If Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena made sweet, gory love, the resulting baby would be Nexuiz. Nexuiz is in every way a classic twitch-based arena shooter, which may be an issue for those players today obsessed with the relatively slower gameplay of modern day shooters. Being an online centric game, this arena shooter will live or die based on the online community.
Believe it or not, there is a story in Nexuiz. It’s a very weak one, but if you take the time to watch the intro movie you will learn there are two ancient species that do battle for the sake of entertainment in memory of the historical battles that were fought between the two. Besides some tidbits on the loading screens, there is no mention of the story once you get into the game because it simply doesn’t matter.
Nexuiz allows up to 8 players to battle it out online in the standard Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag game modes. Focusing on smaller maps, the action can be fast and hectic throughout the match. There are only nine maps included in the game, and the community seems to already have their favorites as the same couple maps gets voted on every time. The weapons are exactly as you would expect from a shooter like this: the standard shotguns, sniper rifles, pistols, rocket launchers and more. Melee, believe it or not, is a great source of frustration if you are on the receiving end of it. There is a warp one-hit kill that seems to have no specific range, and you can get killed it by at any time.
Players can earn different mutators from picking them up on the ground, going on killing sprees or even capping flags. Mutators can help teams by adding jetpacks, infinite ammo, giving all weapons damage, etc., but there is an equal chance the mutator can be nothing more than fluff that gives the edge to other side such as turning the game into a monochrome color sceme or changing the view to a third-person shooter mid-match. Thankfully they don’t last too long, so it’s easy to go through as many as ten different ones per match.
Nexuiz happens to be the first downloadable game to use CryEngine 3 (Crysis 2 runs on the same engine). The game is very good looking, with everything from the walls to weapons having a high gloss on it. The maps are varied, but with an overarcing Victorian era style to the architecture.
Once you get into an online match, you may be waiting in the lobby for some time. Matches won’t begin unless there are specifically six or eight players ready to play. If a 7th person joins while the match is still in the lobby, you must wait for an 8th player or until someone leaves the lobby. While this helps to keep the balance between the two teams, once a match starts there is no auto balancing of any kind and people who join the lobby mid-match can not join and must wait till the current match ends.
As an online centric game, the offline mode is nothing more than a practice mode with bots. The bots themselves are some of the dumbest bots I’ve ever seen in a shooter, even at the hardest difficulty. The bots pose no threat to you, so playing offline will only teach you the map layout and is no replacement for dodging air rockets online with your friends.
Nexuiz’s success depends upon an active online community. If you are lucky enough to get into a full match with no lag, Nexuiz will bring back memories of those great PC twitch-based shooters of the past. More likely than not however, you will be spending time in the lobby watching people quit and rejoin, until the magical number of six or eight comes. If Illfonic adds drop in/out support, a lot of the issues with the game will be easily be solved, especially when playing during non-peak hours during the day.Note: Nexuiz was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.