Nexuiz has quite the lengthy history behind it. Starting life as a free first-person shooter in 2005, Nexuis has its entire basis as an online multiplayer game with a distinct sci-fi bent. This version, now available on Xbox Live Arcade, is a remake of the original with updated graphics and an updated pricetag. As a FPS it works wonderfully, but it’s perhaps both the formerly free nature and essentially being designed as multiplayer-only which will cause a lot of internal conflict for those who are contemplating buying this version.
The action of Nexuiz is wrapped around a pretty thin premise – two warring races have decided to duke it out with weapons in a televised competition. Of course, it’s not that hard to pick up on it, as all of the story is explained within the brief intro movie, and it’s really negligible anyway. This was never going to be a game played for story – it’s all about shooting action, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this context.
With the ‘story’ out of the way, players find themselves tasked with playing as either the red or blue side. Though they’re meant to be different races, there’s no real difference in their abilities – and it’s perhaps this lack of difference and potential development which will be a sore point for many. No matter how many kills you rack up, or the style and panache you blow the bad guys away with, the only thing you get out of it is bragging rights. There’s no way to develop a single player character through stat building, new weapons or abilities. Even though there is an offline mode for single players, it’s really more of a training mode to get people prepped for online skirmishes. There’s no real difference other than whether or not you’re playing against all humans or all bots. But when you do start cutting your virtual teeth in the online arena, the game’s appeal and origins shine through.
Every player starts off with a shotgun that has infinite bullets, and while you have nine other weapons at your disposal, it remains one of the more dependable items in your arsenal. You’ll also get your hands on the usual shooter fare, such as a rocket launcher, sniper rifle and machine gun. Each of the weapons also has a secondary function – for example, your trusty shotgun has its usual burst spreading fire as its standard function, which is great for enemies close up, while it can also fire a more focused blast which is better for picking off enemies at a distance.
The unpredictability of the secondary functions is amplified by the highly varied amount of mutators in the game. The items basically bring about drastic changes to the gameplay, which can affect one or more players for better or worse. There are mutators which make everyone jump around like pogo sticks, explode upon their deaths, equip everyone with every weapon, take damage after jumping and falling from height, and even turn the screen black and white, making it harder to distinguish between friend and foe. The landscape is littered with them, and combined with the jump pads and secondary weapon fuctions, it makes for a very fast-paced skirmish which is about lightning quick kills and firing at everything in sight rather tha pitch-perfect accuracy. However, this is only played out across two game modes – the standard deathmatch and capture the flag. It all adds up to being the kind of game that is great for quick bursts, and fun with some friends, but in terms of long-term potential it really is lacking in a market filled with other kinds of shooters. The original had the capability for many different mods, but in XBLA form this isn’t the case.
One area that this version of Nexuiz does trump the original in is its visuals. The game has been given a new coat of digital paint, and it really is better for it. Light and shadow effects are truly a treat to behold, and the particle effects of weapons and mutators are a real visual treat in their own right. Visuals for Nexuiz are superb for a downloadable title, and stack up well against fully-fledged console titles.
Nexuiz excels in its execution – it’s unapologetic in being a frantically-paced first person shooter that lives and dies on its multiplayer and the insanity of mutators, focused and fine-tuned to the highest degree. But as a console title, Nexuiz both lives and dies by its goal – eschewing single-player and having no kind of developmental or attribute building structure in place. This may leave some players feeling like they should have got more out of their hard-earned points, especially if they lack the multitude of like-minded friends which make the core multiplayer experience of Nexuiz all the fun it can be.