If you had asked me to name 100 titles that could have possibly been the recipient of an HD re-release, I’m not sure Cel Damage would have crossed my mind at all. Originally released for the Xbox back in 2001, the cartoonishly violent vehicular combat title quickly faded from public conscience following its release, much like the genre itself has over time. Regardless of whether or not anyone asked for it though, Finish Line Games has decided to resurrect the Cel Damage and bring it to a whole new audience on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
Cel Damage HD centers around a destruction derby show on the fictional Toon TV network, and tasks each player with getting behind the wheel as one of its actors. Whether it be Sinder, the demon who got thrown out of hell, or Fowl Mouth, a duck that acts like a 1930s B-movie star, there’s plenty of personality to go around here. However, the plot itself is barely there and is only really brought up when you complete a series of stages with each character. Fortunately though, no one is playing this for the storyline, but rather for that sweet, sweet vehicular carnage.
Since this is an automotive combat title, the main mode of interest will be Smack Attack. Using a variety of weapons such as boxing gloves, baseball bats and harpoon guns, it tasks combatants with reaching a set amount of points by destroying their opponents. Much like similar titles in the genre, such as Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8, this is where Cel Damage shines, due the fast and furious nature of its battles. Most of my matches clocked in at less than 3 minutes and were essentially non-stop action throughout.
Less noteworthy in the gameplay department are the Gate Relay and Flag Rally modes. Gate Relay turns the title into a Mario Kart-esque racer, complete with the same treasure trove of weapons found in the other modes. However, the course layouts lack variety and are severely lacking in the fun shortcuts department, not to mention the fact that Cel Damage is rather poor at rendering high speed races. Each race I partook in felt like I was driving through a school zone, which is pretty much a death knell when it comes to racing games. Flag Rally, on the other hand, is a variation on the classic Capture The Flag mode, but instead of being in teams, every racer is out for himself. It’s not terrible, but is rather superfluous, and tends to highlight the game’s A.I. problems.
The biggest flaw with this re-release, though, is the fact that it doesn’t support online play at all. Despite being in the perfect genre for fun, online action, it only supports local multiplayer for some ungodly reason. Finish Line Games even advertises this lack of online play as some sort of benefit, which is honestly quite baffling to me. If it had just been a simple port of the game, I probably wouldn’t have minded the fact that online play wasn’t included, but since this is supposed to be an updated and improved release, that seems like one of the first things they should have added.
Speaking of this being an HD re-release, it looks like this particular title only received a minor graphical upgrade. While the in-game character models don’t look terrible, the environments are bland and lack detail. The few cutscenes the game sports are even worse and look like they were lifted directly from the original Xbox release. Still, with all things considered, this could have came out looking a lot worse than it did. Most of this is likely due to the stylized cel-shaded graphics, which have aged much better than the more realistic-looking titles that were released alongside it.
The potential was there for Cel Damage HD to be one of the more enjoyable multiplayer offerings currently available for the PlayStation 4, which is a sentence I never pictured myself saying in the year 2014. However, the lack of an online mode is truly a killer here, as it torpedoes most of the title’s value. I miss local multiplayer as much as the next guy, but the fact is that most people my age who are still into gaming, want to be able to enjoy multiplayer titles with their friends online. With that said though, the game’s cheap cost combined with its status as a three-system cross-buy title, make it hard to pass up if you’re hankering for some good old vehicle-on-vehicle carnage.
This review is based off the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which was provided to us.
Despite being over a decade old, Cel Damage HD is an enjoyable throwback to the glory days of vehicular combat titles. However, its lack of online play is a major detractor.