who all want their dreams of revenge to become reality just as badly as you do. You must now drive around the playfield, scraping for whatever weapons you can find while avoiding the barrage of gunfire your opponents are sending at you and at each other. Once you have your arsenal, its time to start firing back. But they don't make it too easy for you this time. The AI in Twisted Metal: Black has been beefed up considerably, and your opponents are no longer going to simply run off in one direction while you chase them down the road stuffing rockets up their tailpipes. They're going to dodge, weave, and whatever else they can get away with to keep your bearings off. And on several occaisions, you may find yourself being ganged up on. While the other guys sends a lot of bullets and rockets at each other, they're more likely to cease fire and hit you with everything they've got when you're around.
Fortunately, you've got the most responsive control panel you've ever used for any game to return fire or run away. The default controls mimic those of the original game. You have the ability to go from 0 to top speed in just a couple of seconds, maybe. If you like the old PSX button layout, you can stick with it, but the analog sticks make things much easier, as they allow you to stop and turn on a dime without worrying about pushing a wrong button. You also have an energy bar on the bottom right corner of the screen that gets used up when you use your special technique, something that every car has at every time but requires a series of button presses on the d-pad to fire. These energy attacks allow you to do things like freeze other cars, put up a protective barrier around yourself or even make yourself invisible.
The Twisted Metal series has never been known for making huge graphical breakthroughs, but that may change. First, the levels are giant, and you can practically go anywhere you see. Of course, keeping in due with the disturbing tone of the game, the dominant color is black, as many of the backgrounds are either black or have a black tint. The details of the game are amazing-in a drive-in movie theater, you see the battle onscreen, and whenever a car explodes, the driver climbs out in flames and runs around the playfield. Every detail of the backgrounds are interactive. You can blow up buildings, shoot down airplanes and helecopters and even send a giant ferris wheel rolling down a countryside. The cars themselves are equally as detailed, with a new weapon appearing every time you select one-you see rockets appear on the side of your car, for example. Every car has its own special animation for its special weapon, and there's nary a note of slowdown or a jaggie in sight. These graphics are right up there with Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast.
The sound has also undergone a tremendous overhaul. The first Twisted Metal game had heavy metal riffs, and the following games had original music by Rob Zombie, but again, the glam has been ditched in favor of goth, and so Rob Zombie was ditched in favor of a dark, sweeping, epic and particularly haunting orchastrated score. The music does a lot to add to the atmosphere of the game, and I guarantee when you turn off your PS2 only to hear one of those annoying commercial jingles, you'll still experience a kind of relief. You've never heard mood setting music like this.
Another nice feature about Twisted Metal: Black is its nonlinearity. Every time you complete one level, you are given a choice between two levels to go to. So you can select your levels throughout the game. It doesn't really add anything to the gameplay, but it's a nice feature anyway.
Twisted Metal: Black will probably go down as the most popular and acclaimed game in the franchise. From the very beginning, the game takes a hold of you, sucking you in and filling up your head with haunting images. Its a unique game in the fact that the atmosphere will make you want to stop playing but the gameplay will make you want to play more. Its a PS2 best seller, which means you can buy it for twenty dollars, and its destined to go down as one of the PS2's greatest games.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Twisted Metal: Black features sinister environments with moving traffic, changing weather conditions, living pedestrians and interactive objects. The original development team has returned to create a new look and feel, this time with a deeper and darker atmosphere.