Twisted Metal Black (PS2)

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Introduction

The Blackfield Asylum holds the worst of Midtown’s worst. It’s a place rife with the strong and the mad. One day it gets taken over by a guy by the name of Calypso. He says if the choice inmates enter his contest and kill each other then he’ll grant them a wish, anything they want. They all have a vehicle –stashed somewhere, I guess– that Calypso supes of for them. They’re dropped into the middle of Midtown to wreak havoc on it and the other drivers. Drive, fight for your life, get power ups, and see your darkest desires come true.

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Pictured: Calypso. With a face like this, what’s not to trust? Pay no attention to the eye with evil tendrils coming out of it.

History

The Twisted Metal series is developed by Incognito Entertainment. Blackt was designed and directed by series veteran David Jaffe and produced by Scott Campbell. Jaffe had worked on the first and second installments but was taken off just in time for things to take a downturn in the third game in the series, which continued into the fourth. The series needed a change, it needed a new breath of life, so they brought Jaffe back to bring the series back to its roots — well maybe not its roots, I mean Twisted Metal 1 is a pile of camp and silly.

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One of these is Twisted Metal 2 and the other is Twisted Metal 3 and I don’t think either of them looks better than the other and that’s a problem.

Black

Then again, we’ve come a long way since the full motion video cinematics that were cut from the first game. Pictured: A demon named Black.

Twisted Metal Black was released on June 18th, 2001. It’s competition was Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Baal (PC), Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast), and Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (PC).

Experiences

I might have played this game when I was younger than I should have been. My father had seen me play Twisted Metal 3 and how kiddy is was. I loved it –because I was 14 and didn’t know any better– so I was hot on the sequel’s heels when it came out –or as hot as a 20 dollar a season game budget can be. I played it to completion and saw all of the vignettes, learning the stories of the deranged characters. I then related these experiences to my relatives who didn’t exactly understand how videogames worked. Much to my surprise they were shocked and appalled about its content and the effect it would have on my young mind. Long story short, don’t introduce someone to the industry with this game.

Gameplay

Twisted Metal belongs firmly in the niche car combat genre — and when I say “belongs” I mean, “Is the best and only part of.”  In which you choose a vehicle from a variety, each with their own stats like top speed, handling, and armor. You then ride them around in arenas picking up powerups, shooting at other vehicles from the roster, and trying not to die. Powerups include missiles, canister bombs, and other special items that are level specific. They’re hidden everywhere in this game, they’re across gaps, tethered behind helicopters –blow them up and deny your enemies their prize–, and hidden in destructible terrain.

Each driver has an attack that only they can use. These special attacks are very powerful and are automatically recharged after a certain amount of time that’s different for every driver. Each vehicle also has certain abilities that they all share like launching attacks backwards, dropping land mines, engaging a cloaking field, or shooting a freeze ray. They’re performed by inputting a button combination on the controls and use up an energy meter so they’re a little unwieldy to use in the middle of some fancy driving. If you’re out of all of that then you’ll have to settle with some machine guns which are decent considering how piddly they’ve been in previous games.

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When I say powerful, I mean turning your car into a mech that shoots missiles levels of powerful.

The Gush

Inbetween every match we get a little snippet of what the driver is thinking. I think it was a great way to give the player something to do during the loading screens and give us some insight into the character.

The AI controlled drivers do a good job of fighting each other when they’re not fighting you. It seemed like in other car combat games that the AI characters would just gang up on you. When I was younger I thought they had their own unique AI or personality but that doesn’t seem like it’s the case.

The two previous games were filled with disappointing endings where no characters had their wishes fulfilled. A curse of the Monkey’s Paw is interesting every once in awhile but it loses tension when it’s constant. Black set a good balance between wishes going well and wishes going poorly.

There are 5 unlockable vehicles and most of them have interesting methods to unlocking them. Most levels have something particularly destructible that hides the vehicle so you’ll have to unlock them in the middle of combat.

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Spoilers, the Junkyard object is the plane. Shooting it out of the sky is pretty tricky but doable. I always though I could lead another driver into the blast and destroy them but I never pulled it off.

The Kvetch

The maps in this game are pretty forgettable. Some of the hidden areas are sort of cool but for the most part it’s all dingy and drab. I know the world is supposed to be depressing but there’s only so much brown I can take.

The game has local multiplayer deathmatch and campaign but it suffers from having to be splitscreen. I know that it was a limitation of the time but…

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… this is just not enough screen to play on unless you’re television is huge.

The gameplay also gets sort of dull. I figured out I was only playing for the story after I played through everyone’s campaign and then never played the game again. It’s been collecting dust on my shelf as a monument to my teenage angst ever since.

The Verdict

If you’re invested in the past of the Twisted Metal series and need some more stories about deranged people blowing up cars — or you’re like, 16– then this would be a game worth picking up. If you don’t give a damn about any of that then just pass on this one. It might be worth a laugh to force your friends to play a deathmatch with you but those’re the only uses I can think for this game.

Next Week: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number.

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