Nexuiz – The Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
I have a few love interests in my life. Among them are Transformers, copious amounts of food, and Sci-fi shooters. Nexuiz falls under that latter category. This new-ish FPS was redeveloped by IllFonic and published by THQ for Xbox Live Arcade; the original game was released in 2005 for the PC by Alientrap. I scooped up the title, waited for the download, and plunged into the shiny world of Nexuiz for some good old fashion shoot ‘em up action. Much to my dismay, however, I would soon find it to be a bumpy ride.
As soon as the game finished loading, I suffered a moment of confusion as I wondered if I had opened the right game. The opening splash screen gave the feeling of a casual puzzle game, with a purple background, and a shadowed overlay of Victorian-style black lace patterns adorned my screen. This was accompanied by a soft yellow menu text and the name and logo of the game in large letters. Nothing seemed threatening. There were no explosions, no blood, or even the slightest indication that the game was a shooter, let alone Science fiction. This is puzzling, since the original PC version had menus that fit the style. The color schemes kept cool blues and clean lines, like what you would see on a computer screen in the movies. You could tell it was a sci-fi title. Typically, developers want players to know what they are in for in a given game, and from the way this reboot looked, it seemed a tea party was in store. Hold onto your teacups folks, this is going to get crazy!
Once past the deceiving opening screen, players find themselves in the middle of a sci-fi universe and are given few choices. You can either go through your settings or enter a game. You will quickly notice that Nexuiz has no campaign, as it is meant to be a multi-player experience. The game gives you three modes. First, you can choose to play against bots in an offline match by yourself. Your other options are to play online against people around the world in either a death match style killing spree or a capture the flag style… well… killing spree.
The in-game options give you a lot of freedom not seen in many shooters. You are left with controller mapping at your fingertips, which is a huge plus for a shooter. You can also adjust your vertical and horizontal thumb stuck sensitivity separately, which is wonderful. After taking full advantage of the options menu I began running through the first map. I immediately found that Nexuiz plays a lot like the Unreal series. You cycle through your available weapons by pressing the Y and B buttons (or however you set them up), the death scenes are almost identical (your character falls over like a ragdoll being tossed on the floor), and movement feels more like floating, less like walking. This, however, makes sense as the original game was made on a modified version of the Unreal Engine.
This installment was made using the Crytek 3 Engine. As a result, the scenery is beautiful, not to mention eye-piercingly bright and shiny. Turning down the brightness helps a bit, but I found that some scenery was still a little hard to look at. Even the rocks in the outdoor levels had an unbelievable reflective sheen to them. Reflection problems aside, the game looks great and characters are very well designed. Cinematic scenes between matches give the game an intense feel, showing the blue and red teams pitted against each other.
Unfortunately, the painful art detach creeps back up. Some loading screens show that same purple Victorian styling with the yellow text. Though this time, cartoon symbols for the game’s power-ups are shown along with explanations of what each one does. Again the art styles clashed, and the lack of a singular style made itself known again. Every time that screen appeared there was an immediate detach from the immersion. After the screen had passed I was thrown back into the metallic, neon-colored, space-aged universe. You want to keep people engaged in the game, and this was not working. Visual consistency is what keeps people immersed. The slightest of changes can be very distracting, and can greatly affect moods. If you go sci-fi, please stick with the theme throughout.
On the audio end, the sounds of the game fit, but the music was a little lacking. Aside from sound effects of guns and the announcer droning about flag captures, there was hardly anything to be heard. Sometimes less is better, but it felt like you had to grasp for a little music. Music can relay a great deal of emotion; take the score of Halo, for example. Its music is award-winning and extremely well composed; it draws you deeper into the scenario, makes you feel like you are part of the game. Nexuiz had none of that. Players want to feel the threat of imminent danger of other players closing in. Even some deep ambient noise or random sound effects would have heightened the senses in Nexuiz and pulled players further into the game, but alas, nothing showed up.
Online multiplayer was enjoyable for the most part, though matches sometimes felt very one-sided. There is no ranking system, so you can easily find yourself matched with people who have been playing much longer than you, or who are more skilled. Some games turned out very lopsided, pitting four players against two instead of three on three. On the other hand, weapon damage and shield pickups were all very well-balanced. It never seemed like one team had an advantage over the other when it came to shield locations and weapon placement (even though teams were uneven), which is a problem many online games face today.
Nexuiz is fun, but has some very basic design flaws. The menus need to be reworked; currently, they seem like a huge placeholder. With the following the original title developed, the game has no problem being a success and spawning DLC or sequels. However, to encourage new players to join, the simple things need to be fixed. For the low price of 800 Microsoft Points ($10) it is worth the purchase as a casual shooter. The potential is there, it just needs to be achieved.
Nexuiz receives a 3.75/5.0
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