CellFactor: Psychokinetic Wars (XBLA) Review

Cellfactor: Psychokinetic Wars is the sequel to freeware PC title Cellfactor: Revolution. If you have played any other death match-oriented titles, such as Quake Live or Unreal Tournament 3, you’re in familiar territory; there’s no story to speak of and it plays out like a sports title. The only goal is to score the most points or, in a challenge game, meet the set requirements.

Although it’s primarily an online title, Cellfactor: Psychokinetic Wars has 10 single player challenges per character that exploit their specialities. These challenges have a set of objectives to complete before you win; some will have you stun an opponent and kill five more, kill five bots with each hand, or use a specific handgun to kill someone. The harder challenges include having you win without losing a round.

To start off you pick one of three generic-looking characters: a well-endowed android called a Bishop, the Blackop, and the Guardian. Each one can be customized with colour, armour and power ups received after each challenge. The challenges take place in the stock-standard game types: Death Match, Capture the flag, and Assault, in which you have to hack the enemy base.

The usual strategies apply to all three: find the best weapons and power ups, keep note of their locations, and keep moving. Unfortunately the bot AI is seriously lacking. This is most clear in assault mode – you will have to be proactive if you want to score at all, as the bots consistently lose the bomb. Another fine example is the bots’ inability to score in a skirmish; I won a 60-kill match on the lowest difficulty setting while the bots’ scores ranged from zero down into the negatives – ouch.

Once the challenges are complete – or you’re just sick of them – you can play online or have a skirmish against bots. Although limited in modes and characters, the psychokinetic powers mix up the gameplay enough to make it feel distinctly different from the Unreal Tournaments and Quakes of this world.

Both humanoid characters have unique psychokinetic abilities: Bishops can use a shield and throw a bunch of objects for more damage, Blackops can teleport and throw objects, and the robotic Guardians can dodge and charge people. Additionally, they have specific weapon types and techniques: Bishops use psychic attacks and lightning in place of traditional weapons, Blackops use guns in one hand and kinetic attacks in the other, and Guardians can dual-wield guns.

The biggest problem facing Cellfactor: Psychokinetic Wars is that online play relies on the game being popular – and when I took it online there was only one game available. Even if you get into a match, odds are it’s on an overseas server with a triple-digit ping. Should you come up short online, the skirmish mode proved to be enjoyable and, more importantly, lag free. You can customize the game type, kill and time limit, amount of bots and their character classes.

Being an Unreal Engine title, it holds up in the visual department, looking as good as any store-bought game for just 800 Microsoft Points. Characters can be customised on two colour layers and there are a decent number of helmets, backpacks and other assorted bits of armour to swap out. It’s still up for debate how well these protect you – in my experience you’re better off remaining a smaller target.

In the end the single player, while enjoyable, will get repetitive and the online community is almost non-existent at this time. However, this is a solid choice if you’ve got 800 Microsoft Points to burn and enjoy the death match FPS genre.

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