Last time, I reviewed a game based on my favorite movie, so I think this week it would make sense to talk about my favorite TV show. Now, I have always been a fan of fantasy fights and it’s obvious that a lot of other people are too, shown by the amazing popularity of things such as Death Battle or the Epic Rap Battles of History (and if you like those things, check out the Geeks Versus Nerds podcast, I’ve been in a few shows). But I don’t think anyone has done it better than MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch. The jokes, the match-ups, the violence, the animation: I would not change one thing about the original series. Even after it was cancelled in 2002, people still wanted to see Celebrities pound on each other, so about a year later, the Celebrity Deathmatch video game was released to the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox (which is the version I will be playing).
Celebrity Deathmatch was a clay animated TV show, and that alone gave it a lot of personality. This game is instead done with polygons and though this is disappointing (since “Clay Fighters” existed on the SNES), it is understandable. Despite this, do the graphics do the show justice? Well the character models do look accurate, but the graphics quality is terrible! I would assume that this game was on the N64 by looking at it. Blood gets added to the fighters as they get injured, but it’s not impressive since I know PS1 games that could do that.
Likewise, the game is not fun to listen to. In the show, there is often music playing in the background relevant to whichever fighter is featured or what they’re doing. Take Garth Brooks for example, who had generic country music playing when he was dominating, or whenever Alfred Hitchcock spoke there was an ominous track in the background. Of course it might be too hard to fit that into a video game, but they honestly didn’t even try. There is no music for the fights and it makes the game much more boring.
While I’m talking about what you hear, a lot of the show’s humor came from dialog: the way Nick and Johnny described the fight or how the two fighters taunted each other. This game tried to recapture that, but utterly failed. Nick, Johnny and some of the fighters have a few selected phrases that come up from time to time, but you will quickly be tired of hearing them, even though it can take a long time between quips. At least the voice actors do a decent enough job.
I’m at a loss to how to explain the game play, but I can say “good” wouldn’t be my first choice. The game is a 3D roaming fighter, so you’ll walk around and punch the enemy if you feel like it. The controls are simple and easy to learn and there are no complex “street fighter” like combos, but that’s reflective of the show, where they just kind of smacked each other around. The problem is it feels incredibly stiff! Half the time you’ll either be trying to hit the enemy unsuccessfully thanks to the game’s poor hit detection, trying to stand up from a cheap combo or just trying to make the buttons work the way they should. Playing against a human player is a lot less frustrating (since it evens things), but it needs a lot of improvement before it would be fun.
The game also has weapons and the ability to knock off enemy libs to handicap them (the latter has NEVER happened for me no matter how I tried), which were both common themes of the show. The weapons rarely show up in the ring, and when they do, they tend to disappear just as quickly. The game play is just one big step away from being a button mashing game.
Celebrity Deathmatch represents one of the reasons why I rarely talk about bad games: it’s hard to explain why this game doesn’t work the way it does without going into detail. Long story short: the TV show did not translate well to video games. I appreciate the attempt made by developer Big Ape Production and publisher Gotham Games, but some things (like the moment specific audio and moves) couldn’t be done, and when they tried to do it (like the simple smacking), it failed and made for boring game play. It can be good for a laugh among friends, but trying to play this by yourself is just a test to get through the whole half hour of stuff you can actually do. Just watch the show on YouTube instead. I give Celebrity Deathmatch for the Xbox 3.5 levels out of 10.