Reviewed: October 30, 2003
Released: October 14, 2003
Beginning life as a segment on the relatively short lived MTV series “Cartoon Sushi.” Celebrity Deathmatch grew into it’s own separate program, even outliving the show that gave birth to it, running from 1998 all the way to 2002. With a movie in the works, what better time to release a game that capitalizes on all the inherent celebrity carnage? Developed by Big Ape Productions, Celebrity Deathmatch is their second “wrestling-esque” game, the first being The Simpsons Wrestling. They were also responsible for “Zombies ate my Neighbors” a cult classic of the bygone 16-bit era.
MTV Celebrity Deathmatch, the show upon which the game is based, is your basic “fight to the death.” Only it’s between two celebrities, as opposed to gladiators/warriors/etc. Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond hosted the show, with referee Mills Lane overseeing the in-ring action. The game roster includes a bevy of celebrity personalities, ranging from Carrot Top to Ms.Cleo.
The development of the game was a fairly turbulent endeavor. Showed behind closed doors as far back as E3 2002, where both a four-player mode and on-line play were mentioned, the game has finally arrived two years later, only at a $19.99 budget price point, and without either the four player mode or the online play.
At heart, the game is pure fighting, with copious amounts of cartoon violence added. The loading time on the first screen is horrible; around 30 seconds before you can even get to the main menu. Between matches loading is a little better, but it still feels like it takes forever.
For controls, in addition to your standard attacks, you also have a hold, a block, a special attack, a taunt, and a “fatality” or finisher to end the match. Each fighter only has around five to six different attacks and quite a few of them are hard to aim correctly. They all get real boring, real quick. Surprising as it may seem, you do eventually tire of seeing Ron Jeremy riding a banana or Mr.T planting mines. Also, a lot of attacks also seem to be reused between different characters. A number of the attacks can be interrupted by the other player, so you’re usually better off sticking with the fast, weak attack ad nauseam. A button masher at it’s finest.
Moving the fighter is arduous, mating a Resident Evil style movement engine with a “fast paced” fighter. Slow only begins to describe the drunken zombie like movement. Some of the attacks do show sparks of brilliance, Carrot Top’s “dialing down the center…of your body” or Mr.T’s Van finisher for instance. The attacks and finishers are the most enjoyable part of the game by far. Unfortunately, they’re sandwiched between a tepid movement, and third rate fighting, engine.
Weapons and other power-ups (unblockable attacks, health, etc) are presented during the bout, but not often enough to make a real difference. Getting an axe and hacking off an opponents arms and legs is great, akin to the Strata classic “Time Killers,” but it’s very aggravating when you have to wait around five minutes for an axe or chainsaw to magically appear. Not to mention the opponent has to be at 30% or less health before the limbs start detaching.
The roster is surprisingly diverse, boasting an impressive nineteen fighters when everything is unlocked. The fighters range from the “normal” Jerry Springer, Mr.T, Lance Bass, etc, to the outrageous, Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolfman, The Mummy, etc. Most of the characters you unlock are of the outrageous variety, with all celebrities unlocked from the start.
The game also comes with a “Create-a-Celebrity” option. Step into the laboratory and construct to your hearts desire. The only downside is the fact Celebrity Deathmatch has the worst “create-a” feature I have ever seen. The “Create-a-Wrestler in WWF Attitude had 100X the depth present here. I’m not kidding when I say there is less then twenty different shirts to choose from, and you can’t change the shirt color. With not enough customizing options, why bother with this at all?
The basic single player game consists of six total episodes. The first three begin unlocked, and the rest open up when the first three are completed. The episodes consist of three matches between you and the computer. With Gomez and Diamond commenting before, during, and after the fights. When an episode is completed, a new character and, usually, a new stage are unlocked. As you go further into the game, the stages get progressively weirder. Starting with the regular deathmatch ring, you will eventually visit an Egyptian temple, a graveyard, a volcano, and space ship before the game is completed. The entire thing is pretty short and the new characters and stages don’t add that much to the already relatively meager offerings.
While the graphics are not going to win any awards, they perfectly capture the show’s feel and look. The characters are lovingly rendered and each matches their clay counterpart. Texture work is also well done and everything looks exactly like it does on the show. The characters also have “generic” damage skins that appear after they’ve sustained several attacks. The requisite arms and limbs can separate from the host body, as was stated before.
The levels are pretty diverse and are also well put together. Looking beyond they fact there are only around four of them, each one is different from the rest in numerous ways. From the cool wrought iron around the ring in graveyard yard stage, to the sarcophagus Johnny and Nick broadcast from in the temple each stage, each has its’ own feel. The fact the broadcast booth differs from stage to stage is a nice touch.
The lip movement is decent, not to mention devoid of open-shut mouth. We actually have the characters moving their lips for some parts. Clipping is pretty good, every once and awhile it shows up, but Celebrity Deathmatch is better then some games in this regard. The frame rate is also pretty consistent even when a lot of action is going on, some dips, but nothing too distracting.
Celebrity Deathmatch celebrates itself on the inclusion of celebrities, that’s basically all the show is (only with violence.) The voice cast in the game is composed not of celebrities, but sound alikes. The show is too, largely, no problems so far. The game even includes the correct voice actors for the “show” segments. Johnny Gomez, Nick Diamond, Mills Lane, even Debbie Matenopolous, are all voiced by the same people present on the program. The other celebrities all have sound alikes, except Ron Jeremy who is voiced by the…ahem…man himself. The sound alikes are not the same ones used on the program, which is strange, but the voices are pretty decent. They even sound natural and not wooden or stilted.
The battle sounds are the standard pain, hurt, screams. All of the weapons sound like they’re supposed too. The game even goes so far as to “sneak in” little references to the game every now and again. The battle sounds, as well as a large portion of the pre-match dialogue, do tend to repeat themselves. If you play the game the whole way through, you’ll hear Mills Lane starting matches the same way as he did others. With a game so short to begin, it’s basically a lack of effort. The fight commentary often repeats segments you’ve already heard as well, sometimes even in the same episode.
Tipping the scales at a svelte $19.99, Celebrity Deathmatch isn’t going to drain your cash reserves. The game offers a single player mode, with more stages and characters becoming unlocked as you progress further. It is also equipped with a two-player VS mode and a create-a-celebrity function. The single player is remarkably short and not that entertaining.
Multiplayer is also largely forgettable, but it does tend to spice up the experience a little bit, taunts between players are often able to, temporarily, overcome the stale game mechanics. After everything is unlocked, there is no reason to play the game again, and multiplayer is only entertaining for so long.
Celebrity Deathmatch is by no means a stellar game, I’d be hard pressed to even call it average. It reeks of “shovel-ware,” a game that was stripped of both function and price then sent to retailers in the hopes of turning a quick buck. The gameplay is shallow and often needlessly frustrating, with few attacks really being entertaining, but most lacking any sort of humorous overtone. The sound effects and voiceovers are good, but the presentation of the program is what is truly remarkable. The graphics perfectly capture the feel of the show. The show however, was entertaining, often hilarious, and didn’t require any sort of controller or console to fully enjoy it.
If you are a diehard Celebrity Deathmatch fan, get this game, it’s only $19.99, and it’s almost like having more episodes of the show. If you hated the show however, steer clear of this disc. For the public at large, unless you have some sort of passing interest concerning the show, don’t go near this thing. Without the license, I don’t know if they even would’ve bothered releasing it in the first place.