Had Cel Damage been an actual TV cartoon, it could have been ripped straight from the television, all characters and their nuances intact, and this game would have been made exactly the same way. That’s not to say that the cartoon would have been any good though, because most cartoon characters have the intelligence and complex thought capacity of flatworms. So it is that the overly eccentric characters in Cel Damage are the same way.
The cast consists primarily of social pariahs with death wishes, hidden agendas, and a sickening need to be on a dumb show, aptly titled Cel Damage. Your characters come in such forms as B.T. Bruno, an overhickified Elvis impersonator; Fowl Mouth, a duck with a scatological tongue stuck in a film noir flick; Dominique Trix (get it?); and Flemming, your archetypal nerd with gadgets and gizmos that make other archetypal nerds pee their pants and drop their retainers in delight. Each of these is vying to be the star of said television show Cel Damage, and each is getting at the others in their own way.
Basically a Saturday morning-style clone of other more well-done games like Vigilante 8 and Twisted Metal, you go around in various modes smacking your quirky opponents with comically large special weapons like a baseball bat, a fire axe, and a sort of thing that can freeze other cars, I don’t know. While graphically, Cel Damage joins the list of games with fabulous cel-shaded graphics (other members: Monster Rancher 3, Jet Set Radio Future), the cartooniness will get on your nerves in time. The gameplay becomes overly repetitive and eventually boils down to nothing more than a mindless smackdown. There are people that go for this, yes, but a game like this must have some depth, and the secrets hidden just below the surface are not enough to quaff people who are out for secrets, secrets, money, and more secrets. Only two modes of play and four boss characters are initially blocked from use at the outset of Cel Damage. Give yourself a week, maybe even five days, and you’ll have everything it has to offer.
The sound is your standard cartoon fare, boinks and smacks and glass breaking. Nothing you didn’t hear when you were three years old. As for music, most of the time it’s the same dull hip-hop beats during matches and on menu selection screens. You can get the same effect by making the ”bow-chicka-bow-wow” noises yourself, or plugging in heavy metal to get the adrenaline pumping. Not that it matters, because the cheaper-than-Ryu-from-Street-Fighter-II-Turbo AI will waste you with ease if you aren’t continually swinging your weapon. If you can use a big bat attached to your car while driving, and have minimal skill to drive through doors and gates but not drive into lakes, black holes, and the endless firmament, you’re doing A-OK #1 100%. The introductory movies for each character are well-animated, as is generally anything on XBox, but they are bland, lack humor, and ultimately don’t produce laughs (from me, anyway, I am reflecting personal opinion here).
Ergo, as far as racing quality and all-out mindless humor go, Cel Damage is a good send-up of its more realistic cousins focused on rampage and realistic gore and violence. If it’s aiming for funny, it tried too hard.