Multiplayer first-person shooters were a
different kind of beast back in the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament. There were no fancy class load-outs,
weapon attachments, or perks, just your knowledge of the arena, weapon spawns and
a whole lot of circle strafing. Arena shooters were all about getting the
biggest gun and causing as much mayhem you could before the opposing team got a
lucky shot in. Nexuiz brings back that old school feeling with solid classic
gameplay elements and interesting modifications that literally change the way
the game is played. That's the beginning and end of it, pretty much.
Nexuiz is an arena shooter
through and through. Originally released for the PC in 2005 (and last updated in 2009), the remade Quake mod delivers everything you would expect in
terms of gameplay in this Xbox Live Arcade re-polish. Matches are four-on-four team deathmatch or capture the flag
where each team starts off on symmetrical arena maps. Weapons are spread out in
specified locations making the name of the game memorizing the locations of the
best power-ups and weapons, getting to them immediately and delivering rockets
to people’s faces.
Most weapons feature primary
and secondary firing modes with some having short and long range options or
bouncing projectiles. For example, the standard shotgun shoots the usual spread
shot with a press of the right trigger and secondary shoots a single slug by
pulling the left trigger.
This ability to instantly
have access to the secondary fire makes each gun a bit more versatile than you
might initially expect. Effectively using a combination of primary and
secondary firing options can give the opposing team some trouble. We
particularly enjoyed using the rocket launcher, which has the ability to
detonate a rocket in mid-air, and exploding projectiles near enemies who were
hiding behind cover. Other weapons bounce energy blasts, or grenades off walls
and around cover, detonate on impact or unleash a spread of gunfire in one
shot. There is definitely a decent variety of weapons and fun ways to kill the
opposing team, but the entire experience can get tiresome in the long run,
especially with only two gameplay modes.
But Nexuiz does mix up the
gameplay with power-ups called Dynamic Mutators. These act like instant mods
which are activated by players and disappear after a short time. The mutators
can affect the player alone, the player’s team, the opposing team, or everyone
in the match. Some of them are as simple as a bonus to armor or damage, but the best ones really throw a monkeywrench into the action.
Once a player picks up the
Dynamic Mutator item on the map, three random mutators will be available to
activate. These can be anything from wackier effects like having low gravity
across the map or equipping everyone with jetpacks to more strategic modifiers like freezing the flag in a block of ice or leaving a weapon locker at your
spawn point. There are over 100 different mutators that seem to randomly drop as players activate them. Having so many unexpected variables popping
in to the game never becomes an annoyance but rather makes each match feel
different from the last. And honestly, it's the biggest standout.
The map layouts work well
for four-on-four arena matches. They are always small enough that you will
always be able to find the action but never too small where it would create
complete chaos. Each is outfitted with various spring and launch platforms that
will bounce you to higher levels or shoot you across the map. They make for a
great way to traverse the stage and can either make you a wide open target or
set you up for some fantastical aerial kills. However, the environments are about as fresh as Unreal Tournament 2003. They either fall under bland outdoor environments
set in overgrown ruins or generic, Halo-esque alien structures. It's not "retro" in a good way.
Along with the environments,
the rest of the presentation is easily forgettable. The generic electronic beats certainly best a silent menu, but do nothing to enhance the experience while you're trying not to become hamburger. The sound effects altogether
fall flat. Explosions are hardly audible and the gunfire from the alien weapons
has no significance whatsoever.
Nexuiz is good for a visit
back to the days of the arena shooter and at 800 MS Points, it’s a fun diversion from today's XP-grinding shooters. The
gameplay is solid, and can keep you and some friends entertained for a few hours, but ultimately, there's not much left to it after you've seen all of the Mutators. It's hard to forget that even after the numerous PC updates, you're playing a nearly seven year-old game, and after a few hours, it feels that way. If you are looking to take a trip back to the glory days
of Quake mods, Nexuiz is what you are looking for. Just don’t expect to stay