Today's shooter genre is dominated by blockbuster franchises and provides little room for new properties to develop. Alien Software managed to escape those problematic confines in 2005 when it released its free first-person shooter on the PC titled Nexuiz. Later in the game's lifespan, developer Illfonic took control over the title. As is the case with many other titles, the game eventually found its way onto other platforms with the new caveat of a purchase price. Released on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, and Steam, Nexuiz managed to make more of a name for itself. However, its bare bones approach still plagues the title and prevents it from gaining more widespread recognition.
Straight Up Arena Shooter - Exaggeration aside, Nexuiz is the fastest shooter that I have ever played. That is a compliment given the reputation of other arena shooters in the gaming community. If you have ever played Unreal Tournament or Quake 3, then you will find yourself right at home with this title. The premise is fairly simple. Two teams comprised of four (only three as of release) players each face off against one another as alien races in either team deathmatch or capture the flag modes. There is no single player content, which is certainly a detriment, but it seemingly allows for the fast-paced gameplay to occur. Being specifically a multiplayer title, its quick maneuvering comes as a pleasant surprise, especially with the slowdown issues seen in other franchises. It is further made possible by the bare bones approach used in regards to weapon selection and the game types. The player is able to move at a high level because there are not many confines being placed on the game itself. There are only nine weapons from which to choose, and the player must realize that this is a trade-off for the fast-paced nature of the game. The same goes for both the limited maps available and game types. Whether or not the player can accept these trade-offs will determine if the title is viewed as a success or failure.
Fitting Music - Nexuiz is the type of game that invokes feelings of intense emotion with its gameplay. The music of the game definitely contributes to this. The track heard on the main menu alone invokes an adrenaline rush as it makes use of an amped violin. This stylistic choice is well thought out and plays to an audience looking for outside the box thinking, especially as it pertains to music. Other tracks add to the fast-paced gameplay and leave you wanting more.
AN ONLINE MESS
Waiting....and Waiting - For a game that prides itself on offering an alternative in the multiplayer market, the game does an awful job of providing a consistent experience. More times than not, you will find yourself waiting for at least five minutes for the game to find other available players. Unlike other titles like Metal Gear Online where a match can start with only two people, a match in Nexuiz will not begin until at least six players have been found. I may have been able to forgive this hiccup to a greater extent if I was playing it months after its release. However, that is not the case as the game has only been available for a few weeks, and this inability to find players does not bode well for the title's future. Matters are further complicated by the inability to join a match in progress. This is a fundamental element available in almost any multiplayer shooter, and its lack of inclusion is completely unacceptable. Also of note is the game's inability to fully support eight players at its launch. Now, this is a problem Illfonic has promised to address, but its existence from the get-go is alarming since it does not encourage potential customers who are looking to try a new experience.
Difficulty Killed - Perhaps a multiplayer shooter's greatest strength is the ability for anyone to test his or her mettle against players from anywhere in the country. Nexuiz attempts to balance out the experience for casual players by including power-ups known as mutators. Now these mutators can reward kill streaks, which is acceptable to a certain extent but some of the mutators are over powered no matter the means used to obtain them. The other means are simply finding these mutators lying around the maps, which adds to the frustration. This in of itself requires no skill, and I found myself perplexed by the idea that a large portion of the multiplayer involves simple luck.
Nexuiz certainly provides an alternative in today's oversaturated shooter market. However, despite its premise the game fails to deliver with its most important aspect: the multiplayer component. While the action may be fast and at times fun, it is bogged by not only a lack of difficulty but by design choices in the matchmaking. These flaws are too big to be ignored and bring the overall quality of the game down significantly. If you are a gamer that appreciates the arena shooters of the past, then you just may be able to overlook these flaws. If instead you are looking for a new experience, either look elsewhere or wait for a price drop. As it stands, it is awfully difficult to recommend this title with its $10 price tag.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*