Celebrity Deathmatch, MTV's clay-animated comedy series, featuring random celebrities killing one another off in an exaggerated, gladiatorlike fashion, was a surprise hit back in 1998 when it debuted as a part of MTV's own Super Bowl halftime show. Since its initial matchup between shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and convicted mass murderer Charles Manson, hundreds of different celebrity matchups have been featured on the show, ranging from the marginally relevant (Bob Barker vs. Weakest Link host Anne Robinson) to the utterly insane (psychic John Edwards vs. Nostradamus). While the show is still technically on the air, Celebrity Deathmatch isn't quite at the level of popularity it once was, which makes the timing of Gotham Games' console and PC representation of the show, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, a bit peculiar. However, Celebrity Deathmatch's biggest problem isn't its timing, but, rather, it's the absolutely horrid gameplay and complete lack of any worthwhile features.
Celebrity Deathmatch contains a decent number of real-life celebrities, available for your personal amusement, including the aforementioned Marilyn Manson, Carmen Electra, Dennis Rodman, Anna Nicole Smith, Mr. T, Carrot Top, Jerry Springer, Ron Jeremy, Miss Cleo, Cindy Margolis, Busta Rhymes, Shannen Doherty, Tommy Lee, and all five members of N'Sync. Each celebrity has his or her own unique--albeit narrow--range of attacks set to reflect his or her personality. Anna Nicole Smith, for instance, can hit you with a large drumstick of meat, send her yappy little dog after you, or smash you with a pair of melons (the fruit variety, thankfully). Every character also has a special kill attack that can be performed once your opponent's life meter has dropped to nil. Mr. T drops the A-Team van on you; Tommy Lee plays your intestines like an electric guitar; and Ron Jeremy drops a pair of oversized balls on you--disco balls, that is. It doesn't get much more gimmicky than Celebrity Deathmatch's premise; but whereas the TV show manages to stay reasonably fresh from week to week, by providing at least timely and semi-relevant comedy, the game's version of the gimmick is so utterly limited that you'll be done with it almost immediately.
The most limiting thing about Celebrity Deathmatch isn't actually even its gimmick, but, rather, its gameplay system. Every fighter has an extremely short list of attacks available to them, and only about half of these are actually useful. Some attacks are so insanely gimmicky that they actually buck any sort of functionality or usefulness for the sake of a joke. Additionally, the attack system is about as rudimentary as you'll ever find, involving so little skill that all you'll ever need to do to win a match is just hammer on the attack buttons until your opponent is dead. Sure, they'll occasionally block, but not often enough to ever require any form of strategy or plan of attack on your part.
The word "limited" is highly useful when describing the roster of modes in the game as well. The only two gameplay modes featured in the game are deathmatch and episode. Deathmatch is just a stand-alone match between any of the fighters in the game. Episode lets you choose from six available "episodes" of the show, each one with three predetermined fights on the card. Once you've beaten an episode, you'll unlock a hidden character (like Frankenstein or a generic alien) and a new fight arena as well. It should only take you about 90 minutes--tops--to blaze through the episode mode, and once you've unlocked everything, that's all she wrote. The game also has a create-a-celebrity mode, which, theoretically, is supposed to let you create your own roster of famous people to bludgeon to death. Once again, however, the word "limited" comes into play, as there just aren't many options to choose from in this mode, leaving you with only a scant few options and no real ability to create anyone recognizable.
Celebrity Deathmatch's graphics and sound are also decisively lacking in pretty much every way. The game doesn't really try to emulate the show's clay-animated art style, and, instead, goes for a straight cartoon-styled polygonal translation of each celebrity. The models for the characters look decent enough, but each of them lacks much in the way of animation. There's a few different deathmatch arenas to try out, but none of them look particularly good. The game's audio is a bit better, thanks to the infrequently amusing commentary of Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond. It's functional commentary, though a lot of the humor is a little on the crude and offensive side. (In fact, there's far more offensive humor in the game--more than the TV show ever allowed.) Cheesy voice actors play the parts of the various celebrities, and they're no worse than the actors employed on the show. The rest of the audio might as well not even exist, as it consists largely of poorly mixed sound effects and the show's looping theme song, which only plays in menu screens.
MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch is a mess from top to bottom. The jokes are rarely ever funny, the gameplay is a veritable smorgasbord of repetitive and boring action, and the underwhelming graphics and sound don't help matters. If you're a fan of the TV program, you may find Celebrity Deathmatch amusing for the 20 minutes it takes to see every single gag in the game once, and even that might be a bit of a stretch. As for anyone else, stay as far away from Celebrity Deathmatch as is humanly possible.