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Twisted Metal: Black
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc.
Developer: Incog Inc. Entertainment
Style(s): Vehicle Shooter
Synopsis: Twisted Metal: Black is a return to the roots of the Twisted Metal series, as members of the original development team behind the first two games has been brought back to craft this first entry on the PlayStation 2. The game is considerably darker than the previous four Twisted Metal games, earning it an "M" rating from the ESRB. Calypso is back again holding his Twisted Metal tournament of car combat. As before, the winner of the tournament gets a wish of their choice to be granted by Calypso. There are a total of 15 playable characters, each varying in vehicle type, driver, speed, armor, special weapon, and control. There are new characters as well as returning ones, including Junkyard Dog, Brimstone, Outlaw, Mr. Grimm, Roadkill, Crazy 8, Spectre, Dollface, Shadow, and Sweet Tooth. Players engage in vehicular combat in a variety of arenas, including downtown areas, rooftop skyscraper battles, suburban neighborhoods, prison boats, snow covered roads, highways, freeways, and drive-in movie theaters. There are also hidden arenas and characters that are unlocked by exploring and discovering hidden areas of many of the battlegrounds. Drivers compete in a last-man standing game that pits you against eight other opponents. The last person surviving wins the level and progresses onto the next stage (each character has eight levels). Weapons include character-specific special weapons, missiles, homing missiles, exploding gas cans, and environmental attacks triggered by the player. Progressing through levels not only gets you closer to the end of the game, but also unlocks CGI Movies that explain characters' pasts in greater detail. The standard camera view is placed behind the car, but can be altered by pressing the select button. Twisted Metal: Black also includes four-player simultaneous play via a split-screen, as well as cooperative modes and a last-man standing mode. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
Package Contents: 56-page Instruction Manual
Simply marked "Journal," it illustrates all of the controls and many character bios, as well as has psychological journal entries scribbled in from the combatants. Perfect. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
No slowdown, detailed cars, massive environments, and unbelievable background animations that have to be seen to be believed. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
In 1995, Singletrac developed a game that pitted vehicle-driving sociopaths against each other in a huge variety of arenas. That game was Twisted Metal, and PlayStation owners soon rushed to the shelves to grab this distinct and different title. Soon after, a sequel was released that polished the rough edges of the original. Twisted Metal 2 improved upon everything that its predecessor left out in terms of graphics, sound, and gameplay. Predictably, fans begged and pleaded for more installments. Unfortunately, new development and creative teams were assigned to Twisted Metal III and Twisted Metal 4, and the games were a huge disappointment. Since then, no worthy successor to the series (Vigilante 8 came close) was published. Until now. Members from the original creative team behind the first two Twisted Metal games are back (as Incog Inc. Entertainment) and have crafted Twisted Metal: Black for the PlayStation 2. This game shines in every category, and is second only to SSX as the top PlayStation 2 game available at the time of its release. From the moment you start up the game, you realize that this is very different from the previous installments of Twisted Metal. As players hear first few notes of the famous Rolling Stones song amp;"Paint It Black" and begin to view the introductory character movies and menu system, many adjectives come to mind: dark, disturbing, gothic, horrific, and gory. All of this occurs before the start button is even pressed. Now that's presentation. Veterans of the original Twisted Metal series will recognize many of the same vehicles from previous installments. The back stories behind each character, as well as their physical appearances, are truly...twisted. Each and every story has a great amount of creative thought and storytelling put into them, but some may be too disturbing for gamers expecting the comic book style of artwork and gameplay of the previous four games. One of the most horrific examples (how this one got past the ESRB is a mystery) is the story for Yellowjacket. A taxi cab driver named Kane is murdered in front of his eight-year-old son. Grief-stricken, the son refuses to accept his father's death. He takes Kane's corpse and hooks up electrodes to its body, effectively turning his father into a walking zombie that he controls via a remote control. The fact that this story is narrated with a child's voice makes it even more disturbing. Each of the combatants is broken out of an asylum by Calypso, the host of the Twisted Metal tournaments. Calypso promises the winner of the contest a specific way to "ease their pain" by righting a wrong or making vengeance on a wrongdoer possible. In the example of Yellowjacket, Calypso promises Kane's son a way to make him and his father "be together forever." These deals are likened to mythic contracts made with the devil or a genie, and almost all have some sort of catch or twist at the end. The graphics are unbelievably detailed. Almost every minute detail has been carefully attended to -- traffic lights flicker, real-time light sourcing is plentiful, and traffic congested streets vary from location to location with pedestrians walking amongst the battle torn cities. One of the most impressive aspects, however, is the constantly changing environmental conditions in many of the levels. Dawn turns to night, and rain and snowstorms pick up and become furiously hectic at times. The battlegrounds range from extremely close quarters to widely expansive levels. Almost everything seen on the far horizons can be reached by driving to it, and the action is intense and relentless. Destroyable Jumbo jets and blimps fly around levels, and buildings, structures, houses, trees, lamp posts, bridges, windows, crates, and just about anything else you can think of can be demolished. Some of the levels are absolutely huge. One level in particular starts you off in the small holds of a prison ship with two other opponents. After about a minute, the doors raise up and you can race around the huge prison boat, attacking all of the other combatants -- at the same time the boat is