It may be 12 years old, but TM: Black is still an amazing car combat game, and even surpasses the new one in many ways.
Game play: 9. For those of you not familiar with car combat (although I don't know how you would have found this review had you not even been familiar with the genre), car combat is a game where you and several other cars are put into an arena, and fight to the death; its label speaks for itself really. In Black, there are weapons all across the maps (the maps' sizes range from small to massive), such as homing missiles, gas cans, and others. There are energy weapons such as freeze rays and mines. You have a rapid-fire machine gun with unlimited ammo. And each car has its own unique special that replenishes over time. Each car also has it's own handling, armor, and speed.
The physics in Black do not really make a lot of sense when you think about it: you don't have to be moving at all to turn, you can jump, and you can make a tight turn with the X button that allows you to make a 90 degree turn while even driving a dump truck! Is all this a bad thing? Of course not!
Black's single-player experience is three modes: story, challenge, and endurance. In story mode you live out each character's story as you go from arena to arena, and eventually see their ending (which is often unfortunate for them). Challenge is an arcade mode, essentially. Endurance is a survival mode where you take on one car after the other until you die.
Black's single-player experience is pretty good. The A.I. has surprisingly aged well; instead of only going after you, your opponents will also fight each other (although they're always sure to never let you just sit around to enjoy their fighting for very long). The story is good; it has an atmosphere and morbidness to it that helps drive you to complete each character's story. The challenge mode is good fun for a while thanks to the game's steep learning curve. I didn't care for the endurance mode myself. Going against one car at a time can become repetitive. There are also a lot of unlockables to extend the value of it, involving exploring the maps to find the unlockables mostly.
However, the multiplayer is where the real focus of the game is at. You and up to three other friends can all battle it out. When playing with just two people you can play death-match or co-op; when with three or four people, you can only play death-match (with or without teams). It is unfortunate that there is no stock mode (meaning you have a set amount of lives) in the multiplayer, as it seems like something that should have been in this type of game.
The roster of cars is also very good. Whether you're driving a Corvette, a motorcycle, or a dump truck, the roster is very balanced.
The maps also have a great design to them.
Presentation: 9. The graphics by 2001 standards are actually very good. The game runs at a very nice looking frame rate. The only problem I had with the graphics was the color palette; it wasn't very diverse. There was an awful lot of black and gray shades. I realize that that is the theme of the game, but it did make the visuals seem quite bland at times.
The soundtrack is solid. Most of it is fast-paced battle music; although the map, Snowy Roads, had a memorable tune. The sound effects are very good, and have aged well. The cut-scenes for the story mode have not aged very good, but are still moderately enjoyable to watch.
Value: 10. Depending on how the learning curve of the game treats you and what difficulty you play on, Black's story mode should take you anywhere from 20-30 hours to complete; very good for a multiplayer-focused game. The challenge mode should be good for some fun as well. The endurance mode, being as repetitive as it is, will probably not give you that much replay value past getting the unlockables associated with it. There are also other unlockables you can get by discovering secret areas in various maps, so there's more replay value for you.
Even though the multiplayer lacks an elimination mode, it is still great fun, and should keep you coming at it for a long time.
Good map designs
Lengthy, but not too steep learning curve
No elimination mode for multiplayer
Lack of diversity in color palette in graphics sometimes makes the game feel dull
Twisted Metal: Black is a must-have for PS3 owners starved for a good car combat game and felt like the 2012 version left a lot to be desired. Despite it's age, this game does a lot of things right that the new one did wrong. After playing a lot of both versions, I can actually safely and confidently say that Black is not just a better game when you consider its age, it's a better game period.