Cel Damage arrived at a time when cel shaded games were a big thing. Back in 2001 it looked sharp and exciting and evoked memories of Wacky Races. The premise is similar to Twisted Metal, a mass demolition derby with big weapons and plenty of destruction, but with the added benefit of kart racing and cartoon physics.
This remake is Cel Damage with a lick of HD paint, but it also adds the damage system from the PS2 semi-sequel Cel Damage Overdrive, something fans preferred over the ‘single hit kills’ approach of the first game. Technically, then, this represents the best of the series.
The three game modes on offer haven’t changed since the original, with nothing new on offer. Capture the Flag, Gate Relay’s checkpoint races and Smack Attack’s mad all out destruction derby modes are all it has to offer, but they do represent three quite different styles of play. The destruction derby deathmatch events are by far the most fun, especially in multi-player, but the races add a touch of Mario Kart gameplay to the proceedings.
Weapons help to make this game a real laugh at times. One minute you could be using a Tommy Gun, the next you could find yourself driving around with a buzzsaw in front of you, chopping other cars in half. It really does feel like a cartoon with plenty of animations showing off the destruction around you and even the classic pause before you fall off the edge of a cliff.
The only issue is that there’s not a lot that has changed here since the original game, bar a resolution bump in the graphics. This difference is clearer when you compare the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, with the latter looking pretty smooth but both games playing much the same.
Another difference between the consoles is that Finish Line games have managed to use the PS4 controller speaker to produce some very funny remarks from your chosen character as you play. It might be a small addition, but it’s very funny.
The Vita version, while exactly the same in terms of gameplay, benefits from being on a smaller screen and the controls have been well thought out for the different layout of Sony’s handheld. It also has a cross save function, so whichever format you play on will unlock cars, drivers and courses in the others.
Of course, games like Cel Damage aren’t really meant to be played alone, despite some good (if difficult) AI being included for solo play, and it’s in multiplayer where Finish Line’s game excels. Up to 4 players can take part in a split screen game in each of the game modes and there’s plenty of mileage to be had from finding new ways to humiliate other players by killing them with style. This makes it all the more puzzling why online multiplayer has been omitted from the remake. The original came out before the big online craze, but this new game would have greatly benefitted from an online mode and even more so on PS4 with its gameplay sharing clips being a perfect companion to the online madness that would ensue.
That said, there has been a recent surge in the call for more local multiplayer games and Cel Damage certainly fits the bill of a fun late night post-pub game sat round a single TV. The cross buy for all three platforms is certainly a bonus, too.
While Cel Damage HD isn’t quite the step up from the original game I would have liked to see, it can still provide a lot of fun as a local multiplayer game and the fact that this is a cheaper downloadable title with full cross-buy and cross-save support certainly makes it worth a look if you like the idea of a bit of cartoon vehicle destruction.