It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good quality arena shooter, hasn’t it? In fact, the last one we can recall was Quake Arena Arcade for Xbox Live Arcade, a game that was poorly marketed but still looked pretty damn good for a years-old game rebuffed for the high-definition era. Well, good news for those of you who were looking for new territory to cover. THQ has finally released Nexuiz (pronounced Nex-uss), a project that’s been in the works for some time over at Illfonic Studios, and, for the most part, it lives up to the hype.
The game features a full-blown arena battle between the Kavussari and the Forsellians, who have been tearing each other a new one for centuries. Their battle looks far from over, but someone looks to take advantage and sets up arena battles for the two parties, where others can tune in and watch frag after frag. The plot isn’t the greatest, but, really, coming to this game for a plot would be like going to Leisure Suit Larry for dating advice.
Nexuiz only features two main modes – capture the flag and team deathmatch – and while that may be disappointing for those expecting the next Modern Warfare 3 layout, it’s more than suitable considering what Illfonic Studios was originally shooting for in concept. This is a frantic first-person arena shooter, one loaded with everything from multi-tiered levels where you can drop through floors to jump pads that launch you in the air, putting you right back at square one as you hunt for opponents. There are nine maps in all, not a bad selection considering the game’s downloadable origins.
But there’s more to Nexuiz than that. In addition to a multitude of weapons ranging from the rocket launcher to the pulse rifle, it also comes with one neat quirk known as mutators. These little buggers can change the tide of a match rather quickly, either giving you a wondrous advantage or putting you in an awkward position to get fragged something fierce. These include perks that range from invincibility and infinite ammo, to setbacks like jumping around on a virtual pogo stick or suffering color blindness, unable to tell your teammates from your opponents, save for when you’re targeting them – which could be too late. These add a genuine unpredictability to each match, something earlier arena shooters easily could’ve used.
The game features strong online support for multiple players, and only a couple of times did we experience any sort of disconnection. The matches run smoothly enough to keep you coming back to the lobby, and the additional mutators you can unlock add incentive. If you’re a solo player, there’s no need to worry. You can also play against bots to practice up in the game, though they do react a little bit on the dull side. Time to crank up the difficulty.
While Nexuiz isn’t the best first-person shooter we’ve seen, Illfonic pays fine tribute to the older games that inspired them with richly detailed maps, great environmental tricks (the speeding trains in one stage are pretty awesome) and cool lighting, particularly on the weapons. The menu system is fairly easy to navigate as well. The music isn’t particularly amazing, but it doesn’t get on your nerves easily either. The sound effects are typical for first-person shooter territory, but that just means fans will be right at home with it.
If you haven’t played Unreal Tournament in a while or are just itching to get some kills within an enclosed environment where snipers won’t cheaply pick you off, Nexuiz just might be the game for you. What the game lacks in maps and modes, it refills with solidly grounded gameplay and sweet mutators that can change the course of a match. The fact you can go solo until you’re ready to fight online is a positive as well. Kudos, Illfonic…now, how about some more DLC-related maps?
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]