Twisted Metal: Black Review

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Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Incognito Studios

Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

In a post-apocalyptic setting a short time in the future, a mysterious man named Calypso visits the inmates of a prison for the criminally insane, and offers each of them a chance to grasp their dreams. For most of the inmates, vengeance and remorse are the driving forces behind their participation in this automotive gladiatorial combat. This group of obviously disturbed and occasionally downright frightening people use scenes from our everyday lives as their battlefields in a fight to the death to have their wish granted – using missiles, sheer ramming force, and a variety of character-specific weapons to destroy their opponents.

The Great Thirsty

Incog Inc, the group of pure game geniuses who brought us the first two Twisted Metals return to the game that brought them glory with this, the fifth installment in the series that, if it didn't invent, sure-as-heck redefined the automotive combat genre with its overly violent and sometimes frightening, but always cartoonish and tongue-in-cheek style. How exactly can something be frightening, while cartoonish and tongue-in-cheek, you ask? Well, perhaps it's only cartoonish and tongue-in-cheek to a desensitized oddball like myself, but quite frankly, a murderous clown who drives an ice cream truck that plays off-key circus music is funny.

The plot of the game is one of the more complicated of all the Twisted Metal games that have come before it, in that there actually is one. In the earlier games, a little blurb that told you why each character was involved in this sick combat and what he or she would get out of participating in the contest sufficed for plot and motivation. This time around however, we are treated to some delightfully screwed-up cutscenes that help explain why exactly a preacher might be throwing his followers at other cars with dynamite strapped to their backs. These scenes are occasionally graphic and gory, with a bit of sick humor injected quite skillfully, weaving a story line for each character that basically follows this formula:

  1. You're in the Blackfield Asylum for any number of violent crimes or for just being "crazy."
  2. A man named Calypso comes to your cell one day and says that he can make your dreams come true if you take part in his contest of car combat. A shorter movie in the middle of the game explains why exactly each character is in the asylum, from the Vietnam veteran who was forced to eat his buddy to the young boy controlling his dead father with a motor he's placed in his head (as I said, it gets a little gross sometimes).
  3. The end of course, is you getting your wish. Some wishes work out well for the characters, but for most there is of course a catch. The surprise endings are quite amusing.
The gameplay is straightforward, old-school Twisted Metal. You are placed in an arena, you drive around using simplified controls, and kill other cars. You do so in progressively larger and more hazardous areas, with the opponents getting slightly more intelligent each time. Luckily, the driving is pretty much limited to going forward, backward and turning, which leaves you plenty of fingers and mental ability to deal with the actual point of the game, which is to fire an assortment of weapons at an assortment of evil and weird vehicles. After 7 stages of this, you're pretty much declared the sickest of all the nutcases involved, at which point you are forced to fight a relic from another game this team developed (a long, long time ago back in '95 or '96 when the PlayStation was brand new): Warhawk. Now, for me, the fact that they put this evil chopper in the game as the final battle is just plain cool, since I'm a bit of a nut for the older, nonsensical PlayStation games. The only part that confused me though was the fact that the big battle in the middle of the game (with a tanker truck named Minion) was actually harder for me than the Warhawk part.

The final verdict is this: if you are able to laugh at horror movies, or just enjoy a good, old-fashioned crash-and-smash-type game, buy this. It'll keep you amused as a single player affair for a good few weeks, and the two-person modes (co-op story mode, versus mode, or versus story mode, which are basically story mode with a split screen, in which you can shoot each other) will keep you going for a little while more, provided you have someone around to share the magic with. So buy Twisted Metal Black, indulge your wild and weird fantasies, and find out exactly why it's the first game I've ever seen that I really think should be kept far away from children.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 1, 2001 10:07 AM.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Review was the previous entry.

MechWarrior 4: Vengeance Review is the next entry.

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