Reviewed: December 7, 2003
Reviewed by: Travis Young

Gotham Games

Big Ape Productions

Released: October 14, 2003
Genre: Fighting
Players: 2
ESRB: Mature


After I finish writing this review I am going to have to renegotiate my job description with GCM. As resident sports writer I can see how this game could be mistaken for a sports title, falling somewhere between wrestling and boxing, but at the end of the day MTV Celebrity Deathmatch is more of a novelty or casual diversion than a game.

Based on the animated cult MTV series featuring exaggerated versions of pop-icons and movie stars engaged in mortal combat, Big Ape and Gotham Games bring this ultra-violent fighter to the Xbox trying to recapture the look and feel of the series that spawned it. To some degree they succeeded. The presentation is perfect but the gameplay will leave most gamers shrugging and looking for another title to play all too quickly.

Celebrity Deathmatch is presented as a series of episodes right down to the TV Guide display. You get to pick from a B-list of celebrities that you will either love or hate and each has special fighting moves and fatalities that are based on the character or portions of their career. There are more than 20 fighters to choose from including a few fantasy characters, so there is ample opportunity to experiment with their tactics and finishing moves, but matches typically last less than a minute so you can play-out this title with all characters in a single sitting. I know – I did it in less than 3 hours. For those of you with extra ambition, you can create your own fighter and take them through a season against the stars.

Gameplay is short and fast and is pretty much reduced to a button masher regardless of your chosen difficulty level. You have a few traditional punches and kicks and then you get the really fun wacky moves and the special fatality you can perform at the designated time. Since the show (and the game) is all about the fun signature moves you end up mindlessly mashing buttons until you have inflicted enough damage to execute the fun move. Once you have seen it the charm is gone and you can move on to the next character and repeat.

Playing the computer is not very challenging since it fails to block 99% of your attacks. You can bash your way to victory with little effort and by continually flailing on your opponent never give them a chance to land a punch. Playing against a human opponent makes things slightly more interesting. For me, it allowed me to see all the character moves twice as fast since I just took turns trading off with my friends on who would win each match.

To make things slightly more interesting, power-up will drop from the ceiling. If you are quick you can add items like a chainsaw, shotgun, ball launcher, etc. to your arsenal and liven up the party. You can also get icons to boost your speed and health, but these items make the game seem more like a game than a recreation of the TV show.

After seeing Wallace and Gromit I know what computerized claymation should look like and Celebrity Deathmatch doesn’t even come close. The graphics are simplistic and obviously the result of a project programmed for the lowest common denominator (in this case the PS2). There is nothing here that remotely taps the power of the Xbox.

Technical issues aside, there is a certain guilty pleasure derived by the more sinister and even grotesque moves to be found in this game. Some things are twisted and painful and others are just gross in a Stifler American Pie way. Also in its favor, even though the claymation look is never achieved, all the characters look surrealistic enough to be recognized, even without their name in the corner. And if you don’t recognize Ron Jeremy by his face, just wait until that giant banana pops out. Is that a fruit in your pocket or are you just happy to be playing this game?

The music is authentic to the show but dismal in quality, highly compressed and obviously designed to be played on a 2” TV speaker. Piped through a 500w home theater, you’ll be racing for the mute button.

Music aside, the rest of the sound presentation has its moments. The sound effects are suitably grisly and often comical. The commentary by Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond is flawlessly recreated with some great one-liners. Each of the celebrities have their own opening and ending remarks and plenty of one-liners during the match. Unfortunately, these become very repetitive if you play the game more than once. The game boasts thousands of lines of dialogue but I think they really mean a thousand lines of programming code.

While good for about 3-4 hours of fun, in that time you will easily be able to beat Celebrity Deathmatch match with each available character and experience all the game has to offer. Priced at $20, Celebrity Deathmatch is sticktly budget bin material, even on the day it shipped. Sadly enough, even at that price point you are going to feel cheated.

Unless you are an extreme fan of the original series or have low expectations from your fighting games, just stay away from MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch. There is no challenging gameplay to speak of, and the only real joy you ever get is witnessing the wacky ways to kill each other. You can have just as much fun watching the show and save your Xbox for a real game.