Let’s Twist again!
Out of the dark recesses of a remote maximum-security mental asylum come 8
deranged, homicidal maniacs driving massively destructive hotrods from hell.
These spiteful, highly volatile men and women are here for various reasons –
revenge, redemption, a chance to make things right. And flat out murder through
car combat is the primary means of achieving these ends.
You guessed it, Twisted Metal: Black has shipped and GR has the skinny.
The fifth TM game comes from developer Incog Inc., made up of many of
the same folks from Singletrac who made TM 1
Maybe now we can all forget the 989 mishaps in TM 3
and TM 4.
Boys and girls, Twisted Metal: Black is the Hellraiser of car combat.
Just imagine if Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorheese, Michael Myers, Candyman, Pinhead
and all the cenobites entered a demolition derby of death with cars specially
outfitted for one thing: to kill a man in a manner that is creative, gruesome,
painful and often hilarious. While it doesn’t really bring any new gameplay
elements to the table, it does serve up the most polished and complete car combat
experience the genre has ever seen, surpassing all previous Twisted Metal
efforts. And jumpin’ jehosaphat, this game is fun, fun, fun!
While imprisoned in the asylum, all eight drivers (plus a few hidden ones)
are approached by the mysterious Calypso. His proposal: Whoever wins his little
contest of vehicle carnage will be granted their heart’s desire. Needless to
say, everyone jumps at the chance and the game is afoot. My question is: what
the heck does Calypso get out of the deal? He wasn’t exactly a ‘friend’ in the
previous TM games. Hmmm.
To find out what devious machinations our ugly contest host is up to, you’ll
have to do battle against 6 to 8 other murderous drivers across 9 astonishingly
detailed environments. This entails picking up power-ups for your vehicle and
using them to utterly demolish all other drivers in the said environment. If
you’re familiar with the Twisted Metal series, then you’ll notice nothing
has really changed in terms of gameplay.
But a lot has changed in terms of level design, as TMB features some
brilliant, wicked environments. Many of the maps are enormous with a near limitless
degree of interactivity. Almost everything can be smashed or blown to smithereens.
Destroy the support beams holding up the Ferris Wheel on the Suburbs level,
and you’ve turned the once amusing and kid-friendly attraction into a runaway
death circle, as the thing freely tumbles down the hillside to crush houses,
gas stations and enemy vehicles alike.
Perhaps coolest is the Prison level, which begins with you fighting baddies
on a huge barge making its way to shore. Once the boat docks, you’re able to
disembark and roam about a giant prison facility. The number of interactive
objects here is amazing. You can even be the one to activate the switch that
electrocutes three inmates seated in electric chairs awaiting that last cigarette.
How pleasantly sadistic is that?
Most of the large levels are more geared towards actually driving than the
smaller arena-style levels in the previous TM games. A few levels still
retain the arena feel and seem a little out of place. But for the most part
expect to see city streets or dirt roads with traffic and pedestrians just waiting
to be added to your collection of rundown, blown-up and perforated victims.
This game is brutal!
Would any of this be fun at all if the cars looked like crap? Luckily we’ll
never know, because TMB has some of the most devilishly creative-vehicles
of any car combat title to date. Like the rest of the game, car textures are
meticulously detailed with the appropriate cuts and grooves. The articulating
parts are simply amazing. As you select different weapons to fire, watch as
the vehicle contorts and panels flip or slide open to reveal your implement
of intended destruction. Sometimes I flip through the various ordinances just
to see them slide into view from some hidden slot on my car. I love it!
The game’s 12 weapons are a real treat. Machine guns, explosive gas cans, plenty
of rockets, various projectiles and special attacks all look pretty cool. The
trails produced by missiles and rockets make them look like little comets. Particle
effects from explosions are grandiose and impressive.
The special attacks for each vehicle are the result of some highly creative
and demented imaginations. For instance, Preacher’s special is to launch a human
disciple strapped with explosives at an enemy. After latching on to the roof
of an enemy vehicle and shouting “Repent!”, the fanatical minion detonates his
explosives, ending his life while delivering a good dose of damage to the opponent’s
car in the process. It’s too funny!
to the power of the PS2, the framerate and car physics have been greatly improved.
Turning on a dime is still a necessary TM feature, but it’s no-longer
dizzying or disorienting. The vehicles handle like they should. Smaller sporty
cars are lightning fast, while heavier trucks and tanks are more sluggish with
stronger armor. Wheeled vessels have working suspension and screeching tires
to complete an already impressive package. And it’s all running at a consistently
smooth 60 frames per second. Smokin’!
With the amazing eye-candy and great gameplay, it’s almost easy to forget Twisted
Metal: Black‘s few shortcomings. But it’s my job to think about these things.
Unfortunately, the game is still just Twisted Metal.
Don’t expect anything new, like a Racing mode or Shop to purchase items for
car customization. It’s really just a remake, from the largely identical control
configuration to the basic strategies.
The multiplayer is a bit lacking. There’s a two-player Co-op story mode via
the split-screen, which is the same as the normal single-player story mode.
Here you and a friend share a set number of lives while you both team up to
kill every other driver on the map. Last Man Standing lets two players fight
to the end with an identical list of vehicles.
TMB offers two-player deathmatch or up to 4 using a Multi-tap. But
for some reason, you can’t play with two players AND a bunch of CPU controlled
cars. So it winds up being you versus a friend just tracking one another down
on these enormous levels, and it gets a little dull. This game could have hugely
benefited from a free-for-all deathmatch, or perhaps a racing mini-game or link-cable
option. While mildly entertaining, ultimately multiplayer is pretty disappointing.
But when it’s all said and done, Twisted Metal: Black is an excellent
addition to any PS2 library. It looks outstanding, plays great and the level
design is top-notch with an incredible amount of interactivity. This
is the Hunter S. Thompson of car carnage, a hardcore title teeming with brilliance,
flair and just enough attitude. And it works great with a few drinks.