Twisted Metal BLACK
Review of Twisted Metal BLACK
Back in 1995, a company called Singltrac created one of the most successful auto combat franchises ever with Twisted Metal. Over the years other companies of course had to try their hand at emulating this popular series, but with the exception of one or two other titles, most fell rather flat. After the 2nd Twisted Metal, Sony handed the development reigns over to 989 Studios, who took the game in a slightly different direction, with less than stellar results.
Now, the folks that started it all are back under a new name and are looking to bring back the fun of the first two TM titles with Twisted Metal: Black. Its safe to say they have done so with overwhelming success.
One of the things that held back the previous games was the PSOnes inherent limitation - it simply wasnt powerful enough to fully realize the developers visions. Now we have the PlayStation 2 with more than enough power to do it all, and Incog Inc. have taken full advantage of the extra processing muscle to really bring this series to the next level.
There are several control setups to choose from (Classic, Run and Gun, Control Freak), each with a slightly different feel from the others. I found the Run and Gun configuration to work best for me, but gamers will have their own preference to be sure. Each vehicle controls well, and players will soon be able to steer their selected vehicles/characters with ease. This is good as the game itself has a higher level of difficulty than the previous games on the PSOne - the enemies can be relentless when you are weakened, and are programmed to know when they are weak and will run to avoid being eliminated. Gamers are advised to avoid groups of enemies - more often than not they will all target the player (or players, as the case may be). Bottom line…the AI is now MUCH more brutal…totally bent on your destruction, while saving their own ass.
The replay level is fairly high with this game thanks to the variety of game modes that are available. For single player action, choose from Story Mode (the main area of the game), Challenge (pick a vehicle and level and try to complete it) or Endurance (survive as long as you can against a never ending assault of enemies). For multi player fun, theres a two to four-player DeathMatch, a two player Co-op mode (two players share one set of lives in the Story mode) and a two-player Last Man Standing battle (each player chooses the same vehicle and duke it out mano a mano). While most will spend a lot of time with the Story mode, the multiplayer games are great for when friends come over.
Also making a return is the use of Special moves. In Street Fighter-style, presses on the D-Pad to do things like activate shields, shoot a freeze blast, or one of several other effects. Most of these moves use a bit of your energy that is shown in a bar on the lower left, and will replenish itself over time. You will also find your weapon selection window and a gauge for armor status here. To help the players, health icons are scattered amongst the weapon pickups and one (or two, depending on the level size) health replenishers are located throughout the levels. These will completely recharge the vehicles armor - they can only be used a limited amount of times however.
The levels themselves are fairly interactive - you will usually find innocent bystanders attempting to run out of the way as well as traffic. Quite often this will get in the way of targeting the enemies. Of course, players can use this to their advantage as well. Scattered amongst the levels as well are secret areas where hidden characters can be unlocked, usually opened by blasting a particular building or object to open the way.
As mentioned before, the frame rate runs at a locked 60 FPS. Keeping this frame rate will, at most times, make it hard to keep textures from looking alike. The detail all around on this game, from the cars to buildings, is very impressive indeed.
The animations of the vehicles themselves are great, and a few are downright amazing. The first time you use Sweet Tooths special and see the ice cream truck morph in real time to a robot clown on wheels is a good example. When changing weapons, they will pop out of compartments on the vehicle instead of simply appearing out of thin air as in the previous games.
The PS2s particle system is used to perfection as well. Explosions, smoke and sparks all look very realistic and hypnotic at times. Some levels have other little touches such as weather that will reduce on screen visibility on occasion, making it harder to spot the other cars and any pickups.
Another area that has been done well is level design. Some levels, like Zorko Brothers Scrap and Salvage, have a good variety of environmental traps and areas that lead the player to special rewards. Some, like Freeway and Suburbs, are downright huge, with lots of space to chase down enemies (or be chased down by these same opponents). Other areas are rather small, like Snowy Road, which offers few areas to hide. Each one will require mastering slightly different skills to defeat your opponents.
The music in the game suits it well (dark and disturbing) - it really helps make for a proper atmosphere. When the action is hot and heavy, it gets fast paced. When away from the action, it slows to a calmer tempo. Scorpio Sound, the studio credited for the in-game music, used a wide variety of tunes that would fit well into a horror/suspense film.
Game sounds are loud and effective. Each vehicles special weapon has its own specific sound and depending on how loud it is should give some idea as to how much danger you may actually be in.
There is some decent voice acting in the movies for each character - a quick word of warning however, as the language can get somewhat coarse - something for parents to think about if considering this one for younger gamers.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Twisted Metal BLACK' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Lyndon MacLeod © Absolute PlayStation
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