Review By: Matt Douglas
past couple years, the "car combat" genre has become
much more popular than it has ever been, with more and more
games coming out every year in this genre. Even big-name
licenses such as Star Wars have been given the car combat
treatment. This genre was made big by a company called
SingleTrac, who were responsible for creating the Twisted
Metal franchise. With the good original Twisted Metal and
the excellent TM2, car combat became very popular, with similar
franchises such as the Vigilante 8 series trying to
capture the same amount of fun SingleTrac was able to create.
Unfortunately, the TM series started to fall into mediocrity
when 989 Studios produced the poor Twisted Metal 3 and
the horrible TM4, after SingleTrac was bought by GT Interactive.
Many of the original SingleTrac team has gotten back together,
and formed Incognito, who have now taken control of the Twisted
Metal franchise. Their first game, Twisted Metal: Black
(which will be referred to as TM:B), has revived the stale car
combat scene with dark story lines for each character, excellent
graphics, and extremely addictive gameplay.
In TM:B, you
get several modes of play, some better than others. For solo
play, you can play in Story mode, or play the Challenge or
Endurance games. For those with friends, you can play Deathmatch
(two to four players), or you can play the Story mode cooperatively
with a friend. Rounding out the modes of play is the two player
Last Man Standing game. TM:B excels at delivering both a fun
Single Player experience and a chaotic, fast-paced Multi- Player
games, TM:B's one player could be considered just as fun as the
Multi-Player portion of the game. The game has the standard
Challenge mode (pick a car and pick your opponents, then try to
eliminate them all), and an Endurance mode (face an endless
amount of enemies and see how many you can eliminate using one
vehicle), but the Story mode is where the game is really fun.
Each character in the game has their own story line, which
avoids seeing the same cut-scenes over and over if you play more
than once. One character tried to find out his identity (hence
the name John Doe), while another participant tries to seek
revenge on the person who scarred his face and made him look
rather gruesome. The only connection between ALL the combatants:
Calypso is running a tournament, in which he promises each
character something if they come out victorious. All the story
lines are very dark, and filled with some unsettling images,
which is the main reason this game receives a Mature rating.
Note to parents: this is not for the little children! When you
play Story, you also sometimes have the option of which stage
you would like to play next. For example, after completing one
level, you may be able to decide whether to play the Downtown
level or Highway Loop level next.
levels are standard in all games, it does add a little more
variety to the experience, though some more of it would be nice.
Of course, none of this would be fun without the game being
challenging, right? Well, I'm here to tell you this game does
not in any way slack off in the AI department. Even on Easy,
some gamers may find the game challenging to complete. The boss
levels are also fun, and are a nice break from just destroying
cars with no real strategy at all. For example, the mid-boss has
a force field, and so you have to destroy the panels on his car
before you can actually damage him. Unfortunately, other than
these boss levels, the other six (of eight) levels are the same,
just in different locations. More variety in the levels would
have made a great game even greater, though with the high
difficulty, I'm not complaining that much. Finally, throughout
the levels are black cubes, which if you can access them, unlock
the multi-player levels. The cubes are hard to find and are a
nice little distraction from the constant warfare. Overall, the
pros easily outweigh the cons in one player.
is a blast as well, which is a MUST for a car combat game to be
given a high score. TM:B ran smoothly for me, and while the
backgrounds were less detailed and there were no more
pedestrians (more on that later), the graphics still looked
great. Last Man Standing, a mode in which two players fight with
an identical list of vehicles and try to eliminate all of the
other's cars, isn't really that fun, but Co-Op and Deathmatch
are loads of fun. Co-Op is the Story mode, but in two player,
and while you don't see any cutscenes because you are playing
with two different vehicles, the bosses become harder, which
makes the mode just as fun. Deathmatch, especially in a
four-player free-for-all, is probably the best part of this
game. Once you unlock all the levels, you can pick out your
favorite and go at it with your friends, whether you're on teams
or all on your own. My only big complaint with the multi-player
aspect of the game is that some of the larger and more
interactive levels, such as Downtown, had to be scaled down for
multi-player, which was a big letdown for me. There isn't that
much stuff to interact with in multi-player because of that,
which eliminates some inventive ways of damaging your opponents.
Besides that, I can't find much to complain about as to what
Incognito offers you, as these modes can keep you entertained
advantage of the PS2's graphical power over the original
Playstation's, TM:B looks fantastic. The cars show damage as
they are fired at throughout the levels, and the arenas,
specifically when playing solo, look great. The frame rate runs
smoothly at all times, and I have never run into any slowdown.
Combined with the graphical detail in the game, it makes for
some great eye candy. The car explosions look great as well,
with the drivers fleeing away from the car, engulfed in flames.
You can decide to run them, and other pedestrians over, if you
feel like it, although there's no blood splattered on the
ground, ala Carmageddon. Some levels, especially the Downtown
and Suburbs levels, have interactive elements in the levels as
well, such as a water tower you can shoot down to collapse onto
the streets in the Suburbs. While I personally would have liked
more interactive elements in the levels, I'll take what I can
get. Some of these items are a sight to behold, such as the
Ferris Wheel in the Suburbs level (I'll let you check that out
on your own). Aside from the lower detail level in Multi-
Player, there's nothing to complain about here.
sound isn't much, but you can't expect much in a car- combat
game like this. The voice acting in the cutscenes is good, and
the game's theme ("Paint It Black" by The Rolling
Stones, played during the credits) is great, and the weapon
sounds are right on, but the music during the game doesn't have
much variety and gets old very quickly. To add to that, when you
destroy someone, you hear the same pain-filled scream every
time, never changing. While I understand sound shouldn't have
been on the top of the priority list, it's little things like
these that separate the "amazing" games from the
"very good" games.
control is a mixed bag, because while the controls are
responsive most of the time, the combo system for the energy
weapons can become a pain in the ass. The button layout is fine,
with the machine gun and projectiles being handled with the
shoulder buttons, and acceleration and braking being handled
with either the analog sticks, D-Pad or analog buttons. The
downside to the controls is that its extremely hard to pull off
combos with the analog sticks, and it can be too easy to pull
them off with the D- Pad. More often than not, I accidentally
fire a freeze missile or activate a shield when I'm just trying
to maneuver my car around, which takes away energy I may want to
use later in the game. It goes without saying, that can become a
major pain when you use the energy weapons (the combos)
frequently in the game.
downfalls, Twisted Metal: Black is an action-packed game that
will keep you entertained for a while to come, especially if you
have a Multitap and friends to play with. The game may have some
issues that needed to be dealt with in the control and in the
difficulty levels, and more interactivity in the levels would
have been nice, but that doesn't stop TM:B from becoming the
best car combat game out for any console, period. If you're
interested in car combat at all, and are old enough to handle
the dark cutscenes, I recommend you pick up this game at your
- Great game engine, with
useful energy weapons and interactive environments.
- Awesome graphics.
- Individual character
- Classic Twisted metal
gameplay that goes back to the series' roots.
- Challenging AI on all
- Combo system doesn't work
well with the analog sticks, and is too easy to use with the D-Pad.
- Levels scaled down in
multi-player, with less interactivity.
- Not much interactivity in
- AI tends to gang up on
you in Story mode.
The game is
not perfect by any means, and can definitely be improved upon.
Still, this is THE car combat game, and Incognito has put Twisted
Metal back where it belongs, at the top of the car combat