Posted on November 8, 2012 AT 10:02pm
There are a lot of first -person shooters out there, and that means many of them, especially by smaller developers, get lost in the fray. To prevent that, many of the more indie developers have to do something different, thinking outside the box to keep the attention of gamers. Unknown Worlds Entertainment did just that with the release of Natural Selection 2, a game that is almost two different games in one violent package.
The game is a pretty basic PvP shooter, pitting teams of up to eight against one another as either aliens or marines. Both factions play differently, but the concept for each is pretty similar: destroy each other and the opposing side’s command buildings in an attempt to ensure victory. The Marines are pretty straight-forward, using guns and upgraded weaponry such as drone, sentries and jet-packs, while the aliens can evolve into different strains of the species. Both sides also need to construct building while fighting for their lives, which is an interesting addition to the already frenetic gameplay.
The biggest hook of the game comes when taking over the role of Commander. The game then falls along the lines of a real-time strategy game, with actual players instead of A.I. calling out for supplies such as health, ammo and upgrades. Commanding can be a stressful role, but is pivotal to a victory for those who are able to handle the challenge.
The dynamic between not only the different elements of the game, but of the races themselves makes for a varied battle. Marines, using their ranged weapons, can keep the aliens at bay with a spray of bullets, while the aliens use speed and stealth, with the ability to use smaller gaps in structures as well as walls and ceilings to ambush their prey. Aliens have a bit less of a learning curve at first, but like many other things, they’re easier to learn, but difficult to master.
Speaking of the learning curve, it is very steep. Aside from some videos and the “Explore Mode”, there’s basically nothing to help the player get the hang of things other than to go out there and learn by doing. This can make things very difficult for rookies, though the development team has done new players a favor by placing their names and chat in green to take note of their new status, resulting in servers that cater exclusively to newer players so they can get a feel for things without getting too frustrated. A tutorial or practice mode would have really helped though, using bots to get a player a real-time grip on the way the game handles, something needed especially for those trying their hand at Commander. While tutorials will hopefully be added in future builds of the game, as it stands this is a detriment to players unfamiliar with the way the game plays as a whole, though it is not something that makes the game unplayable.
Another issue is the lack of options to play with friends. There is no real way to group players together (unless they create their own server and make sure to get into it before it fills), or when quick joining, to find out whether or not it was a waste of time (on more than one occasion, a game was joined only to end before leaving the ready room). A few tweaks to this system would be helpful, though it isn’t too detrimental to the experience.
While the game is relatively polished, the vibe of an budgeted developer shows in several ways. The maps and textures, for one, are pretty standard, and often similar from map to map, with familiar steel and foliage. Though this can be attributed to the art set used in the development of the game and the interconnectedness of the fictional world, new maps in the future would greatly enhance the experience. Adding in two community created maps into the full version of the game was a nice touch, however. Marines are also pretty standard, looking relatively the same, despite the variations in players, styles and weaponry. Some of the bugs show through as well, with load failures happening on occasion, as well as a few instances of crashes during the loading process. Nothing too massive, but it can definitely take players out of the experience.
Summary: Natural Selection 2 is a very unique take on the traditional FPS style, adding in an RTS element that completely changes the landscape of the game. While there is a tough learning curve, once things are figured out, it’s a ton of fun. The matchmaking is balanced, with both factions being far different from one another, but at the same time, well-matched. There are a few issues to work out, but this is a multi-player title that really stands out against the plethora of other shooters on the market. For PC players, this is a game that has to be played to see how dynamic it can really be.
The Good: FPS/RTS Dynamic is Well Done, Balanced Matchmaking
The Bad: Occasional Load Errors And Crashes, Lack Of Tutorial Mode
The Ugly: Aliens Are Always A Bit Ugly, Aren’t They? (In A Fun Way)
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