A while ago we took a look at the Ageia PhysX card and came to the conclusion that the idea was great and with the promise of some decent software it could be a great piece of hardware.
Cell Factor is the first title that looks like it may well really take advantage of the card. With some innovative features and physics in a big way, it looks to be a title to show off what the PhysX card can do. I fired it up and got going.
Here's what Ageia, Immersion and Artificial Studios have to say about the game:
Set in a futuristic, industrial war-torn atmosphere, CellFactor: Revolution is an action-packed first-person shooter with Psi-powered combat and true-to-life physics for the PC. It takes advantage of the capabilities of the dedicated AGEIA™ PhysX™ processor to produce realistic physics effects and game play elements including collisions, explosions, complex jointed geometries, fabrics that drape and tare, dense smoke and liquids, multiple objects and particles, as well as other physical events that offer gamers an exciting and immersive gaming experience. Gamers with a PhysX accelerator will have access to all five levels (three utilize extreme PhysX game play) in the campaign mode as well as the multiplayer modes. The game will automatically detect PCs without a PhysX processor; those players can explore the multiplayer “skirmish” modes in two environments or choose to install the hardware for a complete game experience.
In CellFactor: Revolution, gamers can manipulate an immense amount of objects simultaneously, control vehicles and fight against AI-controlled enemies. Up to 8 players can play in the LAN game play modes. The multiplayer modes – death match, team death match, assault and capture the flag – are also playable with one human and up to 10 AI-controlled characters.
So what is the game all about then? Well it's got a number of gameplay modes:
• Assault - the objective is to take the bomb to the enemies’ base and arm it. When detonated, the bomb emits Psi forces, transforming the area into a psionic vortex as it pulls objects into a black hole. • Capture the flag - to capture the flag, players must use Psi powers to move it. If the player takes the role of the Guardian who does not possess such abilities, he/she needs to ram it or use different tactics to manipulate the flag. • Death match – each player fights for himself or herself in a kill or be-killed game. Players must be aware of a dynamically changing environment and other players bouncing around the environment due to psionic propulsion. • Team death match – teams of 2-4
There are five maps in the game, although three of these are only available to those with an Ageia PhysX card. There are also three different characters to play as.
• Two industrial levels with minimal physics are available for all players in skirmish modes. Proving Grounds is a Psi-power training area and the Fueling Station features a series of platforms ideal for air vehicle landing in the middle of the ocean. • Three “extreme PhysX” levels accessible for PhysX users in all modes include: • Reactor Processing Core – built inside a rock, it features molten metal, bridges over lava pools, and spider webs on a futuristic machine. • Weapons System Control – an indoor map full of rooms with a huge cannon. • Storage Facility – comprised of three huge structures, ideal for driving all the vehicles available in the game in multiplayer games.
Master the abilities of three unique character classes:
• Bishop - genetically altered by L.I.M.B.O. to hypercharge her psionic powers, she can manipulate any environmental object to deliver deathblows without weapons. • Black Ops - this U.N. Soldier was L.I.M.B.O.’s first genetic alteration experiment using psionic power; he offers a mix of psionic abilities, unique weapons and vehicle abilities. • Guardian - L.I.M.B.O.’s ultimate mechanical soldier can wield two weapons and strike his victims down with quick assault
The three characters are actually pretty different with differing abilities and strengths and the maps also all play differently.
Now let's get onto Gameplay...
Cell Factor Revolution Page: 2 System Setup
First of all let me show you what system we were running the game on, so you have an idea of how your system would match up:
So all in all a pretty high-spec machine - above what Ageia recommend for an optimal experience.
Performance on Cell Factor was at very best: poor.
This may sound pretty harsh but in all honestly it is one of the worst coded games I have ever played. Oblivion in particular was a game that people say plays badly, but compared to Cell Factor it actually scales very well.
When I first booted up (in Vista) I tried 1920 x 1200 with HDR and Per-Pixel Motion Blur enabled and settings at high. This was a mistake and what followed can only be described as a slide-show. Soldiering on I reduced res to 1680 x 1050. Once again the motion blur was far too much for the system to handle. After turning this off I managed to play...a bit. After further reducing the settings to 1024 x 768 and turning down detail I actually gave up on Vista altogether.
