Dinosaurs versus Space Marines… Do I have your attention yet? Natural Selection 2 is a multiplayer only FPS game that is exactly that. Two asymmetrical teams face off for complete map control and obliteration of one another in a collection of space themed maps. You can either spawn as a human or alien in an effort to rid the location of your enemies while collecting resources to fuel research upgrades.

Multiplayer

This game does not have a single player campaign at all, making the entirety of the development focused on multiplayer, and it shows. It is an extremely polished game with a steep learning curve. You will be rewarded for dumping hours into the game simply by having more experience than your opponent. You rookies out there will be safe from these hardcore veterans by queuing into Rookie-Friendly servers where people are actively helping you learn the game.

While many games are moving to extremely fast time-to-kill styled mechanics, NS2 is moving in the opposite direction with an extreme focus on teamwork. This is not a game where a single player can carry you to victory. This isn’t even a game where a single person can take down two opponents without a gratuitous serving of luck. Everything is designed to be attacked in squads or packs where you can communicate and concentrate your fire on a specific enemy. If you aren’t amazing at the typical twitch shooters and prefer gunplay in the style of older Halo games or Supreme Commander, you might want to look into Natural Selection 2.

Additionally, NS2 offers a feature that is only just beginning to creep into bigger titles like Battlefield 4: a Commander role. If you aren’t the best shot on the team, maybe you’d like to try your hand at a top-down RTS style role where you can set waypoints, drop supplies, or even heal and armor your squad in real-time. Make sure you’re working on upgrading your weaponry, armor, and devices while you’re at it though. This is truly real-time commander gameplay.

Gameplay

Natural Selection 2 is a perfect game for people transitioning to PC gaming. Playing as the aliens (known as Kharaa) grants you certain abilities that are typical in other games, while playing as the marines will allow you to practice aiming and shooting with a mouse and keyboard. Let’s cover both sides and figure out which one you’re most suited for, based on their key features.

First, the marines are pretty cookie-cutter in terms of their builds. Grab a gun and go shoot something in the face! But in all seriousness, the marines are a great team choice for people looking to learn how to aim and play FPS games on the PC; guns have no recoil and will allow you to learn proper gunplay without pesky variances. There are a few upgrades and weaponry choices you can get your hands on if your commander dumps resources into them. At base level, you’ll spawn in with a fully automatic assault rifle, a semiautomatic pistol, and an axe. The shotgun is a beast for all close quarter engagements, the grenade launcher is great for attacking the command post when you find one with limited reinforcements, and the flamethrower will wreak havoc on spreading infestation from the Kharaa. Make sure you utilize the jetpack to navigate to the fight or away from danger. There are a few more features for the space marines that I won’t spoil for you; you’ll have to check it out yourself.

The Kharaa are much less predictable in their behavior than the marines, but open up the possibility for some interesting possibilities when grouped together. The lowest level alien is known as a Skulk, which has the inherent ability to run up the walls and ceilings, allowing you to ambush a lone marine running from battle for an easy kill. The team medic is known as a Gorge and can heal nearby teammates and structures, as well as corrode some of the armor plating on marine structures. Don’t expect to have a snowball’s chance in Hell if confronted in head-to-head battle, you’re only a support player at that point. Is flying and drive-by attacking more your style? Well the Lerk is for you! You can zip around the map, over deep chasms, and drop little bombs on marines wrapped up in battle with your ground troops for some easy kills and damage. The final two alien forms are even more fun and awe-inspiring, so I’ll leave them to you to discover on your own. Just be aware, the Onos is amazing!

I already covered the unique gameplay of the commander, so I won’t mention it again, but it is an awesome mechanic that I’d love to see introduced in more games. Having some active eyes in the sky instead of the poorly written AI of other games in a huge boost if they know what they’re doing. On the other hand, it can be detrimental if you have a bad commander.

Steam also offers Workshop compatibility with Natural Selection 2, allowing the community to implement more and more content. I’ve seen servers with additional tools, unique indicators, and even new skins. There are some servers with custom game modes and user made maps, complete with everything the developers would have included in their own creations.

Graphics

Graphics are always important to the experience of a game and NS2 doesn’t skimp on this feature. The maps are extremely diverse ranging from a cave system that must have been used for mining on a frontier planet, to a space station that is under attack and needs to be defended/captured (depending on what team you’re on), and offer a wide variety of experiences each time you load up the game. The maps are also dynamic, constantly changing as the Kharaa take over more and more of the areas. The marines can combat this and push it back with a variety of methods, but the damage to the map has already happened by then.

The aliens all have very unique forms that make it easy to tell them apart in a split-second. The skulk looks nothing like the Lerk and you can tell that immediately. This isn’t the case with the marines, who share a collection of three or four different skins. But then, they’re designed to be modular parts, easily replaced as they die so I can forgive this lack of detail. The weaponry makes up for the boring skin design of the marines, with each gun type looking and functioning differently from one another.

All in all, the visuals and aesthetics are well, if uninspired. I enjoyed them but they were all very familiar with slight twists. You won’t be disappointed, but you won’t be awe-inspired.

Music/Sound

As important as sound is to a game, NS2 is about as run of the mill as they come. There is nothing glaringly bad about the background music or the sound effects, but there is nothing that’d make you want to get the soundtrack. The music is pretty typical and you don’t often hear it because of the constant sound effects and communication with your teammates. The sound effects are one-and-done, meaning every gun makes one kind of sound and you can expect it to be repeated ad nauseam until you die, rinse, and repeat.

Even the alien sounds are boring after one game. Every Skulk makes the same sound on every attack, which can get really irritating if you’re attacking a power source by yourself and that’s the only game sound you hear. I play with the sound effects turned down low because of this and there isn’t much of a change to the game. Be aware that this is a solid option for those that don’t crave entire immersion.

One bit of sound that NS2 does extremely well, however, is their voice chat. I never felt the need to invite my team to a TeamSpeak server or start up a Skype call to have decent VOIP. This bit of quality saves the otherwise lackluster sound aspect of the game and should be emulated by other developers utilizing voice chat in their games.

Natural Selection 2 Review
Natural Selection 2 is a very fun game that often flies under the radar of most people. The gunplay and alien battle mechanics are solid, with a learning curve that may be discouraging at first, but gratifying to master. With interesting and dynamic visuals, supplemented by the Steam Workshop, the games always look good regardless of which team you play on. The sound is lacking, but excellent VOIP makes for easy communication with your team to pummel your enemy. And one more time… Marines… versus Dinosaurs… in space!
The Good
  • Fun gameplay with steep learning curve
  • Unique style combination of FPS and RTS
  • Excellent built-in VOIP
The Bad
  • Sound effects are boring and repetitive
  • No story and no idea how this situation developed
  • Games are always long, so don’t expect to make this a quick session
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

Matt Somerville

Matt grew up gaming from a early age, just soaking in the whole experience of it. Now he works as a Biomedical Engineer while maintaining a personal YouTube channel dedicated to gaming and science at http://www.youtube.com/passthepi.

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