Review: Twisted Metal: Black (PS4)

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Title: Twisted Metal: Black
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3.63 GB) / DVD Disc
Release Date: December 5, 2015
Original PS2 Release Date: June 18, 2001
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Incognito Entertainment
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: M
Twisted Metal: Black is also available on PlayStation 2.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Some of my earliest gaming memories are the times I spent playing Twisted Metal and Twisted Metal 2 on the original PlayStation, so my history with this franchise starts at the beginning. And when Twisted Metal: Black released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2001, it was car combat perfected. But now it is 2015 and it is time to see if this franchise holds up to the test of time on the PlayStation 4.

Twisted Metal: Black is arguably the best game to come out of the Twisted Metal franchise and after fourteen years that statement mostly stays true, though times have changed enough that standards are different for what to expect from a game in 2015.

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The controls are not conventional for today’s standards, the default controls take some time to relearn and can be annoying initially. The issue is that the odd feel of the button layouts combined with the loose feel of the cars makes accuracy a bit more of a challenge for anyone used to playing current games.

That is not to say that it’s bad by any means, but standards are different now than they were back in 2001. Older players like myself will find them cumbersome at first, but our muscle memory will kick in and we can adjust accordingly while newer players might struggle.

I would highly recommend messing with the different control configurations and find which one best suits your playstyle. The “Run n’ Gun”, which moves the Gas controls from the Right Analog Stick to R2, was the most comfortable for me.

… the good old fun I remembered it to be …
After a couple of rounds of just getting completely annihilated by the AI, I finally got into the swing of things and was back to destroying cars like the old days. The controls were not the only factor in my early defeats as the game’s difficulty is pretty high.

I had the game set to normal and I was having a lot of problems as the AI is brutal and accurate. Bumping down the difficulty crossed my mind, but I still had the cheat codes buried in the back of my brain and was happy to learn that those still work, and even better, they did not affect the Trophy system.

Now with cheats codes on deck I was able to relearn the game’s controls and systems before moving forward. What I learned was how the AI players would harm each other, but not completely kill each other leaving me to do most of the damage or be the one to put the final nail in an opponent’s coffin.

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This explained why I was being brutalized in my early rounds because what I thought was an eight player free-for-all was really just an 1v7 handicap match. Once I learned the ins and outs of the other’s habits and the map layout, the game became the good old fun I remembered it to be.

The map designs in TM: Black are pretty diverse and spacious, but the dark tone and visual style of the world has suffered in the years since its initial release. It’s consistent in keeping the maps different from one another, preventing the game from becoming stale or boring.

… filled with these little secrets …
The game is filled with random destructible buildings and hidden easter eggs that help keep things interesting, which is something I always appreciated. Unlocking bonus characters is usually done by finding random stuff in a level to destroy or by finding secret areas. It’s things like this that I miss greatly in more modern games and Twisted Metal is filled with these little secrets.

The best part of a Twisted Metal game is the character’s stories. Each has a unique storyline that is reminiscent of a B-movie plot. Some are seeking revenge, redemption, or chaos and each story is entertaining.

For the most part they each follow the same formula which is an initial set-up followed by an origin and then finally the big payoff. The stories are not super serious, but for a game about car combat they are damn entertaining. Though the cutscenes have aged, there is enjoyment to be found going through all the character stories.

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Visuals:
The game which once stood out for its dark tone merely looks like a brown and grey smudge fest and is not as awesome as I remembered. Like all the PlayStation 2 Classics being re-released on the PlayStation 4, this is not a full remaster.

The game has been adjusted to run in high definition, but the visuals are mostly unaltered leaving the 4:3 aspect ratio. This is fine since it’s running at a much more solid framerate, but it shows that this game has aged.

You will almost immediately notice how the game lacks any colorful environments and how the textures are muddy. It’s still acceptable for the world that has been built, especially for a game nearly fifteen years old. It is still very much playable and is carried by the nostalgia this title comes with.

… the music still works for a chaos filled car combat game …
Audio:
The opening guitar riff at the start of TM: Black still gives me chills and brings me back to a golden age in gaming. As for the rest of the audio presentation it is a good show all around.

The voice acting is still pretty damn cheesy, but for the tone the game is trying to achieve it works perfectly. The music still works for a chaos filled car combat game and blends extremely well with the tone and style. If there is one thing that has aged well it is the game’s audio design.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Twisted Metal: Black does not feature online play of any kind just like it was when the game first released. This is a bummer as I would have loved to play this game with some friends, but alas this is not Twisted Metal: Black Online.

The game does feature split-screen action and that worked fine when I tried it. It’s a game best enjoyed with others and split-screen is how most people from the PS2 era remember playing the Twisted Metal in general.

… enough to justify returning to this beloved franchise …
Conclusion:
Twisted Metal: Black was car combat perfected back in 2001. It’s just that the bar has been raised a bit in the intervening years. Putting a score on this re-release is difficult because it is judging a game from fifteen years ago that has some flaws that come to light when played today.

With that said, I still had a blast playing it and getting nostalgic as each level brought back a memory from the good old days. Newcomers to this franchise might struggle with getting used to how the game plays and might expect more. For veterans, the addition of Trophies and the game running at a high resolution and consistent framerate is enough to justify returning to this beloved franchise.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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  • Gruel

    Competently agree with your review! I can see how it could be a bit of a learning curve to younger games who didn’t grow up with it. I have many good memories of TMB.

    My old roommate and I had endured countless awesome hours of the coop to watch each and every cutscene which I recall pushed the M rating to new limits back then.

    Back in 01 adding dark and edge to a franchise was a new thing and it really surprised us compared to the teen rated TMs before this. Anytime a friend came over we would show them the hours of cutscenes we unlocked. We did this for about 4 or 5 people and it never got old!

    • MJC

      Thanks Gruel
      It was a hard review to write at first since it was a battle of nostalgia and current day expectations.