Pre-E3 06: CellFactor Hands-On

One of the games Southpeak Interactive was showing behind closed doors on Tuesday was CellFactor: Combat Training, a PC first-person shooter that blew us away with its ridiculously cluttered environments and interactive debris. Originally developed as a tech demo to show off what the developer's software could do, CellFactor is being considered for market, possibly as a multiplayer-centric or budget title. 

Graphically, CellFactor is beautiful, looking like the drab-but-detailed Pariah with a high-definition facelift. But the real draw here is in the main character's psychic powers. Working like the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, they enable him to push or pull whatever objects are in front of him. This has been done before, sure, but CellFactor's take on it is unique in that nearly every inch of its levels is covered with some sort of debris, from random bits of scrap to big empty fuel tanks and shipping containers. All of it is movable, and even better, all of it is destructible -and it's really impressive to watch the “push” power send what looks like tons of individual pieces of clutter rolling rapidly forward. There's a strategic element to this too; if your enemies are in the way, they can get swept off the edge of a platform and tossed into a bottomless pit.

When we tried it for ourselves, CellFactor felt like a standard FPS, but being able to toss stuff around added a new dimension of cool. A little harder to get used to were the “psi jumps” - by charging both the push and pull powers, aiming at the floor and letting them go, we were able to propel ourselves rapidly skyward. Controlling that is a little more difficult, but with practice we were able to slow our descent and even control it. Now, if only the cheap computer-controlled “bots” weren't trained to automatically start shooting at flying targets...

The rest of what we saw was filled out with vehicles, including a multi-passenger jeep and a sort of hoverjet, and a psychic booster that sent the main character into a rage and turned him into a flying engine of destruction. Then there were the graphical effects, like shimmering pools of blood, tearing cloth and purplish, snaking plutonium explosions that gave us even more of a “gee-whiz” impression of the game. The game will be playable on the E3 floor in a 16-player deathmatch mode, so its future as an actual product looks bright. Assuming it gets the green light, this looks like one to watch.

May 9, 2006


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