A real-life cry of anguish is heard from down the hall, where my floormate has just had to click to respawn. I smile, and run off to look for more prey.
That's the feeling that made playing Quake 2 so magical back in the day, and Nexuiz is a direct descendant of that line. It was originally an open source shooter based off of the Quake engine, and developer IllFonic has now remade the game in CryEngine 3, set for release on Xbox Live Arcade next month. And though the Microsoft booth at CES 2012 is a long way away from my dorm room in both space and time, just a few minutes of gameplay pointed me right back to that formative experience.
Obviously, running on the CryEngine means Nexuiz looks a lot better than Quake 2. But even that series' aesthetic has come along for the ride, with intricate wall fixtures and tons of gratuitous textures and reflections placed on maps full of ramps and teleports. Lines of shield powerups and the game's nine different weapons are placed judiciously, so that as you fly around the map, you're constantly picking up things and glancing for an opponent running past.
Nexuiz's big innovation (though even this idea borrows from other big-arena FPS games such as Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena) is mutators, which are special powerups that can be picked up an activated at will. There are more than 100 different mutators in the game, and while they can serve as standard powers like extra damage or temporarily invulnerability, they very quickly tend toward the weird and/or wonderful. One can turn off gravity for your character, another will summon minions to fight for you, and others will let you see through walls or even switch places with the enemy team.
Unfortunately, Quake 2 and its ilk are unapologetically twitch shooters, and Nexuiz holds that line -- if you like your first-person shooters tactical and realistic, this one's not for you. Playing the game with a controller also causes some problems; while the sensitivity can (and probably will) be turned up, moving a thumbstick around can't really compare to flicking a mouse when things are moving so quickly. And lag could be an issue online as well when things are this tightly wound, but the CES build understandably had some network obstacles to overcome.