Review by Gruel

""Good fight, good night?" More like "Goodbye, good riddance!""

I remember a while back that Gotham Games’ Celebrity Deathmatch (CD) was being plugged as one of this season’s big release titles. To everyone’s surprise, the game based off the MTV clay-fighting sensation just got released out of the blue to no media glitz whatsoever and at the bargain bin price of $20. Unfortunately, after spending just a handful of hours with this title I can see why the publishers released CD with little to no fanfare.

Of course, the thing that is the biggest attraction to CD is its roster of celebrities, and the developers went out and got the licenses of some of the most publicized stars to appear in the game. The roster is comprised of Carrot Top, Cleo, Shannen Doherty, Carmen Electra, Ron Jeremy, Tommy Lee, Marilyn Manson, Cindy Margolis, Busta Rhymes, Dennis Rodman, Anna Nicole Smith, Jerry Springer, Mr. T, and all five band members of *NSYNC. There are also several characters to unlock, but most of them are seemingly tacked on fictional characters like Frankenstein, Wolfman, and an Alien.

To no one’s shock, the in-game controls cater more towards the button mashing crowd than relying on any actual skill. Instead of going the traditional route and implementing button sequences to perform the flashy special moves, each of the main face buttons on the controller performs some zany attack related to each of the celebrities. For example, Anna-Nicole Smith will vigorously “squirt” milk at you, and Marilyn Manson will carve some scars into you with his Wolverine-esque blades. A lot of these maneuvers are so cheap that it is possible to win a match with certain characters such as Dennis Rodman by simply mashing the Y button throughout the entire contest. After laying a beating on a foe for so long the word “kill” flashes by your opponent’s lifebar, and the character will perform some out-of-this-world finisher like Carrot Top ripping out a ribcage and treating it like a xylophone.

There is a bit of a focus on power-ups, with many types of weapons ranging from bazooka’s to crossbow’s popping up in the ring to use, but only for a short few seconds before disappearing so you can’t capitalize on picking them up. The computer AI of the opponents is also embarrassing, with the only smart thing they even think of doing is occasionally blocking an attack. I went through the entire single-player mode without losing a single match.

CD lives up to its budget-title status by offering a minuscule of gameplay modes to choose from. All that is available to do is the standard one-on-one Deathmatch against the computer or a friend, or the title’s main single player mode, “Episode.” There isn’t anything too special to the Episode mode, where there are a total of six episodes to complete, each consisting of three random matches. It only took me about a solid hour to fully complete it, and its only purpose it serves is beating it to unlock the several hidden characters and arenas. Now one would think that the developers at Big Ape Productions would at least tack in some extra options to get three or four combatants going at it simultaneously (as there are many tag team like contests that appear on the actual television show), but sadly the action is just limited to two folks in the ring only.

Oh wait, I completely forgot that the developers did manage to add a Create-a-Celebrity mode, but that is probably because of how much it blows. The amount of clothing and facial designs you can customize is severely limited, and is almost exactly like the one in Backyard Wrestling where all that is available to choose is several clothing schemes that only the color pattern can be changed. It has none of the excellent in-depth creation options that any of the current WWE games has to offer, and it is just a waste of time accessing it all together.

If the developers manage to faithfully represent one thing from the show, it is the crazy clay-mation that CD is known for. Each of the celebrities is carefully modeled to represent some wacky caricature of them. While they certainly don’t make the most out of the Xbox hardware, there are some nice touches to them where they’ll sport facial and body damage, and bleed all over the place as they are dealt damage. The nicely animated finishing moves are also fun to watch their first few times, but the complete lack of transitioning to them gives them a weird feel. CD does manage to deliver a good sense of watching the television show with nicely compiled bits of pre and post-match analysis from the CD personalities of Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond. So if there is just one area where the developers didn’t manage to mess up that bad on, than the graphics will take that honor.

The audio department seems to be a bit lacking in a sense. Besides the CD theme playing while browsing through menus, there are no background tracks at all during gameplay. There isn’t even support for custom soundtracks to make up for the lack of music. The actual voice actors of Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond of the television show do provide the commentary for the game, and surprisingly they say a bit more risqué and vulgar comments than they do on the actual MTV show. Nonetheless, they do manage to humor things up a bit during gameplay. Besides the commentators, and real-life judge/in-game ref Mills Lane, the only actual celebrity to record voice acting samples for their character is Ron Jeremy. The rest are voiced by random imposters, and just sound terrible when compared to their real-life counterparts.

To try and make the most out of CD will be terribly difficult for you. After completing the Episode mode faster than an actual television episode of ER, and a complete lack of extra game modes, there really isn’t anything here to keep you attached to CD. The only thing you might muster out of it is entertaining your friends in a few one-on-one match ups, but that’s about it.

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 3.0
Replay Value: 0.5

Overall: 3.7

Gotham should have just canned this game all together, as it will go down as one of the biggest disappointments this holiday season. Also considering that since the show is way past its heyday in popularity (which was around 1999), there probably aren’t that many fans of it left anymore to even care about this game. Aside from some nice graphics and a colorful roster of stars, there is nothing else going for Celebrity Deathmatch at all. Avoid this one like Justin Timberlake’s solo album.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/07/03


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