The tone of the Twisted Metal Black differs greatly from the previous games, with it opting for a much darker and 'twisted' style of storytelling. Every character is an inmate at Blackfield Asylum, and is visited by the mysterious Calypso who promises to give them anything they want if they win his sadistic tournament.
The game follows the Twisted Metal tournament in which 15 psychotic mental patients from Blackfield Asylum compete to have any one of their wishes granted.
In Twisted Metal: Black, each of the involved characters has their own back story is narrated from their own perspective. Each of the stories begins with a visit from Calypso - the tournament's creator. Calypso is aware of these peoples' desires, and offers it to them through his contest. The characters include murderers, cannibal war veterans, psychotic brides, Sweet Tooth, and many more, as listed below.
Mid-point cutscenes reveal more about each of the characters individually, as well as text during loading screens.
Completing the game with every character, including unlockable characters, unlocks Minion. Minion is somewhat different from the rest of the cast in that his loading screen text is in code. By following the logic of 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc, the following is revealed:
I do not think this is real.
I must speak in code or he will discover me.
We are trapped in his head.
This is how he sees the world, how Sweet Tooth sees his life. It is not real.
All of us are trapped in his head.
I miss the old colorful world.
We will return to our world one day.
In the real world my name is Marcus Kane.
Further evidence that the game takes place within Sweet Tooth's head is visible from the start. He's the only base character to be listed in the middle of the unlockable characters. His driver bio has him listed as extremely dangerous, something no other driver is. The entire game serves to inflate his ego.
Sweet Tooth is a psychopathic serial killer who wants nothing more than to kill. His voice over speaks with great pride about his numerous killings, even talking about them on the loading screens. He is a heavyset man wearing a clown mask and suspenders with dirty pants and work boots. His murder weapon of choice is a knife. After being captured, killing several police officers in the process, he is cursed by a priest with a flaming head and eternal agony. His wish is for the removal of the curse. Several of the other drivers are linked to Sweet Tooth in various ways.
- Vehicle: Ice cream truck
- Disorder: Unspecified Psychotic disorder; Homicidal tendencies; Insomnia.
Dollface (aka Darkside)
Dollface is a sweet, introverted girl who went to work for a mask maker as a part-time job. While working for him, she spilled a drink onto a pile of important paperwork, enraging the owner. He strapped her down and forced one of his masks onto her face, hammering it in place and locking it while he kept the key for himself. Her wish is, obviously, to get the key so that she can finally unlock the mask.
- Vehicle: Semi cab
- Disorder: Bipolar I; Severe with psychotic and catatonic features; Brain damage.
Axel is a normal man driven mad by his desire for vengeance against the man who killed his wife (Sweet Tooth). He feels that he failed her and locked himself between two wheels, allowing his feet to drag across the ground as he drives, the agony a constant reminder of his failure. His wish is the chance for revenge against Sweet Tooth.
- Vehicle: Two giant wheels with him in the center.
- Disorder: Obsessed with revenge fantasies; Violent.
Agent Stone (aka Outlaw)
Agent Stone was a SWAT officer on the trail of an apocalyptic suicide cult that planned to kill thousands of people by detonating a dirty bomb in the middle of a populated city. The cult has also murdered many people in their wake to get to this point. Agent Stone is posted as a sniper across from the cult leader in an apartment building and given the kill order. However, he lets his emotions get the better of him remembering all the victims and accidentally kills an innocent person in his cross-fire. His wish is to travel back in time and get another chance.
- Vehicle: S.U.V
- Disorder: Dissociative amnesia caused by trauma; Episodic depression.
Raven (aka Shadow)
Raven, a goth high school student and self-proclaimed witch who had only one true friend in the world. They were both relentlessly teased by the popular kids, but it mattered little because they had each other. Until a prank went awry and Raven's friend was accidentally drowned by some of the bullies. Raven's wish is for the ability to get revenge on her tormentors and avenge her friend.
- Vehicle: Hearse
- Disorder: Acute post-traumatic stress disorder; Bipolar I with hypomanic episodes.
Mr. Kane and Son (aka Yellow Jacket)
Mr. Kane, the father of Sweet Tooth, drove a taxicab and often took his son along for rides. One fare, seemingly for no reason, shot young Kane's father and fled. Kane Jr., a mechanical genius, was able to hook up electrodes to his father's body and resurrect him in a similar fashion to Frankenstein's monster. His wish is to have his father back to normal.
- Vehicle: Taxi
- Disorder: Autism (mechanical savant); Oppositional defiant disorder.
