Cel Damage HD review: Saturday morning Metal

Cel Damage HD doesn't innovate, but it does deliver fun car combat.

A few years ago, Cel Damage came out for Xbox and GameCube, attempting to bring the Twisted Metal genre to a younger audience. In some aspects, it did pretty much what the developers set out to do, providing a car combat experience that all ages could enjoy. However, it was missing that certain spark that knocked it a few levels below Incog Entertainment's iconic battling series. That didn't stop Finish Line Games from giving it a second try with a makeover for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita with Cel Damage HD. Most of the content from the original game remains intact, and you can take on up to four friends in split-screen combat. However, as fun as it is, it still comes up just a bit short, if only because of a few missing components. The game is set up like a Saturday morning style presentation, with different characters ranging from a mini-goth chick with a penchant for weaponry to a suave duck who has no problem showing off in a weapon-laden Cadillac-style car. Their goal is simple--win the round. No sophisticated back story, no ridiculous twists along the same lines of Twisted Metal Black. It's just about the action, plain and simple. Cel Damage HD features three modes in all: Smack Attack, Flag Rally and Gate Relay. Out of all of these, Relay is the weakest, mainly because it's just a four lap race where it's almost impossible not to come in first (unless you're too busy screwing around with other opponents on the track, that is). Flag Rally is much better, a "Capture the Flag" style mode where you race back to your home base in one piece, if you can. Finally, Smack Attack is a full-on assault mode, where you need to garner the most points possible.

Hitting harder than Mike Tyson on a weekend

Power-ups are scattershot in Cel Damage. Some of the distant ones, like the rockets, don't pack much punch. However, getting your hands on a good melee weapon, such as a sword, an axe or a pair of boxing gloves, is the ticket, mainly because you can do massive damage to anyone who's nearby. Nothing beats the almighty chaingun, but these toys are a pretty close second. You'll be picking these up often. The gameplay is responsive enough, but hardly as smooth as what Twisted Metal. Your car physics can go out of control in a hurry, even to the point where you go careening off into a fire lake or get mauled by hungry piranha. However, the inclusion of a defensive "jolt" tactic, which flips your car forward, backward or to the sides using the right analog stick, is a sweet way to get back in the action. Cel Damage's variety of maps are interesting, even though there are only 13 of them. Each one has something fun to offer, whether it's a runaway train in the Western track or a boiling lake of lava (as previously mentioned) in the backwoods. They don't make a whole lot of sense, but they utilize the same charming cel-shaded style as the characters. The car physics look a bit weird at times, but overall they're true to the tone of the game.

Even though it's only local, the multiplayer is pretty good

Where Cel Damage HD loses major points is in its lack of online connectivity. Everything in the game is handled offline, meaning those who want to take on their friends in battle will have to invite them over for a couch session. That aside, the local split-screen multiplayer is pretty good, and a nice way to spend the evening after doing something like, for instance, partaking a monster truck rally. There are certainly worse multiplayer sessions you can have than this. Considering little has changed from the original offering, Cel Damage HD still notches below other superior car battling efforts. However, since the PS4 and Vita don't have too many of those, it's a quick way to scratch the itch. It's worth a few goofy rounds with your friends--even if that means referring to them as "numbskulls." Final Score: 6 out of 10.
This review is based on a downloadable PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Cel Damage HD is available now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, and is cross-buy compatible. The game is rated E10.
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