Twisted Metal: Black Review
Ahhh, the Twisted Metal series. By far the most exciting videogame series of all time. Much controversy has surrounded the franchise, first its violence and then it's abrupt derailment when 989 Studios took over. The Twisted Metal saga has been through a lot, but not once did it perform weakly on the sales charts. The first Twisted Metal made headlines across the industry, owners of the Playstation would soon realize the treat they were in after picking up a copy of TM. This is next-generation gaming at its finest, and I myself loved every single second of the original. Much more thereafter, Twisted Metal 2 was released, and to this day I still recall the commercial that Sony ran non-stop; women walking across gently rubbing vehicle as announcer says, "test drive the all new Twisted Metal." Soon Twisted Metal 2 would sell around a million units, as it became one of the PSX's best selling titles. For a while fans had experienced an un-earthly delay for the release of the third TM. This was primarily due to the departure of SingleTrac (also developers of Jet Moto), who had left to develop the Twisted Metal-esque, Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012. So after the wait Sony finally revealed Twisted Metal 3, expectations ran high, but when it came down to the release, the game was hated, it's now dubbed as the worst in the series. As a newly established developer/publisher, 989 Studios did the un-thinkable, they have ruined Twisted Metal! Aside from the fact that Twisted Metal 3 was awful, it was the best selling of the four PSOne TM's available currently.
Now 989 Studios would promise a sequel that was better upon every respect, and while some may argue TM4 was terrible, I found it as the second best in the series. Giving it a solid 8.9, and enjoying the game as much as I did TM2. So now Sony/989 is overflowing with money once again as TM4 dominates charts and rakes in the dough. But yet again, there are fans dissatisfied with the fourth title, and Sony hears them loud and clear. So who better to develop the new Twisted Metal PS2 title, than the original team themselves? Now under Sony's wing and calling themselves Incognito (which makes perfect sense, look it up in the dictionary) the original TM team, lead by Dave Jaffe has now began developing Twisted Metal: Black. Months and months would go by, not a word from Sony or anybody else, and not until late October we would find out that Sony and Incognito are working close on developing a Playstation 2 rebirth of the Twisted Metal series. Fans would rejoice, hurray, the original TM team is back at work. Now all we had to do is wait... Screenshot after screenshot, detail after detail, and movie after movie, it seemed as if the wait was forever. But alas, we grip the almighty box that reads "Twisted Metal: Black" on it, we drool in anticipation of the boot sequence, and finally the most spectacular menu screen unveils for me to manipulate. I am officially in car-combat heaven.
Twisted Metal titles have never been known for any outstanding visual features. That is primarily because SingleTrac never concentrated much on the appearance of the game. Rather they focused on creating a decent looking title that played marvelously! SingleTrac did achieve what they had wanted, but now as Incognito they've done more this time. Instead of allowing gamers to settle for sub-par visuals, Incog Inc., with the help of Sony, has created the best-looking US PS2 title to date. You thought you were amazed when you first laid eyes on the screens of TM: Black, you'll be even more amazed when you get to see the game in action. Where should we hit the gas button to? Okay, I'll propel myself into speaking about the environments. Correction, '...speaking about the immensely huge and almost never ending environments,' that's much better. When I say Twisted Metal: Black has massive environments, I don't, by any means, mean that loosely. I mean it in the most straightforward and literal way. TM: Black's environments will take hours to fully excavate and explore every little nook. It's amazing to see that as huge as the levels are, there is absolutely no pop-up in the background. Instead the environment is covered by black haze, but takes in the very distance of the environments, and in no way affects the gameplay. The stages do vary in size though, some are arena sized, others are moderate, while others are, as I mentioned, unbelievably huge.
