Quake mod Nexuiz (pronounced "nexus") is so heavily modified that it's practically it's own game. It has been for years, since 2005, with a modified Quake Engine, completely overhauled weapons, but the same fast-paced gameplay. Someone at THQ must have been fond of the PC mod, because not only is it making a big comeback, it's coming back stacked.
Nexuiz, the new one that is, is a multiplayer-only XBLA title that looks and feels completely different from the original. It's not quite as fast, due mostly to the slower speed of its CryEngine 3 tech (more delicious screenshots here), but several key improvements have been made to overhaul the previously simplistic gameplay and give it more life.
The major change is mutators. The new Nexuiz includes exactly 100 mutators such as jetpacks, triple-armor, double ammo-pickups, instakills, pogo sticks (where all players bounce repeatedly), inverted controls, etc. There are three basic types of mutators: Individual, team, and game-wide. Individual mutators may be special weapons not available on pickup or increased abilities. Team mutators can either boost the entire team with larger ammo drops or increased speed, or can cripple the other team, say, by inverting the controls.
All of Nexuiz's nine included levels have also been either completely remade or are brand new. I played two, Tension and Refinery, and the gameplay varied wildly between them. Tension is a larger, more angular map with skinny hallways and narrow paths while Refinery is a giant room that is tall yet circular; it's essentially one big space with a few closed-off halls.
Nexuiz is a 6-8 player game only, so if you have four players or want a bigger party, the game won't support it. Individuals can play alone with bots, but online play does not support using bots. The smaller size is conducive to fast-paced gaming, though even six players feels like too few. On Refinery I played a six-player game, and because of the size of the map it was sometimes more than a minute before I found someone to shoot.
What's most noticeable about gameplay isn't how it feels like Quake, but rather getting into that hardcore zen that pro-gamers talk about when they make those famous comebacks. Nexuiz gives all players the opportunity to level the playing field even if all hope appears lost—all it takes is a good mutator and a steady trigger finger. So many recent multiplayer games try to keep gameplay as even as possible, with everyone having access to roughly the same tools and weapons. Nexiuz works on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you get to the mutator respawn first, you get the bonus.
Stat hounds can rejoice, because Nexuiz features around 180 different stats. They include everything from kill/death ratios to pogo jumps per match. Scrolling through the long list in the postgame lobby is a bit ludicrous, and says a lot about the games statistical depth.
Microsoft hasn't officially announced Nexiuz's price. The game is set to release sometime during the Xbox Live House Party, which occurs from February 15 to March 14.
When he isn't writing about games, James Pikover plays with new cellphones and uses them as theft deterrent. You can follow him on twitter at @jamezrp.