Its production values are well above average, but Celebrity Sports Showdown from EA Sports Freestyle does little else to distinguish itself on a system already teeming with party games.
Celebrity Sports Showdown is not a standard mini-game collection. It is a package of 12 events based on outdoor sporting activities like beach volleyball, rock climbing, horse racing and archery. Players can choose to play the events as one of 10 real life celebrities or 15 “wannabe” characters in Free Play or Tournament modes. Read More...
The celebrities lending their names and likenesses to the project are music stars Avril Lavigne, Fergie, Leann Rimes, Nelly Furtado and Keith Urban. They are joined by star athletes Reggie Bush, Paul Pierce, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kristi Yamaguchi and Mia Hamm.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about Celebrity Sports Showdown is that every single character plays the exact same. There are no stats or specialties to add a layer of strategy and there are no voice-overs to give the character models distinct personalities. The game may have well just featured 25 generic characters or better yet, Miis.
Starting off the events we have Beach Volleyball. Here, players will bump, set and spike their way to victory. Next is Inner Tubing. This event sees four competitors jostling for position to collect points on one of three preset courses.
Wild Water Canoeing also offers three courses and has players using their Wii Remotes and Nunchucks as paddles. Hurdle Derby is a horse racing event in which players shake the Wii Remote to spur on a steed and jump obstacles.
Slalom Showdown is a basic ski event that involves tilting the Wii Remote to steer. Cliff Hangers is a surreal rock climbing event that takes place on three obstacle-filled courses. Smash Badminton plays similar to Wii Sports Tennis.
The Curling event is perhaps the most realistic of the bunch and requires players to think about velocity and curl their stones just right. Rapid Fire Archery places four competitors in a shooting gallery as they try to outscore each other by hitting targets.
Joust Duel is a waggle fest in which players beat each other down with pool noodles. Arena Dodgeball has fast-paced dodging and throwing action. Finally, Air Racers sees your chosen celebrity racing jet planes through canyons while using mines and missiles to fend off the other racers.
There is a good variety to the events found in Celebrity Sports Showdown, but they still manage to become repetitive when playing Tournament Mode. A tournament consists of 10 events, but quite often you’ll play the same one more than once.
A tournament consists of three rounds. The first two rounds each have three events, while the final has four. Each character has 9 tournaments to progress through, though they are all functionally identical. The only reason I found to play through all 9 tournaments was to unlock all of the wannabe characters.
All of the wannabes, including Elise from the SSX series and Stretch from NBA Street can be unlocked by completing 9 tournaments with one character. A tournament generally takes about 30 minutes, so you’re looking at a 5-6 hour commitment to unlock all of the characters. Beyond that, I honestly have no idea why you’d want to complete 9 tournaments with all 25 characters. Having characters with different attributes would have made things a lot more interesting.
There are some multi-player variations of Tournament Mode to play when you have friends over. These modes, as well as Free Play are playable with up to four people locally. Many events support the Nunchuck attachment, but none of them require it, making it easier to get a four-player party going.
Where games like this tend to falter most is in the controls and unfortunately, Celebrity Sports Showdown is no different. Control in many of the events can best be described as frantic and unreliable and will require great patience by the player to learn and master. Some events like Curling and Air Racers fare better than others, but overall the controls are a letdown.
The development team at EA Canada has put their experience on Wii to good use as far as the presentation goes though. This is one of the best-looking party games I’ve seen yet. All of the character models are very detailed and many of the celebrities actually look like their real-life counterparts. There are some nice blur and lighting effects as well that give this game a polished feeling.
The menus, user interface and pop-up tutorials are modern and very similar to those in SSX Blur, another EA Canada developed Wii title. Everything is consistent, stylized and runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with very few hitches or slowdowns. Both 16:9 and 480p are supported for those with HDTVs.
The sound design is decent, but I have to point out the missed opportunity of having licensed tracks from the music artists in the game. As stated above, there are no voice-overs in the game as well. Having the celebrities record a few lines of dialogue would have given this game some much needed personality.
Celebrity Sports Showdown is a better party game than recent offerings like Deca Sports or Game Party 2, but its often frustrating controls and useless celebrity tie-in theme keep it from dethroning Wii Sports as the king of sports-based party games.
+ Attractive graphics and presentation
+ Good variety of events
- Controls are often frustrating
- Celebrity licenses go unused beyond likenesses
Game Forward score: 3/5
Celebrity Sports Showdown (Wii) Quick Facts:
Genre: Party Game / Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports Freestyle
Release Date: October 23, 2008
Price: $39.99 US/CAN
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)