Of course with a game that features locales as enormous as those in Black, you'd think you would see repetitive texture designs, right? Completely wrong! As inclusive as the stages are, the textures never repeat themselves. For instance in a stage like Prison Passage you can battle on either a naval ship, docking space, various warehouses, or the open road. These four areas equal one gigantic stage, in which structures like forklifts, crates and trees make up a small percentage of the stage. Meanwhile in other stages like 'Downtown' a wide portion of the level is made up of tall buildings, they look absolutely stunning. Aside from these stages just featuring large textures and vast area, a whole lot of interactivity goes on as well. Structures like bridges, houses, helicopters, planes and even blimps can be shot down and destroyed! This all is topped off with wonderful special effects eye-candy. The texture work is simply gorgeous, and the overall look is polished to perfection. Twisted Metal has no weak points in its visuals, these are clean-cut graphics you can't find anywhere else. The vehicular detail will prove my point.
It's hard to tell how many polygons each vehicle is compromised of, but signs point to a lot! Twisted Metal: Black's vehicles look absolutely stunning, crisp, clean and so refined you'd never think car combat games would look this good. The cars move very fluidly, and most importantly extremely fast, well some of them at least. Each vehicle is so detailed that you can see the tiniest detail, all the way down to the core. And thankfully with gorgeous car models comes an amazing 60 frames per second, whatever mode you play, single-player, two-player and all the way to four-player deathmatch, the frame rate remains at a blistering fast 60. Twisted Metal also shows off some of the prettiest special effects in a videogame to date. Explosions, sparks, lighting, just about everything technical Twisted Metal: Black gets it done right. Aside from Gran Turismo 3, Twisted Metal: Black is surely the best-looking PS2 title thus far.
How can I put this in words you can all understand? I'll try. You see this is not Twisted Metal 5, this is indeed Twisted Metal: Black, by that blunt statement I am referring to the fact that this is not a sequel to Twisted Metal 4, or any Twisted Metal game for that matter. Instead this is a rebirth, a resurrection if you will. In this Twisted Metal, none of the contenders are aware of the events in Twisted Metal 1-4, and if you are playing the game as you read this, then by now you may have noticed that *possible spoiler* Calypso is not the same, long-haired thin built, Calypso we've seen in the past TM titles. This one's got a huge scar on his left eye, has a shaved head, and looks moderately built. Another fine example would be Axel, the man who powers the two-wheeled monster with the 25-foot wheels. In the original Twisted Metal titles, Axel's vehicle was a curse, he was imprisoned in that vehicle for life, and for those who beat TM2 would see him rip his arms out of the vehicle and walk away armless. In Twisted Metal: Black, Axel looks like the same character, instead he created his vehicle, controls it by himself and is not locked into it. Those are some of the many examples that prove TM: Black has no connection between its predecessors.
Twisted Metal: Black is a revival of a series that was nearly destroyed by 989 Studios. Thankfully with the original team behind the development, PS2 gamers can now be treated to the greatest car combat game ever. But honestly, that isn't saying much because the genre has yet to be filled up with any good games. Vigilante 8 wasn't so hot, and in some cases terrible, Rogue Trip was good but only saw one title, and 3DO's Battle Tanx series is plain ol' atrocious. This is why when I hear a critic say that Black is the best car combat title, I think to myself that the statement gives the game absolutely no justice, since there are currently only 4 great titles in the genre (Twisted Metal 1,2,4 and now Black). So instead of referring to TM: Black as the best car combat title, I'll refer to it as the best "action game" to date, or quite possibly you'll ever play.
Characters such as Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, Spectre, Outlaw, Minion, Axel, Yellow Jacket, Dark Side, Warthog, and Shadow have returned to TM: Black. And greeting their arrival are newbies such as Brimstone, Crazy 8, Junkyard Dog and Roadkill. Of course each character has his/her own special attacks, most of which you'll recognize from previous Twisted Metal games, but some you won't because they have been altered. There are over a dozen contestants to choose from, all of which have their own sick and demented story to tell. With each character the story mode starts out in an insane asylum (with a CG and all), and with Calypso entering a cell block of your chosen character and telling him/her that upon entering and completing the Twisted Metal tournament, he will grant you anything that you want. Your character will agree and will then break out of the asylum in his/her new car, ready for carnage. Here the story will pick up, as you will be thrown into 8 different rounds, all of which you will have 3 chances to destroy 7 vehicles, which in the later rounds picks up to 8 vehicles. But throughout the courses you will have health boxes, and power stations that will recharge your health to the fullest, on the easy setting you shouldn't have much of a problem beating the opposition. It's the normal setting you should be worried about.