Cage (aka Warthog)
Cage is a serial killer similar to Sweet Tooth with one very notable exception: he gets incredibly depressed every time he kills someone. Even during his loading screens, all he can talk about is the self-loathing and sorrow he feels at killing over and over, but also not wanting to stop. Cage enters Calypso's contest with the hope that Calypso can somehow cure him not of his bloodlust, but of his sorrow.
- Vehicle: Station wagon
- Disorder: Anti-social personality disorder (severe)
Black (aka Manslaughter)
Manslaughter is a mysterious, leather-clad man who speaks in monosyllabic, very simple sentences. He is driven by one incredibly overwhelming desire: kill Calypso.
Billy Ray Stillwell (aka Junkyard dog)
A farmer who had it all and lost it when a crop duster flew overhead and dropped its payload while he was in his field. He was horribly deformed but he survived. He staggered back to his home only to find his wife in the arms of the pilot of the plane. The man fled, but Billy Ray was able to catch his wife, killing her with a garden hoe. He enters the contest hoping that Calypso can find the pilot and give Billy a chance for vengeance.
- Vehicle: Tow truck
- Disorder: Chronic Schizophrenia; Borderline personality disorder.
Preacher (aka Brimstone)
Jebidiah was a preacher who was called on to exorcise a baby in a church. Unfortunately, the demon was far stronger than he anticipated and it possessed him, causing him to go on a murderous rampage killing everyone in the church and leaving Preacher to take the blame and be arrested. His desire for Calypso is to rid him of the demon once and for all.
- Vehicle: El Camino
- Disorder: Paranoid Schizophrenia with persecutory and grandiose delusions.
A grizzled veteran of the Vietnam war, Mr. Grimm was captured by Viet Cong and put in a hole in the ground in a POW camp along with his friend and fellow soldier who had been shot and was slowly dying. In the end, his friend died and his captors mockingly threw him a knife. He tried to resist the urge, but in the end his hunger overcame him and he ate his friend, fashioning his skull into a mask which he put on. When he was rescued, he killed several of his rescuers when they tried to remove the mask. His wish is having the man who led the POW camp placed before him to get his chance at revenge.
- Vehicle: Motorcycle with an attached sidecar
- Disorder: Post traumatic stress disorder; Cannibalistic tendencies.
John Doe (aka Roadkill)
John Doe is not the driver of Roadkill's real name, but he does not know his real name. He has amnesia, but he's covered in sinister tattoos. He remembers vaguely being in a suicide cult that were planning on killing thousands of people, but he has no completely solid memories. His wish is to have all of his memories return to him.
- Vehicle: Green car
- Disorder: Amnesia with frenzied confusion; Uncontrollable rage.
No Face (aka Crazy 8)
No Face is a palooka amateur boxer who took a vicious beating in one fight and was referred to a doctor who worked quick and cheap. Unfortunately for him, the doctor had bet a huge amount of money on him and after he put him under removed his tongue, ears, eyes and nose, sewing the eyelids and lips together. He now lives in constant pain, barely able to perceive the world around him. As if there were any doubt, No Face will ask Calypso for revenge against the doctor.
- Vehicle: Hot rod
- Disorder: Chronic pain; Rage disorder with psychotic features; Brain trauma.
Bloody Mary (aka Spectre)
Bloody Mary feels that she's always the bride's maid, never the bride, unable to find a man to love her. Even in her youth, she was constantly mocked and derided for being a plain girl. At yet another friend's wedding, her jealousy overflows and she kills the bride, taking her dress and her car for herself, blood and all. Bloody Mary's wish from Calypso is the perfect man who she can finally marry and be happy with.
- Vehicle: Corvette
- Disorder: Intermittent explosive disorder; Delusional disorder (jealous type).
Minion (aka Minion)
Minion is a man who speaks in a mysterious code. Finding the secret behind it might unlock the secret of Twisted Metal: Black. He is the mid-boss for all the other drivers.
- Vehicle: Tanker Truck
- Disorder: He is a demon.
- Sweet Tooth is connected to several of the drivers: Dollface's boss made his mask, Jebidiah is the priest who cursed him, Cage envies him and wants to surpass him, he killed Axel's wife, he is the son of Mr. Kane (and brother of Kane Jr.)
- The suicide cult that John Doe belongs to is the same one being tracked by Agent Stone.
- The opening song is Paint it Black, by the Rolling Stones.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the review scores of 8,9 and 8.5 out of ten. Kraig Kujawa, who gave the higher score wrote, "...It floors me that the original developers were able to step back into the saddle years later and dig this franchise up from the grave. The gameplay that made Twisted Metal popular has returned, albeit a little more difficult. The biggest surprise is the Seven-ish [movie] feel that gives the combat the unique edge. It goes boynd just running over a breifcase-carrying pedestrians; the dark humor knows just when to give you a good kick in the balls...".