I definitely think Chi nailed it when he said that Twisted Metal: Blacks strengths lie in its refinement, rather than in anything innovative.
To cut right to the chase, the game becomes quite boring within only a day or two. After getting it home, I sat down and devoted a few hours to immersing myself in the experience. Like Chi, I was initially wowed by the extremely slick and gruesomely stylish visuals in the interstitial portions of the disc. If nothing else, Twisted Metal: Black gets maximum points for art direction and production values in the freaky cut-scenes (pun intended) as well as the excellent front end menu screens. Besides the menus, the game's graphics while playing are quite excellent, and I certainly couldnt find anything negative there. The rest of the technical aspects are equally refined and the audio is generally good, too. As a side note, I was extremely impressed that the developers used the actual Rolling Stones' version of the games theme song, Paint It Black, during the credits. I definitely had to give some kudos here since I cant think of another song that would fit the game more perfectly.
However, once the psychotic classiness of the epidermis was peeled away, a deeper look reveals a rather dull and complacently underachieving set of guts.
As Chi mentioned, the game is difficult since, like most games of this type, it boils down to an "everybody vs. you" contest instead of an honest free-for-all. I was especially annoyed at the bosses who seemed to break the rules of the game by having protective force fields and who are so over-the-top cheap and frustrating that beating them held no satisfaction. I was just glad just to see them go up in flames. Despite the crazy effort required to power through these design clichés, (and I finished it twice) the difficulty isnt really one of the major gripes Im leveling against the game.
No, the area where I felt Twisted Metal: Black really came up short was the disparity between the slasher-flick storylines and the completely repetitive and brainless quality of the actual gameplay. I didnt understand why the developers went to the trouble of scripting such intricate, nightmarish backstories and then had every stage feature the same "kill everyone to advance" scenario. Since some of the games characters have bloody rivalries against specific competitors, I was wondering why they didnt include any grudge matches or "revenge" missions? Theres no one-on-one except for the bosses and no variation in play. There arent even any specific objectives besides constantly driving to destroy all other vehicles; and every level plays the same with the only difference being the well-crafted environments. To top it off, the enemies you destroy in previous levels even come back several times throughout the game as noted in the main review, so there isnt any real sense of having advanced in the "tournament". The one-note gameplay quickly became so dull that even my morbid curiosity to see all of the sicko backstories couldnt convince me to play it any longer.
For people who really get into car combat, its clear that Twisted Metal: Black is safely at the top of the heap. It controls well, looks great, and does everything that people generally expect out of the genre. Sadly, thats not really saying much. Its disappointing that the developers were content to simply polish everything without including any surprise or freshness in the actual gameplay. As a consequence, I cant really recommend this disc to anyone who doesnt like the repetitious structure that seems to plague this genre. Some people will be more than satisfied by whats offered here, but personally, I require a little more originality and creativity to keep me interested. Twisted Metal: Black is extremely competent and possesses first-class production values, but comes off as feeling very uninspired in every category except the cut-scenes and endings. I hope Incog decides to take a few more risks in the formula next time instead of simply toeing the line of the ESRBs rating system with their non-gameplay content.