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     " I just expect a whole lot more as I still desperately try to justify my $300 system purchase. "

      Title: Twisted Metal Black by Sony

      Format: PS2 Driving Combat

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: One of the oldest car combat games around is finally updated for the "next generation" systems. Its got beefed up graphics, some cool new weapons, a ton of extra levels, and the push of some serious brand recognition. But the question still remains, is it new and innovating or just so much scrap metal? Read on, my Monkeys…Read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Generally speaking, one of the hardest thing about writing reviews for new systems is trying to figure out what it’s capable of and what should be taxing to it. You look at a new game, ponder how much better they could have made it look, and you have to judge it based on that. Fortunately for my workload, certain games make it much easier for me…Like Twisted Metal: Black does. Why? Because the graphics are decidedly disappointing. Being booned only by some vibrant color FX, TWB is too simple, too dark, seriously lacking extras and way too limited to be taken very seriously graphically. Even compared to a lot of the PS2 launch titles it’s left wanting…and that’s just unacceptable. No dynamic tire tracks, no situationally effective damage, no fine texture detail, etc. Still, not to paint too dire a picture, it’s not like they’re hard on the eyes. I just expect a whole lot more as I still desperately try to justify my $300 system purchase. 3 out of 5

      Sound: Following right on the heels of the graphics category, sound falls right into that gray area of "Not horrible…but I sure was expecting a lot more." It’s got a decent sound track, some fairly cool gun and driving effects, and on par voice acting. However, again, what really defined this section of the review is what was painfully missing from the game. Supposedly sporting supped up character personas, I was really expecting TMB to provide some mood setting character trash talking, some insane self ranting, some attitude in any way. Instead, once the game gets rolling, you’ll be just as apt to mute the TV and toss in you’re favorite metal CD. Disappointing. 3 out of 5

      Game Play: Yeah, that’s right…once a theme starts it tends to continue, and game play is no different. Drive around shooting your machine gun until you can find some special weapons, use them, and then shoot your machine gun some more. Really, it’s exactly like all 4 of the Twisted Metals to come before it…which, by the time you reach #5, is grossly unacceptable. Where’s the innovation? Where’s the cutting edge freshness we’re paying 50 bucks for? Short answer: It’s not here. Each level is the same monotonous doldrums of destroying X number of other cars so that you can advance to the next level where you again destroy X number of cars. It’s depressing. The only exception to this rule, and it’s not a happy exception, are the two boss levels. The first is you against a giant truck, which isn’t too bad. But the final is you, in your car, against a helicopter. A FLYING FRICKIN’ HELICOPTER!?! Explain to me how that could possibly be cool. And, worst of all, to beat him you have to hearken back to a Legends of Zelda-esque timing puzzle. Incredibly weak. Next time they want to push this franchise out, it better include some diversification in game play. 2 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: One of the few true saving graces for TMB might be the level designs. Large, truly 3D, and entertaining…you will be able to drive around for hours before you memorize the maps. They also have included lots of hidden little extras (like unlockable characters) for you to run across. The down side, however, is that you proceed through the same levels with each of the characters…So while it may take you hours to memorize them, you will long since have done so by the time you finish the game. 3.75 out of 5

      Multiplayer: TMB’s multiplayer is fun…So long as you do it in irregular spurts. Boiling down into either co-op or deathmatch, you will have a good time for a while blowing up your friends…But since there are no real deviations from the single player game it’ll get old fast. 3 out of 5

      Replayability: On the plus side, there are a lot of characters you can play through. On the down, it’s all-identical each time you do…so will you bother? I doubt it. 2 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: Here’s another real bummer in this game…the stories (each character has their own), while cool, are about as half assed as possible. Told as you’re playing the single player game through in 3 brief FMVs, each player explains loosely why they’re in a mental asylum and what this ugly dude named Calisto has promised them in exchange for their participation in his Ultimate Car-Fighting Championship. The two big problems though are that the stories are both woefully inadequate (you really won’t get enough information to give a rats ass about why you’re dude is insane) and interspersed so infrequently that you’ll actually forget that there’s a story going on when suddenly the game will cut you back into a movie scene. Really sub par. 2.5 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: Fortunately, Twisted Metal’s learning curve is pretty much non-existent, so you’ll be rockin’ and rollin’ in no time. That also means you can drag you’re idiot friends over and convince them they’re experts after a half hour…so it’ll be much more rewarding when you trounce them down the street. Plus, the instructions include more information than you can possibly use. 5 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Well, I can’t even pretend to be impressed with what TMB does with all of the PS2’s high-end capabilities. Fortunately, the load times aren’t horrible. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       I don’t know…I wanted to like Black. Really, I did. But it just didn’t bring enough to the table to make me feel it was worth my while.

      The Good: It’s another Twisted Metal game.

      The Bad: It’s just another Twisted Metal game…with absolutely nothing to distinguish it from the ones that came before.

      The Overall Ugly: I’d pass…It’s just not worth it.

      What it's Worth: A rental if you’re a fan.

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