In our Change The Channel series, we explore the history of video games that are based on TV shows, one game at a time. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 2003’s Celebrity Deathmatch game…
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Celebrity Deathmatch premiering on MTV. Its wild and varied cast, anchored by commentators Nick Diamond and Johnny Gomez, ranged from referee Mills Lane (“I’ll Allow It”) and guest commentator/scientist/doctor/weapons expert Stone Cold Steve Austin (voiced by the Texas Rattlesnake himself!) to a plethora of celebrities from the time, all trying to settle their beef inside the ring in a hilarious fight to the death.
Predating shows like Robot Chicken by several years, the ultra-violent, satirical claymation show became a beloved hit over its 6 seasons, and saw many hilarious celebrity bouts during its time on TV. Who can forget the battle between Charles Manson and Marilyn Manson (who became Celebrity Deathmatch‘s own version of The Undertaker at WrestleMania)? How about Hillary Clinton vs. Monica Lewinsky (SCANDAL!)? Even Beavis fought Butt-Head in one episode (Cornholio wins, naturally).
The show’s revered status in pop culture during the late 90’s/early 00’s saw the release of a tie-in video game, and, well, it’s a bit of a stinker.
Developed by Big Ape Productions (with Coresoft handling duties for the PlayStation One version) and released on PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC in late 2003, Celebrity Deathmatch is for all intents and purposes a wrestling game. Players can choose from a variety of celebrities, such as Mr. T, Carmen Electra, Tommy Lee and Dennis Rodman, and they face each other in one-on-one competition in the middle of an arena. A player wins by outright killing the opponent.
Each character has seven moves at their disposal; normal attack, alternate attack, special attack, kick, grapple/interact (triggered by the same button), and super move. The super move only occurs when you have hit (or taunted) the opponent enough that your MTV symbol is completely lit up, and this deals a devastating attack against your opponent, giving you more of a chance to finish them off. These moves are incredibly easy to pull off, and get infuriatingly repetitive very quickly. The game has a life bar, but that does not mean much unless you actually kill your opponent. Once the word “Kill” starts blinking above your health bar, it’s time to finish it.
As the game is a fight to the death, weapons are available throughout. These weapons include the “Axe of Assassination”, “Tennis Ball Launcher of Lunacy”, “Diabolic Dynamite”, “Crossbow of Catastrophe”, “Bazooka of Barbarity”, “Blunderbuss of Brutality”, “Crate of Calamity”, and the “Chainsaw of Cruelty”. Grabbing these weapons and chopping away at your opponent can truly change the situation around to a player’s favour, because an opponent with fewer limbs is a lot less of a threat than one with all of their limbs intact.
If you are unlucky and none of these items drop during a fight, there’s a chance that you’ll get power-up items instead. These include the all-day spa, nose job, tummy tuck and the Jackson special (all of which heal your fighter to varying degrees), the “feng shui facsimile” (which nullifies some of the power of the opponent’s attacks), the “RS injection” (which gives the celebrity more strength and speed), and the “ex-clay-mation point” (which provides your character with a temporary flurry of unblockable attacks).
You’d think that these weapons and items would spice the game up and make it more enjoyable, but you’d be mistaken. The characters have such a limited range of moves that are repeated so often that it makes the game an absolute slog to get through, and is the absolute opposite of what made the TV show so great.
The seemingly random turns of event that made the fights on Celebrity Deathmatch enjoyable are replaced by boringly predictable button-mashing push fights, and the game completely lacks any of the show’s satirical humour, instead spouting out bland soundbites to a lifeless, silent crowd.
On paper, a Celebrity Deathmatch video game sounded like a perfect formula; zany WWE action meets Mortal Kombat-esque violence via TMZ. In reality, it proved to be a frustratingly disappointing experience that is hard to recommend to even the most die-hard fans of the show.
Terrible Fight, Good Night.
Have you played this game? What are your favourite memories of Celebrity Deathmatch? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!