Developer – Illfonic
Publisher – THQ
Platforms – PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Nexuiz is the latest game in a rich tradition of arena-based first-person shooters. Drawing on a rich heritage the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena, Nexuiz pits two teams against one another in Capture The Flag or the ever popular Team Deathmatch. I should point out now that this is a review of the latest commercial release by Illfonic Studios, the game has been around in various incarnations since 2005 when it ran on the DarkPlaces engine, a derivation of the classic Quake engine. For the commercial release, Illfonic are using CryEngine 3 and, to be honest, everything looks spectacular. So much so that I actually had to tone down the graphics to make the fast-paced action render at a playable speed.
The game is simple enough really, both modes are somewhat self-explanatory with my personal favourite being Capture The Flag. I have always preferred objective-based modes in FPS games and this is no exception. The game ships with maps dedicated to the two different modes with CTF maps taking a classic symmetrical approach to level design and the Team Deathmatch maps taking a 90s maze-like approach. Both maps draw heavily on using the Z-axis, that is to say fighting on multiple levels, which makes it very reminiscent of Unreal Tournament.
There really isn’t too much of a story. For an undisclosed but long period of time, the Kavussari and the Forsellians waged war on each other. In the time of the game they have a fragile truce but they now wage war in arenas for the entertainment of others. This is known as The Nexuiz Competition. That’s about it, there isn’t much time for exposition of multi-layered storytelling because you’re too busy fragging fools.
As I already mentioned, the game is split into two modes, Capture The Flag and Team Deathmatch, each with their own respective maps. The game can also be played both online and offline. Unfortunately I have found myself playing more offline than online because I found it hard to find players and other times my internet connection just decided to be a lag monster. When offline, the game is playable with bots who are OK but no substitution for real players.
The key feature of the game is its use of ‘Dynamic Mutators’, some of you may remember mutators from Unreal Tournament. Well in Nexuiz they act as pickups that allow you to choose from one of three effects. The range from the obvious Infinite Ammo and Invulnerability to the hilarious Bumper Cars and Out of Body Experience. Bumper Cars causes each player to bounce off each other should you come into contact and Out of Body Experience forces everyone into a third person view à la Gears of War. Some other fun mutators include random swapping of weapons, low gravity and slick, which causes players to drift around. This goes amazingly well with Bumper Cars.
Each map contains a variety of weapons, fan favourites like Shotguns, Rocket Launchers and Railguns all make an appearance alongside some more original weapons such as the Hagar that fires a stream of rockets and the Crylink that fires a stream of ice flavoured death. Alongside weapons, armour pickups are dotted around the map. Health packs are missing as it simply regenerates after a few seconds out of fire, which seems to be the common health mechanic of today.
The game setups are pretty modifiable, custom games allow you to dictate your choice of weapon spawns, time limits, score limits etc. I’m sure this will generate some fan-made types, I remember the fun days of rockets only deathmatch fondly.
As with any CryEngine game you know the graphics are going to be absolutely stunning and Nexuiz is no exception. The game is easily on par with Crysis 2. They both run the same engine but there’s also the blinding amounts of bloom, which is impressive but I started to find it a little annoying. The game also defaults to the motion blur that also featured prominently in Crysis 2. Unfortunately this motion blur only serves to give me a huge headache so I have to turn it off.
Aside from these two minor annoyances the game is insanely pretty. The game draws on some Victorian and almost Steampunk influences, but smashed together with an almost Tron-like abundance of neon colours. The particle effects on weapons are quite impressive too. Some maps have sand on the floor that crumbles when shot, which is a very nice touch.
The music suits the fast-paced action down to a tee and adds a nice depth to the atmosphere. The weapons mostly don’t sound that realistic because they aren’t real weapons. That sounds a bit stupid but don’t expect each weapon to have its own nuanced sound.
Nexuiz is possibly the most fun I’ve had in an FPS in recent years, not since Unreal Tournament 3 which was the last great arena-based shooter, you surely all know my hatred of modern army-based games by now if you’re a regular on this site. I do like a good complain about them. Nexuiz is everything I grew up with in FPS, it’s fast paced, super slick action just delivers the perfect amount of fun.