CellFactor: Combat Training
|Of all the demonstrations shown by Ageia to showcase the power of their new PhysX PPU, CellFactor was easily the most impressive. With fully interactive environments and the ability to send any number of objects in mass at an opponent, CellFactor's unique gameplay can amuse even the most discerning gamer for hours. Unlike the minor particle enhancements seen in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, the PhysX PPU offers far more than eye candy when running CellFactor. Although still in development, this title and engine give gamers the clearest preview of what Ageia's hardware will be capable of in the future. For our testing purposes, we completed five identical laps of the map and alternated between throwing grenades and firing grenades from our weapon every ten seconds.|
Prior to testing, we set the resolution to 1280x1024 and maximized both texture and shadow detail to 100%. High Dynamic Range was enabled by default and was chosen to remain enabled along with all other default settings. Armed with an Athlon 64 FX-53, a 512MB Radeon X1900 XTX, and 2GB of memory we were confident that the game would be running as smooth as butter. Unfortunately, that was anything but the case in this game, though it is still in development so we'll reserve final judgment until the game is shipping.
Compared to the slight increase in debris seen in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, we find the effects in CellFactor are in an entirely different league. Debris of various shapes, sizes, and materials are thrown in every direction and each react with a whole new level of realism. For the first time, it feels as though we are reaping the benefits of the PhysX PPU.
Shooting some radioactive barrels illustrates the PhysX PPU's ability to manage fluids for the first time. Here, we see a Terminator 2 style effect with a mirrored liquid as items get dragged into a gravity field and then explode into the air. In an age full of games featuring the same set of weapons and effects, new effects and features such as this are a breath of fresh air for the hardcore gamer.
One refreshing aspect of playing the CellFactor demo is the lack of any blatant scripted scenes. As depicted in the image of the mangled vehicle above illustrates, various aspects of objoects can be broken off and sent flying through the air towards an opponent. Rather than the usual scripted explosion with a few random bits of debris and an otherwise intact vehicle left behind, CellFactor offers a unique result each time you send a grenade towards a vehicle. In this specific case, we managed to blow off a wheel and even a suspension spring after a thoughtfully placed grenade toss.
As is the case with any game that is still being developed, you cannot draw any concrete conclusions regarding the performance numbers we see in CellFactor. Regardless, there is an immense amount of objects in the scene at any one time and the spectacular explosions and ensuing wall of debris which follows is bound to be stressful on the system. Without question, the engine is able to tax our hardware though it is surely the massive amount of physics calculations on the countless objects being tossed around the map which has such a profound and adverse effect on performance. Despite a grayed-out checkbox in the settings menu for selecting Ageia PhysX support, we were not able to get the game to run when the BFG PPU was not installed and enabled. Given the taxing nature of this demo, we would love to see how a dual core CPU would handle the physics workload in comparison with the results we witnessed with the discrete PPU.