Natural Selection 2 Review – Somebody got their FPS in my RTS!

Survival of the fittest -- can your team work together to win in this unique hybrid of FPS and RTS gameplay?
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Imagine if you were playing Starcraft II, and your units were actual players. Your marines scream to you, “Research stimpacks!” and “We need armor and weapons upgrades right now!” Some marines say to you, “We should expand!” while others claim it is time to attack the enemy base. Yet others say nothing, choosing instead to go it alone. But imagine this—somehow, it all comes together at the end of the day and your units build your base and launch coordinated attacks together.

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This is Natural Selection 2, a multiplayer-only unique RTS-FPS hybrid in which two teams of shooter players are led to victory and defeat by strategic commanders.

Asymmetric warfare

 NS2 features two teams—the conventional human Marines and their Alien counterparts. The Marines are futuristic space soldiers who wield rifles and shotguns, whereas the Aliens are made up of a variety of biting and clawing creatures ranging from the small, speedy Skulk to the monstrous Onos.

The early game has an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Aliens as the Marines stalk through dark corridors where the Aliens may be hiding in ambush. As each side progressively unlocks more technology such as Marine exosuits and advanced Alien creatures, each match becomes more action-packed and dynamic, though one side usually quickly gains an upper hand and dominates the match.

As a Marine or an Alien, you will run around the corridors killing each other and you’ll be heavily reliant on your commanders to give you upgrades and new weaponry. Frequently you will see “move”, “attack” and “build” waypoints put down as your commander orders you to different objectives, and these waypoints impart a strong sense of direction to gameplay because even if you are new to the game, you’ll know exactly where you need to go. Most players also use voice chat, which adds another level of coordination and teamwork.

Master and Commander

Probably the most interesting feature of Natural Selection 2 is the Commander mode (I admit, I have only experience as a Marine commander). In Commander Mode, a single player takes on the role of an RTS commander who tells his team where they will build the base structures, where they will move to and where they will attack.

The commander is also responsible for setting the team’s overall strategy. Expand too quickly or spend too much money on health for your players and you won’t have enough money to research new technology—conversely, turtle in one base and you will find your economy weak later in the game. As a result, the game often comes down to which team has the better commander just as much as the skill of the individual players, which is also a flaw, because the fate of an entire 12 man team can hinge on just that one commander. 

Fortunately, if you are a newbie and you want to be a commander, players are just fine with that as you are willing to learn and listen. There is also not that much of a rush to be commander so if you want to be commander, you can.

 Final Impressions

Natural Selection 2 is a great team game with unique blend of RTS and FPS mechanics—however, these unique features make it a niche game that may not appeal to everyone.

Its fast-paced shooter mechanics are more similar to Counterstrike than to Call of Duty, which may turn off a lot of players. Addtionally, since teamwork is so important, being able and willing to text chat or use voice communications is almost mandatory. The fact that your access to weaponry et cetera is out of your hands may also be unappealing, and the steep learning curve may put off more casual players. Finally, anyone who demands singleplayer should stay away–to play Natural Selection 2, you will have to play online against other people.

However, the community is very welcoming and will help you learn all aspects of the game. The differences between the Aliens and Marines leads to gameplay unlike nearly any other shooter n the market, the cooperation required for a team to succeed is refreshing and it is decidedly fun to work with like-minded players to win. 

Natural Selection 2 Review – Somebody got their FPS in my RTS!
Survival of the fittest -- can your team work together to win in this unique hybrid of FPS and RTS gameplay?

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