by: Nig Denny
Published: 28th January, 2004
If you thought the PS2 needed more sub-standard fighting games on it, then you will be pleased about MTV Celebrity Deathmatch. This title will reach and may even surpass your expectations. MTV Celebrity Deathmatch manages to take a humourous concept and fashions it into a fighting game with second-rate gameplay.
Celebrity Deathmatch is a game based on the MTV show with the same name. The basic premise of the TV series involves presenting comedic grudge matches using celebrities as represented by animated clay models. The end result was usually an excessively violent, gory (and generally funny and imaginative) ‘fantasy’ fight. The game follows the MTV show quite closely with the same general presentation and plasticine presenters Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond.
There are over twenty celebrities to choose from in this title each with their own unique attacks. They include ‘big’ names such as Shannen Doherty, Carmen Electra, Anna Nicole Smith, Tommy Lee, Ron Jeremy, Marilyn Manson, Busta Rhymes, Jerry Springer, Mr T, Dennis Rodman and N’ Sync. However, the rest of the list is “filled out” with movie monsters such as Frankenstein, Mummy, Wolfman and so forth.
The graphics are barely adequate for a PS2 game and mediocre by general standards. The character models, effects, animation and almost every other visual aspect is average and wholly unexceptional. The graphical highlight is probably watching the characters receive visual damage in real time. The environments are as generic as you can get. There are half a dozen battle arenas in the game with various themes including the fiery larva stage, industrial level, temple, graveyard and spaceship. The overall visual design is relentlessly bland. One of the most appealing aspects of the TV series is the imaginative claymation, which gives it a distinctive look. Nothing is done to highlight or replicate that in the game version and basic “cartoon” models or textures are used instead.
The sound is slightly better with cartoonish fighting effects that are appropriate to the game. The commentary is good with Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond lending their voices (and humour) to this title. Their dialogue matches what you would hear on the show and is momentarily entertaining. The quality of other celebrity voices and dialogue ranges from acceptable to awful. The music follows the basic theme of the TV show, but otherwise disappears into the background. Apart from the presenter commentary, Celebrity Deathmatch falls into the dark pit of technical mediocrity.
The controls are easy to understand. The L-Analog Stick or D-Pad moves your character, X is a normal attack, square is an alternate attack, triangle a special attack and circle a kick, grab and interact button. The R2 button activates a unique super move, L2 is for taunting while the R1 and L1 buttons are for blocking.
Different attacks are unleashed depending on the character you use and the range of your opponent, while combos can be activated by mashing buttons repeatedly. That basically sums up the entire fighting system. Use the face buttons to attack, block your opponent’s strikes and activate your super move when it’s available. The ability to ‘remove’ the limbs of your opponent in various ways doesn't quite make up for it. The player is supposedly too busy laughing at the “wacky” attacks and “zany” gore elements to notice that there is absolutely no depth to the combat. Don’t get me wrong, the various attacks are amusing – Ron Jeremy thrusting his pelvis at you with a giant banana, Shannen Doherty flying at you with a broomstick, Anna Nicole Smith hitting you in the head with two giant melons she pulls from her blouse and so forth – but once you’ve seen them, they get old fast. Another point to note is that the attacks are woefully inconsistent between characters and range from useful to useless. A functional combat system in Celebrity Deathmatch doesn’t seem to be as important as making it all funny, which basically kills any last hope of game strategy.
Players have a health meter and power gauge to give the impression that the fighting system isn’t all that bad. Your MTV power gauge builds up by inflicting or taking damage and can be used to activate your super move when it is full. When the health meter is empty, the character becomes vulnerable to a finishing move. Again these finishing moves are unique to each character and can be quite amusing the first few times you see them, but the appeal wears thin after a while.
To add some extra variety there are various weapons to pick up during a match including axes, dynamite, crossbows, bazookas, chainsaws and more. There are also power ups to restore health, give you more speed or strength, resist damage and execute unblockable attacks. Unfortunately, they don’t save a game where the main challenge is moving your character in the direction of your opponent and pushing some buttons.
There are three main modes in Celebrity Deathmatch including Episode, Deathmatch and Create-A-Celebrity. From this you can tell the title is absolutely bursting at the seams with options and replay value.
Episode is the “main” mode where one player can engage in two matches followed by a main event. However, these matches are pre-set and the player must choose a ‘side.’ That’s right folks - you don’t even get to choose your own character. Playing through this mode unlocks new characters, arenas and challenges. Unfortunately, there are only six episodes or eighteen matches in total. This mode can be completed in under an hour, assuming you can last that long.
Deathmatch lets you fight one on one against another celebrity opponent. Fortunately, you get to choose your character in this mode. You even get to pick an arena. If you manage to contain your excitement with those choices, you have two (that’s right I said two) different configurations – 1 player vs. CPU or 1 player vs. 2 player. After a fight you can rematch or quit back to the main screen. As you can imagine, this mode will hold your attention for minutes at a time.
The create-a-celebrity mode, although a good idea, is slightly misleading. You can change the name, gender, skin and various body parts of your character, but with a number of limitations. There are ten different male and female pre-configured skins to fool around with. Unfortunately, this has to be matched with only four move sets – two for each gender. That means there are only four truly unique characters you can make with different moves from everybody else. In other words, create-a-celebrity becomes redundant extremely quickly.
There is so little replay value and longevity in Celebrity Deathmatch that it’s almost as though it were deliberately designed that way. The only redeeming features of this title are looking at the various attacks and fatalities of each celebrity and listening to the presenter commentary. Once you’ve seen and heard it all, there’s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE TO DO.
There aren’t many nice things to say about MTV Celebrity Deathmatch. All of the good parts in this title are mildly entertaining, but the effect is only temporary. What’s really disheartening is that if MTV Celebrity Deathmatch was done properly, the end product could have been really good – maybe even a successor to the Clayfighter series. Any game that has a porn star as a character should provide more than a couple of hour’s worth of entertainment. MTV Celebrity Deathmatch is a disappointment and not worth your time if you’re expecting anything more than a few chuckles.