Twisted Metal Black is dark, disturbing, sick, and very very good
Twisted Metal Black is messed up. Seriously, seriously messed up. It also happens to be the best vehicular combat game to date, and brings the series back to prominence after an extended period of irrelevance.
Gameplay is great in this game. First off, TMB is a hard game. The computer opponents are good at dogging you and taking you out. Later on, the bosses are absolutely brutal and punish you for making any mistakes. What stands out most of all is that each character requires you to play differently. The speed, armor, and power ratings for each character aren't there for show. If you're using a speedy, lightly armored car, you better use strafing runs or you'll get wiped out by the more powerful enemies. If you're a heavy bruiser, you'll need to stay on your smaller opponents or they'll slowly pick you apart. Weapons are also widely varied. The basic formula is that weapons that are harder to hit with will deal out more damage than weapons that are easy to hit with. There's a good mix of both types, ranging from the homing missiles that do practically no damage, to the reticule weapon that is hard to use, but devastating if you connect. Each character also has a special weapon that can do major damage if used properly, but utterly squandered if you don't strategically line up your opponent. Each stage has a massive amount of secret areas and destructible bits that can cause chaos if your opponents don't see them coming.
The graphics are amazing in this game, especially considering that TMB was released early in the PS2's lifecycle. The framerate is high throughout and animations are especially smooth. There are lots of particle effects throughout, and each weapon has a nice visual punch to it. The environments are large and well designed. Each has its own feel, and there's usually a lot going on in the background. I thought the nicest feature is when you change weapons. Each vehicle has little compartments that pop out and in when you switch from the oil can to the missiles to the special weapons. It looks like the cars have been specially modified for combat, and are hiding a huge arsenal. That's a really neat and interesting touch.
Everything about this game is dark, hence "Black" in the title. The overall art theme of a gothic nightmare is carried flawlessly throughout. The characters are all insane asylum inmates, fighting for their particularly disturbing individual goals. It may be that one character wants to kill the man that framed him, while another just wants the key to the mask that's locked up her face. No matter what the story, you just know that it will end badly, since each character is so far gone. This carries into the game world. Each environment is dark and depressing in its own way. Each car looks beat up and mean. The music makes you feel like you'll never escape the hell that these characters live in.
Twisted Metal Black is a superbly crafted mature game. The theme is sick, twisted, and cringe inducing, but done so well that I would recommend it to anyone looking to obliterate some enemies without a shred of remorse. Oh yeah, this game is not for kids, btw.