In some ways, Nexuiz is a throwback to the days of popular arena-based multiplayer shooters like Unreal Tournament or Quake Arena. In some other small ways, it incorporates modern and expected features inspired by Call of Duty‘s perk system, though not in a traditional way. And while there’s nothing truly bad about this game, at the same time, the overall package is so standard that there’s nothing truly great about it either.
Although there is a brief intro cinematic shown upon start-up, detailing an extended war between two tribes, that’s pretty much it as far as any sort of narrative goes. Players are immediately given the option to play a practice match with AI bots as opponents or to go online. There, they are limited to two modes: Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.
The basic rules for these are the same as they’ve always been for what are now staples of first-person shooter multiplayer – Deathmatch boils down to whichever team can kill the other team the most, and Capture the Flag involves stealing an enemy’s flag and surviving the trip back to your own team’s base. There is little in the way of innovation and originality in either of these modes, and it may leave one wishing that the developers had come up with a new way of playing this kind of multiplayer to display as the game’s hook.
Instead, the main claim to fame Nexuiz has is what is called the Dynamic Mutators system. In many modern shooters, kills and victories earn experience points that level the player’s profile up and gradually unlock new abilities to give them an edge in the next round. While players do earn points and some superfluous medals that can be displayed in their profile in the matchmaking lobby, the aforementioned perks (known as mutators,) are partially available from the start. Along with standard items like armor and weapons scattered throughout the sci-fi arenas, certain pickups, when touched, will enable a temporary change in gameplay that may give the edge to one team. Then again, it might just mix things up for a little while. Players might temporarily find themselves with infinite ammo, faster bullet output, or even jetpacks.
Finally, players can spend the points they earn in a menu to influence how often or little certain mutators will appear, changing the odds so that their favorite ones may appear more and least favorites may appear less. It’s a neat idea, but rarely will you feel that these power-ups are truly putting a whole new spin on things. The perks are nice when you get them, but they’re gone in half a minute, and then you’re back to the same old shooter modes you’ve been playing for years.
In terms of ambiance, personality, and visual design, the game works in some areas better than it does in others. Its music and sound effects are a neat throwback in that they use a lot of fast-paced techno music. A deep-voiced announcer, who offers reminders about how much time is left and mentions players’ killing sprees, is also utilized. The in-game environments and player models offer a good amount of detail, and the bright, often neon-tinged levels are a nice alternative to the gritty brown maps that populate many other shooters. Character selection is rather disappointing, as there are only two avatar types (a red soldier or a blue soldier), with three variants that come down to little more than the same character wearing differing amounts of armor.
Nexuiz isn’t a bad game; it just happens to be a mediocre one, which suffers from the lack of an element that will set it apart from the mass of shooter titles already available. Two things it has going for it are its price and ease of purchase: It’s only $10 (or 800 Microsoft points), and will probably take less time to download and start-up than it would to go out and purchase the latest Call of Duty. The downloadable model is well-suited for a game like this, and there did seem to be a decent amount of people playing it. Maybe someday there will be a downloadable shooter that is both inexpensive and truly original, but for now, Nexuiz is an okay package of things you’ve probably seen before.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.