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Genre: Action
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 200 MB    Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit, 16 MB VRAM

May 12, 2006 | David Markowitz

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A satisfying frag
With the popularity of Unreal Tournament and Quake (not to mention a slew of other popular titles such as Halo, Battlefield 1942, Doom 3, Counter-Strike, etc.), creating a new first person shooter that can compete in graphics, sound, scope, and just the plain thrill of blowing your opponents' heads into tiny little pieces is a huge undertaking. And making the game over the internet with minimal budget under the General Public License (GPL) raises this challenge to staggering heights. Yet the group of designers, artists, and programmers calling themselves Alientrap have done just that.

Nexuiz is a first person sci-fi (non-realistic) type shooter that, as the Nexuiz readme puts it, focuses on bringing deathmatch back to the basics. It's based on an advanced version of the Quake 1 engine called Darkplaces, and while it doesn't have the detail of the latest games, it certainly looks and feels more advanced (and of course requires a more powerful computer) than a shooter from ten years ago. It's probably more at the level of Quake 2 with some of the more advanced lighting and effects features of today's games. But what separates this game from most currently developed shooter games out there is that it costs…nothing! The team does ask for donations to continue development, but because it's developed under the GPL, the game is freely playable, modifiable, and distributable (among other free projects). How can you beat that?

However, while Nexuiz is easy enough to download (version 1.5 for Mac, Windows, and Linux versions are all in the same 180 MB zip file) and play on most of the computers out there (it only requires a minimum 800 MHz processor with 256 MB RAM and a Geforce video card for low end game settings), it does have its drawbacks. It's still not highly known, so finding people to play with is difficult (though maybe this article will change that), performance often takes a hit during high activity situations, some audio and visual effects could be a bit better, and the interface could use the help of a good UI designer.

Frantic Fragging
Nexuiz is nothing if not fast paced. The 20 or so maps are fairly small (for 3-6 players, though there are a few designed for more) with lots of weapons, health, ammo, and other placed goodies. They largely feel like Unreal Tournament (the original) and Quake 3 maps in their layouts and types of textures used, so people who played those games should feel comfortable in Nexuiz. Players are constantly moving and shooting (assuming you have at least three to four people on the server), so the action is fairly constant.

Most of the game modes are pretty standard: Deathmatch, Team DM, Domination, Last Man Standing, and Capture the Flag. There's one more mode, though, that's somewhat unique. It's called Rune Match, and it's sort of like a cross between Kill the Guy with the Ball (in which you rack up points by holding the ball as long as possible) and the Unreal Tournament Relics (items that you can pick up that add bonuses). In this mode, Runes have both positive and negative effects to your performance, and the longer you hold them, the more points you acquire.

Like the modes, the nine different weapons are mostly standard (shotgun, grenade launcher, machine gun, etc.), with some unique ideas. Strangely enough, while some of the weapons have two firing modes, some only have one. My favorite weapon is the missile launcher (as it often is with most shooter games): it's got a slow reload time and projectile speed, but the damage is very high, and it just gives me that nice warm fuzzy feeling inside watching my missile blow an opponent to bits. One thing I did noticed was that the weapons didn't really feel like they gave a good punch. By the same token, I often didn't really feel the power or danger of being hit. Other than the health counter and a brief red flash (and sometimes getting knocked around by a big explosion), neither of which really drew my attention, I often didn't realize I was dying until I fell over sideways. Better visual and/or sound effects for some of the weapons might help on these two issues.

A couple of unique gameplay bits differentiate Nexuiz from other shooters. The health regenerates and degenerates toward 100 fairly quickly, and any health pack can be picked up at any time. And even more unusual, there is a grappling hook (part of the standard controls, not an item you pick up) that players can use to pull themselves up or toward a wall, thus allowing them to move to distant or out of reach areas fairly quickly.


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