Cel Damage HD is a remaster of car-beat’em up, Cel Damage, a game that released for the original Xbox console in late 2001. When Cel Damage first released it received critical praise, releasing in a time when vehicular combat games were a lot more frequent with Destruction Derby Raw and Twisted Metal Black available on the market. Cel Damage received its plaudits due to maintaining great gameplay whilst still having its own unique twist on the genre.

Over the last few years remasters have gained a lot of popularity, with many publishers deciding to return to the already proven formulas instead of rushing straight to a sequel – something which causes a lot of controversy in the gaming industry. However, that’s because more often than not, fond memories of a game can be ruined due to a remaster not giving the same classic experience or bringing the quality it once had. When it does go right it can reignite the passion for a franchise for both the new and old generation of gamers alike. So how does Cel Damage HD fair in a market full of remasters?

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Cel Damage HD follows six characters (with the addition of four more that can be unlocked) from a fictional cartoon TV show called Cel Damage. In it, combatants fight to the death for the pleasure of the audience at home, but of course with them being cartoony fighters, they soon respawn upon death and come back into the action to get revenge!

As the player you choose one of these characters, getting thrown into the arena with the other competitors in one of three game modes. The first, Smack Attack, pits players against one another in order to reach a set number of points first. This is achieved by using a variety of weapons ranging from, baseball bats and axes, to machine guns and black holes and everything in between! The second game mode is Gate Relay, which plays out in more of a race format as you attempt to guide your character through the various checkpoints that are made out in the form of a circuit with the first one to cross the finish line the winner. All is not so simple however as weapons are still available in this game mode – both for you and others – and getting to first place and maintaining that lead can prove to be rather difficult when maneuvering your way past chainsaw-wielding opponents!

The final game mode that is available is Flag Rally, and it is possibly the most tense of them all. The objective of Flag Rally is to go out and collect runaway flags and bring them back to the central base. The more flags in your possession when you return, the more points you will get. However, the more flags you have on you means that there are less out there for everyone else and that’s where things get tense; with less flags available than competitors, every single one is fought for and finding yourself holding all available flags will soon see you being chased by every other competitor as they attempt to bash them out of your possession. Receiving just a few hits can see you arrive back at the centre empty handed whilst someone else runs off with your flags, so in order to win not only do you need your fighting skills to be spot on but you also need to map out all the shortcuts to ensure that you know the quickest route back to base in order to cash-in on that well fought flag capture.

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This is the great gameplay I remember racing home from school for all those years ago, practicing before my mates came round for a night of friendship-breaking gaming and plenty of witty remarks as I pummelled them off the wacky maps with a remote sledgehammer or dropped a ton weight on their heads just as they had collected the match winning flag!

However, since 2001 video games and the way we play them has changed, in a rather considerable way. This is where Cel Damage HD really lacks the quality in today’s gaming market. As good as it is, one of the many things that hasn’t changed is that local multiplayer is still the only way to play Cel Damage with your friends, and gaming today just isn’t played like it used to be. Back when this game was first released, online multiplayer wasn’t too much of a deal, but today almost every game we play with our friends we play in separate houses on separate consoles. Unfortunately for Cel Damage HD the option for online multiplayer isn’t there and that really halts the potential this once great game had to shine. Sure you can setup match after match with the A.I but the A.I just doesn’t give that same competitive edge or enjoyment that this game is meant for. After just a few games, the A.I can become really predictable and by following the right path can be avoided altogether – as long as you drive quick enough.

From there on in things only get worse for this old classic. Even from the main menu it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of flicking through the clunky menus to realise that when looking back at how the game was back in 2001 nothing has really changed other than the updated visuals. Admittedly the game is a remaster – not a remake and it could be argued that it has not intended to be changed, but I can’t help but feel that a remake would have served this game better than what Finish Line Games have achieved with Cel Damage HD. The game modes, while still just as good as they used to be, are just the same as all those years ago and with no new ones added for its second outing the games thin layer of content really starts to show through.

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Other than the updated visuals (which on a side note are very much as impressive as they have always been and do deserve praise) the only other change that is notable is the removal of the one-hit kill mechanic from the original. Even that isn’t a great thing though as it takes out the feeling you get from knowing one mis-hit can get you bashed out of existence and with the addition of character health bars comes the more button bashing, aggressive gameplay.

Overall then, and Cel Damage HD is not at all as impressive as it could have been. The menus are sloppy, the game modes are in short supply, the lack of online multiplayer is a massive blow and unless you have three friends who are available for long periods at a time for a good gaming session, then opponents become predictable. In general. as sad as it is to see, the fun I remember having back in the day just isn’t available this time around. With that said if you do have friends willing to give up time for a good game then this is certainly something to play and can provide hours of fun. Without it though, Cel Damage HD is nothing more than a re-release of a 15-year-old game.

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