Review: Nexuiz (XBLA)
Nexuiz is a hard sell. No matter how you look at it, the game has a niche audience. To begin with it’s a console release, via download, and on top of this it’s a multiplayer only game. There’s no in-depth XP or levelling system, so it’s not going to hold its audience for long, and there’s only two game modes. It may sound like I’m pretty down on the game, but in reality I had a great time.
Nexuiz harkens back to the days of Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena; in-fact beginning as an open-source Quake mod. In those days, shooters didn’t need fancy bells and whistles, and instead all you needed were guns a-plenty, jump pads and fast furious gameplay. I had some great times on those games, and Nexuiz is perfect for that kind of fix. It’s the type of game you’ll play for a while, then leave to come back later when you just need a smooth and fast few games. On one hand, not having the hooks to maintain its audience will hurt it, and I really don’t see a future for this style of game in this form, however I do commend the studio for giving it their all and proving this style of gameplay can still be great fun. I can’t help but feel that this type of game would be better suited to a free-to-play market. It’s not exactly expensive as it is, but casual gamers are unlikely to give it a try on a whim, and with audience they are aiming for they need to do as much as they can to entice players.
The story is as bare-bones as you could want for a shooter. These guys don’t like these guys, so they fight, and televise it…NEXUIZ!!! It all boils down to red vs. blue, though there’s enough mutators to keep the game interesting, more on those later.
For those not in the know, arena based first person shooters are very twitch based, requiring both a quick trigger finger and very nimble movement through the environment. Imagine playing Call Of Duty after chugging a good few bags of sherbet and you might be nearly there.
The look and feel of this game is great. The awesome techno/dance soundtrack in addition to the futuristic backdrops create a very cool vision of the future, and the introduction sequence really get you in the mind set. While you most likely won’t have time to look out into the distance on the maps, it’s well worth doing as there’s a huge amount of attention to detail which really add to the mood of the game….before you get stabbed in the back by the enemy. It’s a good thing that the music’s pretty varied, as you might be spending a lot of time waiting to get into a game. Playing the game four days after release, I waited a good 10 minutes to get into my first game. Once there however it was pretty straight forward, though new players have to wait till the game is over to join in, meaning that if someone leaves, it can be pretty unbalanced for a good while.
The modes are fast and furious, though all team based. Team Death Match and Capture The Flag are on offer, taking place over nine pretty varied maps, ranging from futuristic train stations to far out ruins. While this is becoming more common, it’s no lie that this is a great looking Arcade title. CryEngine 3 is on hand to keep things looking as good as they do, and at a constant framerate. I can’t help but wish they could have achieved 60fps though, as this style of game really would benefit from the added smoothness, both in terms of the controls, as well as just the whole feel of the game.
There is a single player mode, though it’s only a bot match, and this won’t keep you busy for long, if only for an achievement. You’ll quickly want to head to the online space, preferably with a friend at your side. This style of game can be a bit of a marmite situation, and can be very frustrating if you’re not on a good team. It requires very fast reflexes, not giving you much time to consider tactics, instead throwing you in at the deep-end. It’s best to at least brief the manual as it will give you a good run down of all the weapons and mutators available for you to use. Like most shooters of this style, the weapons all have a secondary fire, giving you some flexibility with your gun of choice. The starting shotgun is in-fact pretty effective, as long as you’re quick on your feet, and also features a more concentrated burst for long range firing.
Don’t worry, all your favourite death dealers are on hand, Sniper, Assault Rifle, Mortar, Rocket Launcher and more. Once you get the hang of their names and looks, you’ll be concentrating more on getting the power weapons as much as moving up the scoreboards. Strangely though, it seems like they couldn’t decide on whether to use default weapon names, or create their own. Shotgun, Mortar and Rocket Launcher are straight forward, but then they name the other primary guns Ravager, Hagar, Nex, Electro etc. It seems a little muddled, as most of these weapons could be given their obvious names also.
Health and Armour are in play here, with pickups littered around the levels. Armour does not recharge, however there’s enough scraps scattered to keep you topped up. Like Quake and Unreal, they’re placed in quite an orderly fashion, allowing you to run through a whole line of them at a time. The sound effect can be a little disconcerting though, as they also make a noise when they respawn, often making me paranoid that someone was behind me. As I mentioned, the pace is fast and furious, though there is a little niggle of mine. With this style of game, you’re very eager to get back in the fight, often holding forward on the stick even before you respawn. If you do this however, you’ll be sitting there not going anywhere, and you’ll have to move the stick again to get going. It’s a small issue, and maybe I just need to relax a bit, but it wouldn’t have been hard to fix.
Controls are the standard afare, though they’ve nicely assigned the jump button to the left bumper, as it’s very important to be nimble. You can customise these in the options, and maybe you’ll want to make the melee button a little easier to access (initially on X) as you’d have to take your thumb of the camera movment to do so.
Mutators are where things get interesting. Appearing in set places around the maps are special pickups which can seriously change up the gameplay. They can affect yourself, the team, or the entire player base. Some are unlocked later on (the WTF modifiers), but the base set is enough to turn the match on its head, literally. While some of their effects are simple enough such as Infinite Ammo, Double Jump, Team Locator, Low Gravity and Regen, some of the more unique ones which can induce such effect as all player bounce off each other, switching the game to black and white, meaning that you’d better remember who’s on your team. Others range from changing the controls of the enemy team, switching the camera to a 3rd person viewpoint, and of course the obligatory big head mode. They definitely keep things interesting, meaning that there’s never a dull moment, and can often give you a huge advantage if your team is falling a little behind.
Overall, it’s great fun, if you can get into a full game. The varied levels and mutators mean that you’ll always be on your toes. The twitch based action will be of no interest to players after a more tactical game, though it’s fun to blow off some team in style of game from time to time. IIIFonic did a great job with this game, I just feel that the Xbox Live Arcade is not best suited for this style of game. Nexuiz can feel like it’s lacking a little polish in certain areas though, the loading screens aren’t well timed, meaning that you’ll hear various gun sounds in the background before it loads, as well as the ragdoll bodies acting very strange at times. If you want to take a break from Ghost Recon or Battlefield, Nexuiz strips the genre to its basics, and is well worth a look.