Booting into XP and starting up I found I could get fairly decent frames on most maps of around 15-50 FPS @ 1680 x 1050 with HDR on, motion blur off and graphical settings reduced somewhat.
The inside maps where there were a lot of physics going on became almost unplayable and at one particularly hectic battle FPS dropped to 8FPS! However after lowering settings more I found the game merely became very ugly.
For those of you who can't afford £400 graphics cards, decent motherboards, nice RAM and custom watercooling the game is going to play like an absolute dog, not fun.
I didn't even try to start the game up without a PhysX card and I have heard those who have not been able to play it without one. Basically if you don't have PhysX you will get even less of a game and an even worse gaming experience because of that.
Gameplay in single player mode is very much like Unreal tournament. It's not really a "proper" single player game but more like a multi-player game built into a single player mission. This isn't such a bad thing as it hones your skills for what is obviously the focus of the game: multi-player.
The gameplay when it comes down to it is actually pretty decent, I actually got quite into the game besides the faults above. The PSI-abilities are a cool addition if not a little hard to execute with the number of keys you need to remember to press and the general air of the game is frantic and fun.
As I said above: single player doesn't bring much to the floor and in addition is very hard to play, especially on maps that you just can't get the framerate to play smoothly.
Deathmatch is the most fun for me, with Capture the Flag being a pretty frustrating affair - albeit classic CTF action when the map is ok to play on.
The characters are a mixed bunch as detailed on the previous page. I found myself leaning towards the more classic character who uses guns the most and found that the robotic character was hard to control and killed you the most often in the game! The PSI-character is a strange one and I did not like playing the game without traditional weapons, although I'm sure you could probably get used to it.
The mech's and vehicles in the game vary from pretty awesome through to half decent. I'll go through them here.
Goliath - a mechanized power suit which has dual gatling guns, and limited-use flight boosters
Really good fun to use, slow to turn but gun turrets are cool.
Death Stalker assault car - armed with a 360-degree gunner turret, it delivers battleground mayhem via 20-mm gatling machine gun and rocket launchers
Not too bad and a bit like the Hog in Halo 2. Not my favourite though.
Dusk Hawker (Vertical Lift Aircraft) – a gunner-controlled 20 mm gatling machine gun spreads a heavy wall of lead on opponent; pilot and gunner-controlled missiles are available to take out aerial and ground opponents
Hard to control but really wreaks havoc, great fun.
Hover Mech - wield dual 30-mm cannons and rocket launchers while piloting six-axis flight controls to pin down and shred enemies.
Good fun again although not hugely different to the others.
All of the mechs are pretty cool and again show glimpses of what a good game Cell Factor could be.
The maps in the game vary greatly. The indoor maps are pretty nicely laid out but become un-playabale at almost any setting at points, which is a shame. The outside maps are much better playability-wise and definitely well-designed.
A couple of the outdoor maps here. Left "Proving Grounds" centres on arena type gameplay with all the action coming to the fore around a central square. Right "Fuelling station" is probably the best map in the game with many levels and is suitable for all types of players.
Left is one of the indoor maps "Weapon Systems Control". The map itself isn't actually too bad, with a slight off-balance for one side. However once things start exploding and bouncing around (due to PhysX of course), then it gets impossible to play. Right "Storage Facility" is a rather large map peppered with lots of mechs and vehicles, discussed below.
All in all the maps aren't too bad and as said above, "Fuelling Station" is a map that is great fun to play on and really is my favourite.
The game can be fairly enjoyable and is fast paced and good fun at many points. The single player mission is very hard, but this is most likely a good thing if you have the patience and skill to play it through to conclusion.
Multi-player is pretty good fun too and I set up a quick LAN with a friend on my spare rig which was good fun. Again, though, we found ourselves favouring "Fuelling Station" as it was the most fun map.
As far as longevity is concerned I would not think this game would last you an enormous amount of time, even if you can get over the horrible performance. With only 5 maps and four modes of play there's a limit to how long it would last to be honest.
Now onto graphics...
Cell Factor Revolution Page: 3 Graphics
Graphics in the game look good (if your PC can get near what mine can), but not great. Per-pixel motion blur looked amazing but I am not even going to try and show you this as turning this feature on made the game totally unplayable.
The HDR implementation in the game is actually pretty nice and the character rendering is about average for today's standard of games.