The game's story mode is deep, each character has a twisted soul, and some may even completely terrify you. This game is pretty hellish and in many cases squeamish. To put it in one word the characters of Twisted Metal: Black are "sick." Now the multi-player function of TM: Black is probably the game's most important factor, the game allows up to 4 people to play simultaneously via PS2 multi-tap, and in Winter of 2001 Sony will release an add-on disk that will let gamers play TM: Black online. But aside from that, Incognito has also brought back the co-op mode, which pits two allies together and sets them to fight off enemies as a team. The Endurance mode is a survival mode, you will have go one-on-one with a random vehicle, if you win a new vehicle is thrown in, it's pretty much a gauntlet match. Of course the Twisted Metal artillery has come back (where are the Napalms?), as weapons like the Ricochet, Fire, Homing, and Power are available at your dispense. And awesome weapons such as the Environmental Attack (various attacks depending on the stage), Satellite Attack (a satellite attack in which missiles will swarm a near and targeted enemy), Zoomy (quick ten missile fire), Reticle (a weapon that lets out missiles, must have locked-on target in lock-on box first). Also I should make note that throughout various stages there are secrets to be found such as Black Cubes, which if found will unlock a new stage, or certain objects that if destroyed open up a secret vehicle. Overall what else can be said other than that Twisted Metal: Black is the videogame that all Playstation 2 owners have been waiting for. If there's a soul who doesn't pick up this game, he deserves to have his fingers cut-off... *ahem* sorry a little Twisted Metal adrenaline still in me.
An orchestrated soundtrack, voice acting and awesome sound effects? What else could you possibly want? Twisted Metal: Black reeks of an amazing soundtrack that will keep your hands griping the controller. It's not hard rock or rap, instead it's gothic-instrumental music. A fully orchestrated symphony playing gothic sounds that fit the game's atmosphere like nothing else could. This ladies and gentlemen is the work of skilled music producers at their finest. Who ever was behind the music co-ordination, I solute you and give you my kudos. TMB's voice acting is another amazing feat to behold, now viewer discretion is partially advised because if you are under the age of 13 (or are a parent reading this with an underage child) I don't suggest picking up TM: Black. This game [and it's language] is strictly targeted towards adults, so unless you want to get in trouble by mommy or daddy, I suggest you go pick up Escape from Monkey Island or NBA Street instead. I say this because there are characters such as Bloody Mary (Spectre) who will repeat the word "bitch" quite a few times during their dialogue. Now as I was saying, TMB's voice acting is very well done, the actors fit the part exceptionally well, and I cannot speak a flaw here.
Not only is this the best playing TM game, but it's also the quickest and most responsive Twisted Metal game too. The controls are absolutely phenomenal, unlike Twisted Metal 3 and 4, Black's vehicles never roll over or perform wild acts at times of aggression. The action remains on the asphalt at all times, unless you've just been blasted hard by Axel's shockwave special, well then that's different. All of the cars are fast, in their own respective way, the turning is never a chore and the button layout is fantastic, if not almost perfect. If you are like me, you'll be using both of the analog sticks to control your vehicle, and use the shoulder buttons as your attack buttons. Pretty much everything about the control screams perfection, except for one thing. Since the game plays and moves around so fast, some people who aren't immune to motion-sickness may want to stay well clear of this game, play it briefly and during sun-light, in order to avoid a case of nausea.
In the end what I can I tell you about Twisted Metal: Black that I haven't said already? Other than the fact that it's probably one of the biggest Summer 2001 games, and that if you don't purchase the game you're quite possibly the stupidest PS2 gamer on the face of the planet, unless you just naturally don't enjoy car combat titles. With absolutely stunning visuals, gameplay to keep you going to months and months to come, excellent control scheme, and a soundtrack that fits the mood perfectly, Twisted Metal: Black is easily one of the best Playstation 2 games to date and it will surely go down in my record book as one of the best games on a console. Go buy Twisted Metal: Black, it's the best $50 bucks you can spend on a game title.
6/24/2001 Arnold Katayev