March 7, 2012 by Paul Curtin
With yearly installments to slower-paced modern day shooters, it’s a damn shame that the once dominant arena twitch shooter genre is now becoming extinct. Being a huge fan of both Unreal Tournament and Quake, like many others I’ve been dying for a new fast-paced futuristic shooter ever since playing 2008’s Unreal Tournament III to death with friends on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Enter Nexuiz, a downloadable remake of a popular fan-made free Quake mod and a throwback to a generation of hyper speed arena shooters using one of the most powerful and best looking graphics engines ever, CryEngine 3. So is Nexuiz enough to revive the genre and help get twitch fans by until the next Unreal or Quake, or is it not even worth the $10 price tag?
As a huge fan of Unreal Tournament, Quake, and Tribes, I had surprisingly never heard of the original Nexuiz, an open-source and free-to-play twitch shooter released back in 2005 that ran off a modified version of the Quake engine. With Epic Games proving that console ports of arena shooters can still work with 2008’s Unreal Tournament III being ported from PC to Xbox 360 and PS3, I was hyped for Nexuiz’s comeback using the same engine that powered Crysis 2 (CryEngine 3) but with only a $10 price tag. Unfortunately, like with most things, with Nexuiz you get what you pay for.
Similar to the original Unreal Tournament, Nexuiz has an irrelevant story told in a quick one-minute intro that explains two warring factions (the Kavussari and the Forsellians) in a futuristic world are taking each other on in televised combat. Since it’s a $10 multiplayer-only twitch shooter, players should just be happy that its backstory even has that much detail. Regardless, players will still be upset to find that they can’t even customize their characters and are stuck playing as a generic red or blue armored soldier with zero personality.
Nexuiz’s unique twist is how the developers have implemented hundreds of Mutators into the gameplay. For those unfamiliar with what a “Mutator” is, quite simply, it’s any weird effect that can be turned on to alter and mutate gameplay. The idea of Mutators isn’t new and has been used many times before: one shot kills, slow-motion, low gravity, big heads, etc. But where other games used Mutators just as an added bonus setting that players could turn on and off before matches, Nexuiz allows players to be granted the ability to turn on random Mutators in the middle of gameplay after getting kills, grabbing flags, or just picking them up on the battlefield.
Mutator effects fall into three different categories: Individual, Team, and Global. Certain Mutators really do add new strategic events to the gameplay, like jetpacks that can allow players to quickly get to higher parts of the map and damage buffs that turn weaker weapons into weapons of mass destruction. Other Mutators are just silly, like turning gun sounds into fart noises or making a whale appear in the sky. And some are just plain annoying, like swapping bodies with other players, switching to inverted controls, and having the sound completely muted – which isn’t all that bad since the game’s repetitive loop of electronic noise it calls a soundtrack is just as annoying.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Mutators and the most fun I’ve ever had playing a game was turning on Low Gravity and the ability to slow down time for three seconds after each kill like the Matrix in UT3. So I can applaud developer Illfonic’s idea of using Mutator events as secondary power-up weapons to completely change gameplay. The problem is that with the Mario Kart-style random mutator slot system and so many different possibilities, it’s hard to know what you or your opponent is going to get, which isn’t exactly what you want when playing a smaller and more competitive 3-on-3 killfest.
Besides the Mutators gimmick, Nexuiz’s other big selling point is the fact that it’s “achieved” using Crytek’s CryEngine 3, the same engine used to power Crysis 2. Sadly, Nexuiz is probably the worst looking game to ever be sold using Crytek’s engine. The overall look of the game isn’t even close to the visually stunning Crysis games. The “Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated” is bland, most weapons are uninspiring attempts to copy guns from UT and Quake with secondary fire options that barely differ from the primary, and worst of all, the game maxes out at eight (six until the supposed patch) players per game and still has lag issues.
Unlike Unreal Tournament, which has always featured tons of modes on some of the most beautiful sci-fi maps ever created, Nexuiz features two team-based modes, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, that can be played on nine small maps to fit the
4 vs. 4 3 vs. 3 combat. Each map can only be used to play one of the two modes, which is stupid. I can understand not having CTF on some maps due to symmetry issues, but why not at least allow Deathmatch on every map? By having so few maps and limiting each mode to each map, it hurts the already bland game’s replayability.
At its core, Nexuiz is a decent shooter with solid controls and an interesting gimmick that unfortunately pales in comparison to a four-year-old Unreal Tournament III. It might be unfair to stack a $10 downloadable game against a full retail game, but when the four-year-old Unreal Tournament III is still superior in every way and you can buy it at your local game shop used for less than Nexuiz, it doesn’t make sense why anyone would rather play Nexuiz, a poor man’s Unreal that’s ironically currently more expensive. Nexuiz gets 2 out of 5 stars (Not Good).
- Mutators add an extra level of craziness to the already crazy genre
- Good looking graphics for a downloadable game
- Solid controls for a PC port
- The graphics still pale in comparison to Unreal Tournament 3 or anything else using CryEngine 3
- Mutators are a little too random and can be more annoying than fun
- Only nine maps with oversimplified, small level designs
- Only two modes: Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag
- 4 vs. 4 matches (currently 3 vs. 3 due to a bug) aren’t very exciting