Now I say the HDR looks good...well it does look good when there is anything for it to look good on. Mostly the maps are drab and grey, with the exception of Fuelling Station where everything is an orange-brown colour. That's not to say a game with less colour cannot be good: Gears of War lacks a huge amount of colour but is visually stunning and gritty at the same time.
Sadly, Cell Factor is not Gears of War and generally the graphics leave you wanting more.
The Physics in the game could make up for that though.
The Physics in Cell Factor are very impressive - in that they are on such a grand scale. You can lift a whole row of boxes and send them shooting forward, or divert a flow of liquid hot "Mag-Ma" (stop the Austin Powers - Ed) onto an opponent.
This makes for an impressive array of graphical delight where boxes bounce across the screen, "Mag-Ma" flows over and kills enemies and bridges are destroyed. Nothing on this scale has been seen before in games and it's a great step forward. Having said that, some of the physics feel a little too much like a Hollywood set. Boxes and huge pipes DO bounce across a room or arena like they are made of rubber, and steel bridges get destroyed and bounce all over the place like they are styrofoam.
Cloth effects are pretty cool and I felt myself fairly convinced by the movements against the wind or the odd gun blast.
Again, as I said in my PhysX review, the physics ARE a great move on and really the game would be very very bad had it not been for their inclusion, hence why I didn't even bother with the game without PhysX.
Well there isn't much to say about sound. I set it to maximum and played from there.
I have to say that the music was at best ignorable and at worst downright annoying, especially as loading times aren't the best so you can be listening to it for a period of time.
The in-game sound is ok with some decent effects, but nothing really immersive in all honesty. Explosions sounded pretty good though so it's not all bad.
Well I felt I had better mention the HUD first of all. It feels like the game designers have really taken a "futuristic" scheme and gone to town. The information is crowded and hard to read whilst gaming. At least when you're close to dying the screen blinks red and emits a beeping sound which gives an indication of your untimely demise before you expire. Also there are arrows that give you a visual indication of where you're being attacked from, although as enemies tend to be above you as well as in front, behind and side to side it's pretty hard to figure where exactly they are coming from.
Another visual plus is that the enemies health level is shown when you hover over them, though you can become a little wrapped up in this.
The game menu is pretty drab and feels like it's trying to be futuristic, while only managing awkward.
Hovering over one of the menu items brings a whole new meaning to the word "sliding menu's", and confusion tends to ensue. A pretty cool feature is that video is going on behind the menu items. A not-so-cool feature is that if you're in single player mode and you press escape (perhaps to turn the wonderful music down), the game continues without you, tending to lead onto death.
All in all the game shows that it is an extended demo. Lots of things are wrong but it feels like the game has a good foundation but fails to deliver overall.
Cell Factor Revolution Page: 4 Conclusion
Cell Factor is a game that makes you want it to be better. At points I got really into the game and a couple of the maps are good. Indeed, "Fuelling Station" is an awesome map and I really wanted to play it at times. Characters are fairly decent with a good spread of skills and abilities. Combine this with a couple of decent mechs and you're almost getting there.
However, Cell Factor is a game brought down by an unreliable and laggy game engine that spoils most of the game play. Couple that with an awkward HUD, badly designed menu and music that gets pretty annoying and you have a bit of a disappointment.
As a Tech Demo of PhysX, the game does very well and the range of physics and sheer volume of stuff flying around the scene is fantastic. As it is, Half Life 2 does a similar job with the Havoc engine, albeit it on a hugely smaller scale...but then it is a far superior game. Ageia's engine is very impressive and I would love to see a better game make as much use of it. Perhaps Unreal Tournament 3 will do this, although with a lack of other big titles it's going to be hard going until UT3 comes out. It's a great show-piece for PhysX - if you can bear to play it for any length of time.
As a game on its own, Cell factor just doesn't show you enough to warrant your money for PhysX and seeing as you would have to shell out for a PhysX card to play it properly anyway, that is £100 that you would have to really consider if you wanted to play the limited titles that much.
Remember the game on its own can be downloaded from here for free.
+ Good use of PhysX + A couple of nice maps + Some nice gameplay
- Terribly coded game engine - Average graphics - Pointless to buy without a PhysX card - Average sound - You will need a PhysX card to play the game properley
Thanks to Ageia for supplying the review sample and the BFG PhysX card