Deathmatch or Deathwish?
You know how you and your friends sometimes argue over who would win in a fight between Bruce Lee and Jet Li? Well back in the day, MTV decided to do something about it by tossing claymation versions of cheeseball celebrities and pop stars into a wrestling ring and letting them go at it in a no-holds-barred fight to the death. Hillary Clinton vs. Monica Lewinsky, Jackie Chan vs. Jean-Claude Van Damme or *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys – nothing was too sacred. The result dropped in '98 and Celebrity Deathmatch was born.
So now it's 2003 and Celebrity Deathmatch hits the video game world. Talk about impeccable timing. Since I haven't gotten a chance to see an epic battle between Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis, I still had a little hope for this game. But alas, it was not to be. Not only did Celebrity Deathmatch forget to include my favorite pint-sized stars, it forgot a few other things like "fun" and "playability," too.
Behold the B-list roster: Busta Rhymes, Marilyn Manson, Ron Jeremy, Carmen Electra, Carrot Top, Mr. T, Shannen Doherty, Tommy Lee, Anna Nicole, the *NSYNC crew, Jerry Springer and Cindy Margolis. There are a few more unlockables, but you won't find anyone noteworthy - unless you hold Frankenstein and the Wolfman in high regard. There's also a "create your own celebrity" maker, but since you can't actually make any other celebrities, it turns out to be a big fat lie. All you find is a smattering of assorted bodies and heads. You don't even get nice Hollywood accessories like a boob job or Botox injections.
Celebrity Deathmatch contains a whopping TWO modes. The first, called Episode, throws you into a predetermined three-fight show. That means you'll be forced to choose between one of two pre-selected characters for each particular episode. The entire game is comprised of a mere six episodes, so you'll be done before you know it. And since all of the episodes have predetermined fight cards, there is absolutely zero reason to play it again.
The second mode, bearing the incredibly creative name 'Deathmatch,' is your basic Versus mode, allowing you to fight another player. There isn't an option to fight four-way, even though the show has seen some matches with more than two combatants.
Controlling the fighters is really simple since there are only a few moves. There are four basic attack buttons with another button to execute a super move (available when the 'MTV' meter is full). Occasionally items will drop into the ring, but they generally don't have much of an impact since the weapons are completely useless and the only thing worth grabbing is the health icon.
The moves may be simple, but actually hitting your opponent is another matter. Bad camera angles along with extremely short-ranged attacks can make it tougher to land a blow than you'd think. I guess it doesn't matter, since beating the clay-for-brains opponents is about as hard as blinking.
Each match ends with a deathblow fatality, one of the few noteworthy points in the game. Mr. T drops the A-Team van on opponents, while Jerry Springer talkshows them to death with a special guest star. The problem is, each star only has one fatality, which means it gets stale incredibly fast.
Celebrity Deathmatch lacks the craziness of the TV show it's based on. There's no out-of-the-ring fighting, no interaction with any cool objects or any kind of hazards within the squared circle. One of the arenas is surrounded by rivers of molten lava just begging to swallow a thrown fighter, but nope, you can't toss 'em in.
Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond, the hosts of the show, put on a satisfactory performance with plenty of puns and witticisms. It's just too bad the rest of the celebrity impersonators don't do as well. I know for a fact that Shawn does a much better Mr. T impression, while both Duke and Ben can put on a pretty mean *NSYNC show.
Considering the interesting claymation style of the show, the graphics in Celebrity Deathmatch are bland and boring. The arenas are plain, the rings themselves are plain and the fighters look nothing like their claymation counterparts. Instead, they're just played-out polygonal personalities.
I'm not an abnormally strong man, per se, but I was actually able to break the Xbox version. In mid-fight, the screen locked up and an incredibly annoying screech kicked in. What a showstopper! It was probably just a fluke, but that crash was like an exclamation point on the calamity that is Celebrity Deathmatch.
Besides the two seconds of fatality joy, the only other redeeming quality of this game is its price. Major retail outlets tag it at about $20. That's still about $19 overpriced, but at least they're not trying to pretend this decorative coaster is anything else.
According to an actual line from the game, "There's nothing you can do to stop it, except turn it off." I couldn't agree more.