Nexuiz preview - a competitive arena-FPS for the modern era

Regenerating health? Cover? Iron sights? How about none of the above

No, we don’t know how to say the name of the game either. The story we heard from the developer Illfonic is that the creators of the original PC version wrote down a bunch of different names and chose Nexuiz specifically because they didn’t know how to pronounce it. The general consensus seems to be “Nex-us,” but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Nexuiz looks like an absolute blast... as long as you’re willing to forget the past five years of FPS gaming.

Though Nexuiz looks like a modern game, it plays a lot like older arena-based first-person shooters, with mutators, rocket jumping, and other classic mechanics taking center stage over cover and iron-sights. Nexuiz is a throw-back to the old days, with two teams of four battling in six team deathmatch maps and three capture the flag maps, all the while picking up interesting weapons to blow up their enemies with. If that doesn’t sound all that unique, that’s because it isn’t – where Nexuiz shines is in its mutators, which completely change the game.

And we’re not throwing around “change the game” as a hyperbole, that’s actually exactly what mutators do. There are over 100 in Nexuiz, split up into three categories: personal, team, and global. Each changes the rules a bit, slowing down time, making it so headshots are instant kills, switching everyone into third-person mode, unlocking incredibly powerful abilities, or doing one of 96 other things. In other FPS, these mutators would be assigned before the game begins, but in Nexuiz they are picked up in the levels and activated on the fly, shifting the flow of the combat every few seconds.

On one occasion we picked up a mutator that warped the entire enemy team to our location, so we jumped off the edge of the map and turned it on, chalking up a few more kills for our team. Another time we unlocked one that turned our normal laser gun into a super weapon that shot a consistent beam of enemy-killing light. And then our allies turned activated one that desaturated the colors, making it harder to discern enemies from allies. And then someone turned on low gravity. Things get intense fast once the mutators start piling up, and the developers told us that we hadn’t even seen the zanier ones.

We were told that outside of the game, points accumulated for successful play can be spent to customize mutator loadouts, letting players tweak their chances towards getting better (or different) mutators on pickup. While you won’t be able to influence it that much, you might be able to put enough points into the Invulnerability mutator so that you’ll see it once a game, instead of once every few games. For competitive teams, it means a player could specialize in one type of mutators, increasing the chances that he would, for instance, get as many support mutators as possible, instead of finding random super weapons and enemy debuffs.

Nexuiz most certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, but for competitive FPS players looking for old-school flavor, it’s right on target. The price sounds appealing, too – the developers are shooting for $10 and an early 2012 release date for the game on PC, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network, giving hardcore FPS fans something to look forward to during Q1.

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