Nexuiz was developed by Illfonic and published by THQ. It was released on February 29, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Arena shooters are something of a lost art. To find a newly developed one is like finding money on the sidewalk: no matter how much is there you’re just happy to see it. But sometimes they miss the mark. The controls can be tight, the maps can be solid, the graphics can even be impressive, yet you turn delete the game from your drive and go back to one of your old staples.

Nexuiz is one of those. It’ll seem really enticing by its screenshots, but in the end there’s not much to keep you playing.

Here’s what we liked:

Tight controls – If ever there was a genre that needed twitch controls, it’s the arena shooter genre. Nexuiz delivers in that department, and does so in spades. Every jump, every shot, every strafe feels precise and fluid. Players will find that it’s much more comfortable than Quake Arena Arcade‘s controls, and those were pretty decent, too.

Online play – Those looking to regain their 2000’s can quickly do so by jumping into an online game. It feels like Unreal Tournament all over again while playing over a network. We found no issues with lag, though we were only able to play with a limited amount of players.

Mutators – Again drawing from Unreal Tournament the mutator system keeps the action frantic and constantly evolving. The mutators actually function more like runes from a Quake mod. They can be acquired during play and activated, rather than UT‘s style of selecting them before play. The tides can quickly change with the activation of a mutator, meaning each participant has an equal chance of both winning and getting hammered by opponents.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

That next-gen brown – Don’t let the screenshots fool you–everything you see here is muddled in that awful next-gen brown lighting. It feels like someone took lush, colorful environments and then put a sepia filter over the render. The result is that everything has an awful brown tinge, allies and enemies are difficult to see, and items are more difficult to discern. We’ve seen CryEngine 3 look much better. It’s unfortunate that the otherwise pretty levels get covered in a coat of next-gen mud.

The weapons – Not only do the weapons not look unique and distinct, it’s also difficult to discern what each one does when fired. Some weapons, such as the staple machine gun, are obvious, while others just spray a random blast of color. There aren’t any clear roles here: the shotgun, the rocket launcher, the sniper, etc. Visually the weapons are awful as well. Again roles aren’t distinct. None of them have that obvious “this is what this gun is” look. It’s a total guessing game when you pick up a weapon. Often you’ll just pick a random one and stick with it.

The musicThe music in Nexuiz is dull and uninspired. The psuedo-dubstep tunes seem like a desperate plea to fit in. We recommend muting it before firing up your first match. It’s annoying and doesn’t serve to increase the adrenaline levels; instead it increases your annoyance.

No splitscreen – We’re not sure why this wasn’t a blatantly obvious include, but there’s a market out there for a splitscreen arena shooter. Forget about having some couch or system link competition, you’re stuck being a loner. It’s one of the cardinal sins of shooters to omit it, the other being to omit bots. More on that next.

Bots – So some praise has to be given for the inclusion of bots. Bots were included. *yay* It doesn’t really matter though, they’re as dumb as a box of rocks. Seriously, the bots in Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 are smarter. In nearly every match we played bots would either get stuck on level geometry (often while carrying the flag), fall off a ledge while backtracking (again, usually with the flag) or some other pointless act.

No campaign/challenge mode – We weren’t looking for a soldier-out-to-save-the-world campaign, but some sort of ladder-based tournament would have been nice. Again, it’s the barest of barebones here, with only Xbox LIVE and bot matches available.

Muddy menus – Graphically the menus in Nexuiz aren’t awful, but they seriously lack the intuitiveness of just about every other shooter. Options are laid out in a multi-column, multi-row table where each one must be confirmed before moving on. They’re also seriously SDTV deficient. Yes, nearly every home has at least one HDTV nowadays, but the reality is that the 360 isn’t always hooked up to the family 50″. Often it’s tucked away in a den or bedroom, hooked up to the spare TV.

Those who know the roots of Nexuiz will understand why it just doesn’t feel right. The original game was created by weekend warriors and modders, and that’s exactly what this feels like. It lacks the creative direction and polish of a professional studio, and those are the things that refine a game into something more than a mod. If this were a free-to-play mod for Crysis we’d recommend it in a heartbeat, but for 800 MSP your money is better saved for something else. We’ll wait until CliffyB and the team at Epic Games wise up and decide to re-release Unreal Tournament on XBLA, thanks.

Score: Skip It!