There’s some ridiculous fun to be had with Nexuiz but there’s also a question to be asked that I’ve been struggling to answer: when you can buy Unreal Tournament III for the same price, why choose Nexuiz instead? Both have barren online components, but excellent bot A.I. and that lovably frenetic always-moving FPS gameplay is superb in both games: the significant use of CryEngine 3 and the intriguing power-up concept are factors that should be taken into consideration, but the bare-bones amount of content and the lack of mods or keyboard/mouse support are where UT3 comes out top.
Nexuiz started life as an open-source fast-paced shooter on the PC that utilised a heavily modified version of the Quake engine and built itself a decent community and a stack of mods. This renovated console port strips away the community aspect and gives console owners Nexuiz Lite, a sleek and slim version that chooses glossy graphics over copious levels of content. The complete lack of a campaign severely limits the base level longevity of this game: the shiny opening cut-scene alludes to a plot but beyond the Start menu there’s nothing even remotely resembling a story present.
The matches don’t house within them the narratives that Illfonic would have you believe they may. You fight for either the Kavussari or Forsellian faction against the other and that’s about as far as the story is taken. Trust me: it’s all about the gameplay and it’s fast, furious and devilishly fun. It’s the kind of frenzied action that is as much a delight to watch as it is to play (if you can keep up with the pace) and the use of CryEngine 3 to make everything look particularly shiny and sublime plays no small part in making this game look the part too.
A key feature that may well be the hook for many is the use of ‘Dynamic Mutators’ that essentially act as timed power-ups which can be picked up as you race around the place and utilised at your discretion. A few can be active at the same time and with over a hundred to choose from – a mightily impressive number when you consider the minimalist customisation options that are otherwise present – there’s a whole load of ways each game of either Capture The Flag or Team Deathmatch can be altered and shaken up. Some power-ups affect you, some affect everyone: each pick-up gives you a choice between three random ones and if you have time to weigh up the current battlefield situation there’s a slight tactical element present.
Once you’ve honed your skills in the ‘Bot Training’ mode and you know your way around the nine arena maps and which of the eight weapons favours you best, you should be ready to face real-life opponents… if you’re lucky enough to find plenty to play against. The online section is a fairly barren place: thankfully the bot programming is strong enough to provide a decent challenge, and an ironic saving grace is that if you can round-up a few friends who also have the game – no local co-op I’m afraid – you can jump online and fill the small 4 vs. 4 size maps easily enough. These kind of fast-paced FPS games are made for a few friends to run riot in and Nexuiz looks to be no exception if you can round-up a posse; if not, I guess you’ll have to make do with up to seven other bots.
Nexuiz is ultimately distraction not alternative, an oh-so-pretty slim second string choice to the still superb Unreal Tournament III. No campaign, only a handful of maps tied to either one game mode or the other and a maximum of eight players really limits the appeal of Nexuiz. Were we to see this shiny new Nexuiz return home to the PC and opened up to a community with the capabilities to modify the hell out of it, we’d be getting the game this really should be. The 800 Microsoft Point price-tag is fair for a game that provides plenty of ‘one quick game’ potential but the fact of the matter is there’s bigger and debatably better out there.