MTV Celebrity Deathmatch Review
Today it is safe to assume that a new game with a budget price tag is not much of a game at all. MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch is one of those games. What was most likely developed as a quick cash in attempt on the (once) popular MTV clay animated show is nothing more than that. Sure, the game does an admirable job of recreating the lowbrow humor of the television show, but when you strip that away, what remains is a painfully short, one-dimensional button masher.
Gameplay - You might think the price is right ($19.99 MSRP), but even considering that, Celebrity Deathmatch does not offer enough playability (in terms of both quality and length) to warrant anything more than a weekend rental. Upon arriving at the title screen you will see the game’s three main (well, only) modes: Episode, Deathmatch, and Create Celebrity. The first two modes give you virtually the same monotonous experience while the celebrity creation mode is, not surprisingly, shallow and underwhelming. Dress up your celebrity with an extremely limited set of options and then assign him or her a pre-determined move set. Big deal.
The Episode mode, which is the core of the game that allows you unlock the various secret characters and arenas, consists of nine television “episodes” with three matches in each. To clear an episode, you must win all three matches within it. After each episode is conquered you will unlock a secret character for the Deathmatch mode, a new arena, or both. Before the fighting actually starts (and also after it ends) you will be entertained with some usually witty comments from hosts Nick and Johnny, followed by a short verbal quibble between the two opposing celebrities, just like how it is on the television show.
The announcers’ before and after match commentary is actually pretty good, in terms of capturing the duo’s familiar silliness. Both Nick and Johnny can even get quite verbose at times, and especially when their lines start to repeat, it can get kind of tedious. Luckily, you can skip the sometimes-lengthy intro pomp at any time you wish. During the match itself, fortunately they do not say much, if anything. “I bet that guy is really bad at Dance Dance Revolution”, is a little something to chuckle over, though.
The Deathmatch mode is exactly what is sounds like – a one on one fight between either you and the CPU or another human player. And this leads to one major roadblock to the playability of this game: both Deathmatch and Episode mode are identical except for the ability to unlock the rest of the characters and fighting arenas in the latter. Paired with the fact that typical match action can be summed up with “jab, jab, jab, die”, and you have yourself a game that can be 100% completed in under two hours, with minimal effort, I might add.
Since each character has no distinct advantage over any other, unlocking bonus characters does nothing more than ultimately fulfill your dreams to pit Nick and Johnny against each other. Let’s hope that’s not anyone’s dream, but to each his own. Choosing an “arena” to fight in is also a joke, as each one just sports a different visual theme with no interactivity whatsoever, with the exception of ring posts in the wrestling style arenas.
When the fight bell finally rings, you are greeted with a combat engine that makes those old Tiger Electronics handheld fighters seem incredibly deep. Each celebrity has four regular attacks mapped onto the X, Circle, Triangle, and Square buttons, a R2 button “Super Move”, a useless taunt, and a nearly invincibility-granting block. Granted, each celebrity has his or her own types of moves that reflect their character (The N*SYNC guys shoot “musical” farts) but in the end each one causes the same amount of damage. The Super Move is a character specific finisher, an idea ripped straight from Mortal Kombat. When you or your opponent’s health bar reaches zero, you cannot kill him or her until you manage to pull off the advanced skill of tapping the circle button. If getting the kill is this easy, getting there is even easier. Want to win every single match against the CPU, ever? As soon as the fight commences, just pound away at the attack button of your choice, and five minutes later, victory is yours. Obviously, you can see how a two-player human v. human match would come down to who gets the first hit, as that player will most likely end up getting the next 30 consecutive blows.
Graphics - All right, the television show consists of clay, clay, and more clay, so minute visual details are not expected in the game. But the series’ clay motif should not be used as an excuse for using PS1-quality textures and leaving the arena’s backgrounds chock full of static onlookers, or worse, total voids. All the celebrities do look like their real life, um, “clay”-terparts, but it doesn’t keep you from wondering if they could have been made to look a bit more like…clay. However, what you see is what you get, and you will be seeing plenty of embarrassingly low-poly character models. To top it off, the load times are inarguably horrendous for such an underwhelming graphics engine. Celebrity Deathmatch obviously went through minimal engine optimization during development.
Sound - As mentioned briefly before, Nick and Johnny’s pre and post-match announcing do an impressive job of mimicking what they say and do on television. You will actually feel like listening to their comments on the upcoming fight and just random thoughts, but soon enough their verbal gimmicks fall victim to repetition. As funny as it sounds, Johnny’s “drain the main vain” exclamatory does get old after the first three or four times.
Celebrity voices and lines are a mixed bag. Both Nick and Johnny are voiced by the guys on the show, and a few celebrities contributed their own voices for their in-game character (like Ron Jeremy and Debbie Matenopolous, if you consider her a celebrity), but the majority of celebrity voices were unfortunately handled by sound-a-likes. You will definitely be able to tell who was voiced by him/herself or not – just listen to Carrot Top and try not to cringe.
Music is totally missing from the game, besides some extremely generic guitar riffs on the title screen. Yeah, the television show does not have music during matches, either, but it would have been nice to have an option to listen to some licensed tracks.
Overall Value -
Unless you are a rabid MTV Celebrity Deathmatch “fan”, you would be doing a great disservice to your wallet for buying this game. The $20 price point offers Celebrity Deathmatch no excuse for the slapdash piece of software that it is. The game is insultingly easy, offers little play value (forget about replay), and ultimately is simply not entertaining. If you are really that curious, or highly intoxicated, do not do anything else but rent it. Even better, watch reruns of the show. You will have a lot more fun for a fraction of the cost.
Review by Nick Pappas