Hands-onCel Damage

We go hands-on with EA's cel-shaded car combat game for the Xbox.

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At a recent press event, Electronic Arts showed off an updated version of its cel-shaded vehicular combat game for the Xbox, Cel Damage.

After EA's strong showing at E3, it was surprising that the company was ready to show an updated version of Cel Damage for the Xbox less than a month later. The new version of this cel-shaded car combat game is very close to completion, with all the cars, weapons, and tracks already implemented. We took the newest version of Cel Damage for a spin and were impressed with the game's progress.

There are three main modes included in Cel Damage. Smack attack mode is the combat mode where up to four human players can get on board for an old-fashioned battle royal. There are 35 weapons included in the game, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can use an ax, a baseball bat, boxing gloves, and a mallet for attacks at close range or utilize projectile attacks like the nuclear bomb, mortal shell, flaming arrow, and side cannons. If you have a few competitors tailing you, dropping a portable black hole will make them keep their distance. The smack attack mode is won or lost based upon how many smack points you accumulate. Using high-powered weapons like the woodchipper gives you more smacks per blow, while it will take a while to rack up smack points using your vehicle's default weapon. There are also combos included in the game that allow you to double your smack points by setting enemies up with one weapon and finishing them with another.

The flag rally mode asks that you collect the four flags hidden throughout each stage and then take them to a rally point for the victory. The only catch is that the computer-controlled opponents will dial in on your character once you've collected more than one flag--making the trek to the final rally point with four flags in tow a nail-biting experience. Cel Damage's race mode takes place in the same levels as the other modes, but gates have been set up that you must negotiate while avoiding enemy attacks.

There are six different drivers included in the game and four bosses that may be used once unlocked in the single-player game. The characters are quite humorous, and they're expertly animated to give the impression that they're made of rubber. Especially long vehicles will realistically bend when taking sharp turns, and hatches will open on the vehicles to reveal hidden guns and other gadgets. The four playable levels include transylvania, desert, space, and jungle. Within each level are three sublevels that must be completed before moving on to the next area. The levels are compact, and EA consciously made this decision in order to keep the level of confrontation high. As if the healthy selection of weapons weren't enough, there are targets located throughout each level that trigger special events when struck--for example, striking a particular target will cause an enormous anvil to fall from the sky and knock the boards of a bridge out, leaving a bottomless pit for your helpless competitors to discover.

Playing Cel Damage is quite a bit of fun. There are so many different weapons included in the game that you never know what sort of attacks will be coming your way. The game plays with a nice fluidity even in split-screen multiplayer mode. Thanks to the wealth of weapons, cars, and gags, the game creates an excellent sense of controlled chaos. The cel-shaded graphics are the closest thing to an interactive cartoon to hit video game consoles, and the weapon effects are genuinely humorous yet impressive.

Cel Damage is currently scheduled for release alongside the Xbox on November 8. EA still needs to add character dialogue and music, but with four months left to polish the game, there's plenty of time. EA also stated that it is currently working on an overhead map to replace the admittedly simplistic radar system the game currently employs. The only other complaint would be that many of the weapons drop competitors in a single shot, resulting in constant respawning, which can make the enjoyment of the game sporadic at times.

Cel Damage has already eclipsed the alpha stage and is coming down the home stretch of its development. We'll have more on EA's car combat game for the Xbox when it becomes available.

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