Natural Selection 2 is a title that was ten years in the making by developer Unknown Worlds. Ever since the first release back in 2002, the concept of a PvP style game that wasn't just space marines blowing each other apart has intrigued people. Undoubtedly drawing inspiration from both Starcraft and Alien vs. Predator, Natural Selection 2 is quite possibly one of the most unique shooters to date (that's not really saying much with shooters though).
The premise of the game is quite simple. Your objective is to beat the enemy team so badly that when the match is over and they're lying in a fetal position on the floor, you'll be able to crouch over them and drop your tadpole purse on their faces with knowledge that you deserve to do this. One part real-time strategy & another part shooter, it's a game mash-up that looks insanely good on paper. One race is a bunch of melee dependent animals that rely on speed and numbers to beat their opponents. The other are a bunch of ranged space marines who get some really cool gadgets to fight off their enemies. It's the ultimate showdown that I only have one question about: Will it blend?
I Make the Rules Because I'm in Command - Let me explain how the commander position works. One player is in charge of resource management for the team. They set up buildings and buy upgrades to help their peons. It's similar to how StarCraft plays with one major exception. The commander has no direct control over his soldiers. Each warrior in the commander's army is an individual player. With the right players, this is a winning combination as it let's the commander focus on conquest instead of micro management.
(Mostly)Balanced Combat - If one were to remove themselves from the fight and simply observe what's going on, a match with equally skilled players on both sides looks breathtaking. Watching a lone marine get backed into a wall as a bunch of skulks (primary infantry unit for the aliens) close in is as beautiful as a marine with a flame thrower clearing out a hive. It's captures the beauty of the famous Aliens series made it into a game. You really won't see a better representation of man versus animal than this title.
It's.... Beautiful - As the game goes on, the level will change to fit whichever side is winning. If the aliens are winning, the level will be mostly covered in this strange substance that makes the level look like an alien home world. Conversely, if the marines are winning, the level will continue to look like a typical sci-fi space station. While this might not seem like much, running down a floral corridor as you push into the human scum's main base just feels right.
Ooh, Creepy - I try to avoid playing the marines as much as possible, because it's damn creepy to be them. You don't really realize it playing the aliens, but they are the embodiment of fear. It doesn't help that the complete lack of a soundtrack means that when you hear those buggers in the vents, you're going to poop yourself.
Speaking of No Soundtrack - Sound can be good for two purposes. Either it can be that sweet soundtrack that makes that boss fight feel so good, or it can be the sound effects. Opting out of heavy metal guitar riffs and overdone dubstep, Natural Selection 2 likes to keep it natural. No music means you hear everything that's going on around you, and it sounds amazing.
I Pick Marine Because I Don't Know What Skill is - The first and largest problem I came across with the game stems from the selling factor, the factions' differences. I enjoy playing aliens personally, but the marines initially have a huge advantage on new players. This advantage comes from the fact that players on the marines side are literally playing an FPS. They don't have to learn too many tricky controls. Additionally, in most cases a new marine player will kill a new alien player. This problem disappears the more you play, but it's frustrating for new players.
Remember That “Mostly” Balanced Combat Part? - Nothing is without imbalances, and this game is no exception. For example, the Onos (the alien's strongest unit), if spawned early enough by a commander, can completely halt the marine's progression and buy the commander enough time to win the game. Conversely, aliens stick out further than their vision lets them see. Players can sometimes be shot out of position without realizing they were poking out at all. While these are mostly minor, I don't exactly enjoy having to compensate for balance issues.
It's Destroying My Computer - Not necessarily a complaint, but this game will eat your computer alive. As it stands, I’m running an Asus Republic of gamer. Even at a year and a half in age, it’s running an i7 with a Geforce GTX 460m (as well as 8GBs DDR3 RAM), and the game is still asking for more from it.. My wife, who also has an amazing laptop had to cut the resolution drastically, and another friend had the game at 512x384 just to keep it at 12 frames per second. Be careful. Your granny's eMachine isn't handling this game.
About Those Controls... - As I mentioned in a previous complaint, marines will have little to no issue figuring out how to play. Aliens on the other hand can climb walls, fly, and cause general havoc. The controls are solid enough, but take a long time to get used to. Even then, tactics that some alien players need to conquer can take far too long to master.
I’m quite fond of Natural Selection 2. It’s one of those titles that I get along with because it factors fun before everything else. It’s a new take on the FPS genre that works well. Sure I may not like the initial imbalances that favors marines, or the clunky controls, but those are minor complaints. If you have $25 laying around and a decent rig, I suggest to pick it if yo8u're already tired of the major AAA releases this holiday season.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the devloper.*