Desolation arch-angels

His blaring headlights make you feel dirty — the kind of dirt that doesn’t wash off. You quickly lose focus of the real obstacle on your course as Sweet Tooth’s bulging, pesky stare, relentless in concentration, is locked, itching a nuclear trigger. Before long, the hair on your arm is singed and puss is spurting from your eye sockets. Three more seconds and your body will lay limp alongside a mangled motorbike, dripping propane and primed to explode.

Need another reason to “reset” and romp again?

It is Twisted Metal: Black, the fifth installment in a PlayStation franchise, which is stained by such grotesque violence. Rockets tattooed by vengeance, electric pulses busting with the grace of an avenging angel — from the very first level, a junkyard teeming with 100 percent steel blisters, it’s obvious that this Twisted sequel is no stroll in the park. Imagine a literal nightmare in four-wheel drive, comprised of inmates from the Blackfield Asylum, organized by a monster named Calypso, all competing for the ultimate prize — revenge on those who sent them to straitjacket hell.

The Rolling Stones’ opening verse to “Paint It Black” provides sufficient setting for this sinful game, a fireball frenzy designed by psychos on a frozen-mocha binge. Beautiful overtures of desolation grace the screen as you attempt to ride to victory. Initially, while cruising through the suburbs, you are introduced to the true glory of free-roaming environments. Firing a missile at a 10-story carnival wheel burns its hinges, propelling it to roll through town; targeting a Boeing 747, punching a hole in the main cabin, result in the captain making a desperate, harpoon-fierce landing.

With Christian names like Brimstone, Mr. Grimm and Crazy 8, it should be no surprise that this is gritty, brawl-bitten auto combat at its very best. Whether you chose to play as a chunky semitruck, staking out your prey, or as a slender roadster, flying by fellow combatants, before you enter the Twisted Metal realm, be sure to park all your fears on the dash.

Just remember to wear your seatbelt.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].

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