Released on the Xbox way back in 2001, with the PS2 and GameCube being graced with its presence shortly after, the original Cel Damage received mixed reviews at launch leaving it sitting at a slightly higher than average 67% on Metacritic.
You have to wonder then, more than 10 years after its original release, why would anyone bother to remaster it? The answer is apparent quite shortly after playing it, because even after all this time it’s just a great deal of chaotic fun in a genre that is unfortunately rather neglected on current consoles.
For those unfamiliar with Cel Damage, it’s a humorous Twisted Metal-like car combat game with cel-shaded graphics. There’s not really anything new in this HD remaster to make it dramatically different from its original release, apart from some slightly spruced-up graphics and a smattering of additional gameplay options, which is a bit of a let-down when you consider one of the main criticisms aimed at its original release was a lack of content. On offer then are 13 stages, six characters (10 including four unlockable bosses) and 32 weapon pickups, which you can experience across three game types: Gate Relay, Smack Attack and Flag Rally.
Whilst there are only three game types in Cel Damage HD, each one is thoroughly entertaining and provides its own unique challenge, although vehicular combat remains as the foundation of each to some degree. Flag Rally for instance, has you vying for control of walking flags; attacking your opponents to make them drop the ones they’re carrying whilst also avoiding being attacked yourself in order to make it to a specified area of the map to score points. Gate Relay on the other hand is focused more on racing, with the victor being the first to complete a set number of laps whilst also dealing with their competitor’s attacks. Lastly, Smack Attack is a straight-up brawl, with points awarded for attacking your opponents primarily with weapon pick-ups. No matter which game type you choose, you have the option to play with up to three of your friends in local co-op with or without additional computer controlled opponents filling up the field. You can also further customise matches to set the AI difficulty, winning conditions (laps, flags or smacks required to win) and weapons available, a great touch for those wanting to personalise their experience.
For a 15 year old game, Cel Damage HD actually looks alright when in action and the menus have been given a lot of attention to make them very user friendly and easy on the eyes. Unfortunately though, the unlockable videos for each character haven’t been spruced up that much, giving the game’s age away. The quality of some of the audio is also poor at times, although even when at their best the music and sound effects are not particularly noteworthy anyway. Cel Damage HD’s biggest issue however is that it’s pretty unbalanced, with some weapon pickups being noticeably more useful and destructive than others. Still, the fast-paced and fun-packed nature of the gameplay means it’s not too much of an issue, especially when playing with friends.
Unless you force yourself to play with computer-controlled opponents set at hard difficulty, it’ll likely only take you a few hours or so to unlock and complete all of Cel Damage HD’s 13 stages in all game types. How much life you’ll get out of the title after that will truly depend on just how much you love its core gameplay, although it certainly has more legs if you the type of gamer that enjoys frequent local multiplayer sessions. It’s just a shame that there’s no online multiplayer option, as it would have no doubt greatly increased the longevity of the title.
All in all, Cel Damage HD is a good game for the local multiplayer aficionados out there, but it’s hard to outright recommend. It’s a highly amusing game best played in short bursts, but for most players there’s not really more than a few hours of content here despite all the match options, and when played on hard difficulty the lack of weapon balancing really rears its ugly head. Being the only vehicular combat game that comes to mind on the Xbox One however, there’s no doubt that Cel Damage HD will entertain from time to time until a more modern and well-rounded titles comes around.