E3 06: CellFactor Hands-On

We get physic-al in our look at this impressive first-person shooter.

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LOS ANGELES--CellFactor is a new sci-fi first-person shooter from Immersion Software. Wait, hang on, don't go anywhere. Seriously, there's more to CellFactor than simply pointing and shooting with your mouse. The game, initially developed as a tech demo for the AGEIA PhysX card, has received loads of good buzz, and we had a chance to check it out for ourselves today.

Specifically designed to show off the multiple physical effects that can be bolstered with the AGEIA card, the CellFactor demo features one of the most important staples in all FPS games: barrels and boxes. In fact, there were loads of both on the level we played. The difference here is that these aren't exploding boxes and flimsy plywood boxes--they're solid, heavy, and deadly, if used in the right way. Thanks to your character's psychic powers, you can lift and toss practically any of these small items and watch as they all interact with one another in a truly convincing manner--bumping and bashing into one another and spreading across the floor. If you build up enough power, you can even force-push through a pile of debris and use that to take out enemies, amusingly called out as a "Physix Kill" by the game.

But the power of physics in CellFactor isn't reserved for debris alone. By charging up your telekinetic powers and then aiming downward, you can shoot yourself into the air to reach ledges that are otherwise unreachable. One of the coolest uses for this power, at least on the level we played, was to reach a special power boost that was hidden away on the small precipice of a crane high above us. By boosting up to the ledge and grabbing the boost, the main character's psychic powers were increased tremendously, allowing him to more or less fly in the air or lift huge boxes or vehicles that were previously too difficult to move. To provide some gameplay balance, there are things like the gravity grenade, which, when tossed, attract all physical objects to it and can help pull down airborne foes.

While it was tough to ignore the physics aspects of CellFactor's gameplay, we're happy to report that the shooting aspects of the game were pretty impressive as well. Gun recoil looked pretty good, and the physics of bullets hitting objects--a slightly more subtle effect than picking up a jeep using only the power of your mind--was effective as well. The only thing that bugged was the absolute dead-on accuracy of the bots we played against--several times we were killed more or less as soon as we spawned.

CellFactor developers told us they are still determining whether they will take the promising demo and develop it into a full-fledged game. Based on the positive buzz from the demo, and the tantalizing possibilities the PhysX card could bring to the game, we're hoping they go ahead and pull the trigger and flesh it out. Whether or not that happens, it's obvious that physics has moved beyond a boring high school subject and into something that will be further enhancing games of all sorts in the coming years.

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