Twisted Metal: Black

Car combat meets Silence of the Lambs? Grab your blanky, kids, this one's gonna be a real scare.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 29, 2001
When a mass of gaming journalists were herded into a meeting room in San Francisco's Argent Hotel last October, none of them were prepared for a part of the presentation that would touch on one of the franchises that all but defined the original PlayStation's attitude. The Twisted Metal series - at least in the first two iterations - ushered in the birth of a new genre: car combat. The problem was, after the second game, the programming chores moved to 989 Studios (along with the Jet Moto franchise), and many feel the series went downhill from there. So, when we heard there was going to be a new Twisted Metal game coming to the PS2, we scoffed and passed it off as yet another rumor, or at least another sub-par entry into the PlayStation 2's early library. We couldn't have been more wrong.

First off, the original team behind the first two games, now going by the moniker of Incognito Studios, is heading up SCEA's Santa Monica Studios. Secondly, the new Twisted Metal game, dubbed Twisted Metal: Black, is something unlike the genre has ever seen, especially in terms of character and vehicle designs. When Incognito head cheese Dave Jaffe started listing movies like Jacob's Ladder and Silence of the Lambs as huge influences, a small murmur swept over the small crowd. Then they showed us a video trailer. What bombarded our collective peepers was nothing short of incredible. Insanely fast, overflowing with lighting effects and particles, and offering environments that were even more destructive than anything in the other games (the tail end of the video showed a jumbo jet flying over, and then a missile launched from one of the combatants that smacked into the plane, and sent it falling earthward). All of a second passed before everyone erupted in applause and the subsequent live demo by Jaffe proved that there were no tricks or effects applied to the video; Twisted Metal: Black was dark, gritty, and above all else, looked like a blast.

We've finally had a chance to wrap our hands around a controller and really get some impressions of TMB (although a good 40% of those impressions were spent heavily intoxicated). The biggest thought that we walked away with was "wow." TMB's control is perfect for the speed, and the animations (especially Sweet Tooth's transforming ice cream truck) are fluid and diverse. Every car has some part that animates, whether it's just a swivel for a gun or a piece that slides out to launch a homing missile, there's as much to watch on your car as there is on the level. It's the levels that really bear some attention, though. They're incredibly dark, desolate, apocalyptic places that look gorgeous (does that word even work when describing a wasteland?), and they're a blast to navigate. The level we spent all our time with was multi-tiered, and really forced you to think in three dimensions when attacking players. It was huge, lavishly textured, and all moved along at a perfect clip. Oh, and did I mention we were playing a network game? TMB will offer online support, a welcome addition to the PS2's upcoming online games plans, and the network game we played was executed with nary a hiccup.

From start to finish, TMB wants to take on the car combat genre with a style and execution that hasn't really been seen before. The greatly expanded power of the PS2 over the PlayStation has allowed for much larger, more interactive environments, and it looks like the guys over at Incognito are wasting no time taking advantage of the new power to deliver new strides in interactivity. Frankly, we can't wait to take out one of those pesky planes.