actually <I>moving</I> (waves crash and fill the deck floors periodically) toward an asylum in the distance. Once the boat reaches the asylum, you can race through the underbelly of the institution, outside among the guard towers, along the side roads, and behind hills, while at the same time having the option to return to the now-docked boat and cargo holds. That's just <I>one</I> battleground level. Those fearing a volley of huge levels available for deathmatch and single-player modes, fear not. There is a plethora of different types of fighting battlegrounds, ranging from extremely close quarter fighting to multileveled city battlegrounds. The story mode pits you against eight other opponents chosen at random. AI on the computer opponents is surprisingly sharp, and the action is intense. Different strategies will have to be formulated for each character in order to advance in the game. Each character has to progress through eight levels before completing the game, but this is by no means an easy task. You are given two lives at the beginning of each level. Once both of those are used up, the level must be started over. Recharge stations are available in almost all of the levels, but can only be used twice, so an essential part of strategy becomes learning the locations of health power ups on each level, as well as determining the right time to use the recharge stations. In addition to specially designed weapons unique to each character, players can pick up familiar missiles, homing missiles, and health icons. The rolling, ricocheting bomb has been replaced by the "Rico," and the fireball that launched in a simple arc has also been improved in this installment. The gas can is activated by tapping the L2 button once, causing a target to appear on the ground in front of you and move quickly away from you in a straight line. Pressing L2 again detonates the gas tank, damaging anyone in its target area. Also included are Zoomies (multi-missiles) and the Sat, which has a target similar too the gas tank except with a slight delay. After the delay, the sat rains down missiles on an enemy in front of you. Finally, the reticle allows you to lock on to an opponent and fire a volley of missiles at them. The control scheme is perfect. Both analog sticks are used to turn, accelerate, and reverse, and can also be pressed and used to enable turbo speed and tight turns. An optional rear-view is available, along with camera customization. The directional pad is optimal for executing Street Fighter taps that execute special moves at the expense of a constantly charging energy bar. These moves include a freeze beam, super shield, and mines, making a whole different aspect of gameplay available to hardcore TM gamers. While completing the same levels with each character story mode may seem like it would get old and repetitive quickly, the ingenious way in which each character's CGI story is told keeps curiosity peaked. Most character movies have three parts: The first is told in the present time, with Calypso making his offer to the combatant, and a very brief narrative from the selected character. The second movie is told mid-game, after beating the mid-boss Minion on the fourth level. Players are treated to an illustrative and detailed back story describing in great detail what happened to the character to make them so twisted. The ending obviously gives the resolution and implements Calypso's offer into the story. The fact that you have to go forward in order to see what caused the characters to be so demented is incentive enough to progress through the game with each character. Players also have the option of saving several story mode games independently of each other, so if frustration becomes high while trying to complete the game with one character, a new character game can be started while keeping the status of the original character saved. Also included is a team-battle type mode, a co-op mode, a challenge/survival type mode, and four player deathmatch support via the Multitap. Movies for each character can be viewed once completed in the menu screen, and multiplayer-only levels are available as well as unlockable by searching through certain dark corners of the huge levels. Even in the multiplayer mode, there is little-to-no slowdown in the game. Few games are perfect, however, and there are two <I>very</I> minor gripes. The first is that the action seems to always follow you. Very rarely will the combatants attack each other, and upon close inspection gamers will notice that often two enemies will actually race side by side toward you without damaging each other. While it is conceivable that this was done in order to achieve a steady difficulty level (if the action didn't follow you, you could hide out in each level until the opponents destroyed each other, leaving you to battle only one person), it takes away from the realism of the game. The second shortcoming again occurs with enemy behavior. If enemies are far in the distance, they will sit motionless in a parking position, even if they are in the same vicinity of each other. You can see this in the prison level by driving to the top of the prison tower area and watching the other cars on the boat. But these two minor complaints in no way hurt the overall presentation of Twisted Metal: Black. This game is nearly perfect, and it is rare to see a game of this quality available for any console. You have been warned. This game is not for the squeamish. The CG-movies are some of the most horrific ever seen in <I>any</I> form of media, and that includes horror movies, as well. However, those brave enough to play will have an awesome cinematic experience in store for them, as well as an unbelievable and varied multiplayer mode. This game is a must have for any adult PlayStation 2 owner. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
Four-player split-screen action, tons of secret characters and levels, team battle levels, co-op...this is the last PS2 game you'll need for a while. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
The sound effects and musical scores (which vary from classic horror themes to orchestrated scores with hints of Eastern Hindi) are excellent, and the music picks up and slows down depending on the action on the screen. But what pushes up to another level is the fact that the theme song of TMB is the Rolling Stones song amp;"Paint It Black," and can be heard in its entirety when the game is beaten. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
Great story-driven modes, action-packed dueling, and awesome multiplayer. This game is extremely polished. ~ J.C. Barnes, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.