Twisted Metal Black: Online
Sweettooth and company take their first tentative steps online. Kikizo brings you the lowdown on their exploits.
By Kikizo Staff
Despite seeing release more than 18 months after its progenitor, the arrival of Twisted Metal: Black Online -- one of only two titles to accompany the launch of Sony's Network Adapter -- is notable for the sole reason that it offers a natural evolution of the much lauded gameplay found in Incog's flagship franchise. Somewhat baffling however, is the fact that the title, though augmented with online play, has been stripped of everything not pertaining to the online experience. That is to say, the title offers nothing in the way of offline modes. No single-player, no split-screen multiplayer. Just online play. Given the strength of the gameplay though, 'Just online play' is far from an overt condemnation, merely a qualm.
Though a package that is admittedly low on frills, adopters of Sony's new Network Adapter can take solace in the fact that gameplay remains faithful (a cynic might say 'identical') to that of the original; it's a fast-paced, arcade-style romp, one that caters well to the needs of a console audience taking its first tentative steps online (Dreamcast users, all five of you, excepted of course). Rudimentary connectivity options allow players to join and host games of their choosing, the latter option allowing game hosts to alter in-game variables such as game type and various gameplay settings. Wanton destruction has an inherent appeal and nowhere is it more evident than in Twisted Metal. As in the original title, players are presented with a cadre of 15 psychotic characters, each of whom drives a vehicle outfitted with a sizeable arsenal of weapons. Characters all possess inherent traits and abilities, among them such common archetypes as the quick, yet weak and slow, yet strong characters.
In terms of gameplay variation, four modes of play are offered, namely, Deathmatch, Manhunt, Collector and Last Man Standing. Deathmatch is the perennial favorite in which defeated players constantly re-spawn and at the end of the game the player with the most kills is declared the winner; Manhunt singles out a lone player for obliteration by the rest of the participants; Collector sees players vying for possession of a handful of artifacts scattered about each map; and Last Man Standing is analogous to Deathmatch, except here players are afforded a meagre allotment of lives, which, once spent, see the player sidelined until only one player remains.
In stark contrast to SOCOM: US Navy Seals, Twisted Metal: Black Online is based upon an incredibly simple concept, one that most any gamer can grasp within minutes of picking up the controller. Granted, veteran players will attest to the fact that the title possesses a fair amount of depth with regards to special moves and play strategies, but on the surface, it lends itself well to the casual 'pick-up-and-play' mentality, making it the perfect companion for the Network Adapter. The lack of any offline practice modes are however, counter-intuitive, and newcomers who don't learn or adapt to the blistering pace of play quickly enough may find themselves frustrated, with no recourse whatsoever.
Originally developed more than two years ago, one would imagine that the game lacks much of the visual splash associated with more recent offerings, which of course it does. That said, the game sports an engine that is exceptionally accomplished for its time and one that stands up reasonably well, offering, if nothing else, a smooth, relatively trouble-free online experience. It's a pity then, that the presentation is so bare-bones; players literally jump into and out of games with little reward, other than personal satisfaction, for their efforts. The dearth of communication methods really drains the title of personality; with no way to taunt opponents, you might as well be playing against lifeless AI drones.
As a stand-alone title, Twisted Metal: Black Online is a fun, yet ultimately shallow title, one that players will almost assuredly tire of relatively quickly. What it does do, is give gamers a small taste of the whole online play experience, one that should whet their appetite for future offerings. And well, in the end that's probably what it was designed for.