Though it pains me to say it, the car combat genre is pretty much dead these days. It's not that automotive mayhem is completely off the table; last year's Rocket League and Mad Max deliver some pretty great moments of vehicular violence. But I'm still waiting on a new current-gen game (apologies, Cel Damage HD, but you don't count) that wholly commits to the idea of strapping everyone into a car and making them shoot the bejesus out of one another until only one driver is left sitting. Fortunately, I now have a convenient way to relive the genre's glory days. Twisted Metal: Black, the indisputable pinnacle of car combat games, is among the standout PS2 picks ported to PS4 in 1080p.
If you've never dabbled in the series that defined David Jaffe before God of War, it's a bit like jousting at 70mph with weaponized rockets strapped to the hood of your ride. You dart around absolutely massive, dilapidated levels, zooming past (or slamming into) your mortal enemies and unloading as much machine gun ammo and explosive artillery as you can before zipping away to set up your next attack. This all goes down at a screaming 60fps, which I can confirm - after buying TM: Black for the third time in my life - is a framerate that's been gloriously preserved on PS4, even with the improved rendering.
In the Twisted Metal lore, each driver is dead-set on murdering their competition in a contest hosted by the enigmatic Calypso, with the winner granted a single wish. I say 'lore' because I truly, unironically love the story elements of Twisted Metal - particularly in Black, where every challenger has been plucked out of an insane asylum and put behind the wheel of a tricked-out, thematically appropriate death machine. Similar genres like fighting games usually struggle to offer a sensible motivation for strangers who suddenly want to destroy each other on their first meeting. But here, everyone's a certified psychopath who would gladly run over competitors and innocent bystanders alike to get what they want.
The tone is pure grimdark, but I wouldn't have it any other way. You've got the franchise's frontman Sweet Tooth, a clown whose scalp is permanently on fire as punishment for the way he kills people indiscriminately in his ice cream truck. There's No Face, a boxer who has his eyes and lips stapled shut by a doctor who lost a bet on his prize fight (miraculously, he's still able to drive a car just fine). Or take Charlie Kane, the corpse of a decomposing taxi driver being puppeted by his young son using a classic R/C car controller. The 2012 Twisted Metal reboot misfired partially because it trimmed the story roster down to a paltry three drivers - but in Black, all the bloodthirsty freaks and tormented antiheroes are out to play.
There's just so much artistry throughout the entire game. Scrolling through the main menus swivels the camera through a time-stopped diorama of vehicular man(and woman)slaughter. Each car has access to special abilities like freezeblasts and landmines, but only if you know the right fighting game-style button input (and can actually punch it in fast enough while driving). Heck, even the game's manual (included as part of the PS4 download) has been meticulously done up to read like No Face's personal journal. You really should buy Twisted Metal: Black for the frenetic combat and ludicrous speed of its gameplay - but I bet you'll end up staying for its deranged sense of style and lovably bleak atmosphere.
Each week, we'll be highlighting the best last-gen classics and retro titles you can play right now on your Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. For a full list of backwards compatible titles, be sure to check out our coverage for Xbox 360 games on Xbox One and Every PS2 game on PS4.