Natural Selection 2 Review

Alien World Warfare

Natural Selection came to us from the glorious times when a good mod for a shooter could grow into a separate big game/franchise/cult. Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, various promods-defrags for Quake 3… Everything was so good back then that, in general, we never lost sight of flagship projects.

The mod “about aliens” for the original Half-Life seems to be part of this glorious cohort, but compared to its more famous counterparts, NS, you could say, didn’t take off. Well, it did take off, but it flew very low, below most radars. The internet says that there were even tournaments for the game. But again, the internet knows about organizations like ESL, which hold competitions all over the place…

In short, if you’re familiar with Natural Selection, that’s great, if not, you haven’t missed anything critically important. Well, except for an unusual futuristic team shooter with a complex strategic system for an FPS.

And in 2012, Natural Selection got its sequel.

What was that?

In general, I have a hard time explaining the appearance of Natural Selection 2 on the market. Either there is a spirit of renaissance in the air nowadays, or the community of fans of the first NS really exists in sufficient numbers to release a new game specifically for them, or it’s one of the two.

Strangely enough, the second option is much less attractive, if only for the simple reason that the big gaming world is not familiar with the complex rules of playing NS, and in the second case, no one would bother to teach us. Fortunately, it’s not quite like that. Right from the start, Natural Selection 2 will offer us a series of tutorial videos with a total duration of about two hours.

I lasted for the first nine minutes, then I went into battle reconnaissance. No, it’s very possible that all these videos are really informative, but two hours? Right after buying and installing the game? The developers overestimate us.

Battles in Natural Selection 2

I am fixing the wiring. It is dark in the corridor right now and, most likely, dangerous.

But if you really want to know what exactly you will be doing in NS2, here’s the essence: marines have to capture a location from the aliens. Both sides start with one base, and then it’s either the aliens infecting everything around or the space marines restoring power, fortifying critical points, and eradicating the infection.

Yes, various power sources will play an important role in the game – marines will frantically repair/build, while aliens will infect/destroy. The game will mainly revolve around fights for the main strongholds. The humor lies in the fact that there will be attacks coming from two or more directions, so rushing in without knowing what you’re doing won’t work. And if a relatively long war ensues, different upgrades, stealth, minefields, and other joys of life will come into play.

Oh, and we also have commanders who control the team from a strategic screen, but I was afraid to take on that role.

We are getting infected

Playing as xenomorphs (from the Xen race in Half-Life – the similarity between the monsters from the two games is instantly noticeable) was also scary, despite the “Rookie Friendly” sign above the server entrance. First, the marines.

A bold leap into the abyss revealed one thing: shotguns are power, rifles are a grave. Yes, they are worse at clearing alien strongholds, yes, they traditionally reload poorly, but when a zergling is charging at you, all you need is one good shot to completely satisfy your hunger for marine flesh. That’s instead of three seconds of non-stop shooting in all directions, with your rifle. And let me tell you, three seconds is a very long time when aiming at ♂GaNgNaM_StYlE PRO♂ crawling on the ceiling.

And it’s not that shotguns in general deal more damage, it’s just that matches in Natural Selection 2 follow their own rules, rarely intersecting with traditional FPS games. This simultaneously attracts and somewhat repels.

Sci-Fi Shootout

Welcome to the infected monsters sector!

My marine lived long enough to see an ultralisk jumping out of the dark corridor towards him.

But seriously. In fact, the game should have been called Starcraft Fortress. Just look: marines have command centers that gather resources, there is infantry, flamethrowers, guys with jetpacks, there are mines – everything is familiar – and there are “Goliaths”, which are exoskeletons with two machine guns in their hands. The aliens have zerglings, hydras, mutalisks, the only ones slightly deviating from the analogy are medics-builders and ultralisks. And there is also creep, which is slime, incubators, mutations, lurkers, and tumors.

Then the balancing of the teams happened, and I became a zergling myself. That’s when the fun began: you could run on walls and ceilings, switch to thermal vision, and attack people from ventilation shafts. It doesn’t matter that the alien cannon fodder can get deep into the negatives, and there is no need to worry about a failed ambush.

However, this is only if you are a zergling, preferably not upgraded. For everyone else, dying just like that won’t be much fun.

Natural Selection – almost the first shooter in my memory where reducing the graphics quality does not help the game. Whether there are many polygons in dim corridors or few polygons in dim corridors, it is still difficult to find a target, especially if you are a marine and the lights have been turned off.

Harsh reality

NS 2 implies some coordinated team actions, but not in the style of “everyone knowing who to shoot in the next two seconds.” To win here, you need a more global tactic. For example, one squad of marines builds, repairs, and carries the slime, the second tanks, the third covers the rear/mines the territory. Meanwhile, some zerglings are in ambush, others have gone on a diversion, and hydras/mutalisks work in conjunction with “elephants” and fight in the vanguard, while alien engineers heal the wounded and improve the territory.

That’s in theory. In practice, I guess this also happens, but more among veteran players. In the overwhelming majority of my matches, in the first five minutes, one side would take the initiative and then crush the opponents. There wasn’t much strategy, really.

But my main problem with the game was not so much its complexity/uniqueness/unusualness, but rather that I couldn’t really chase others around corners most of the time. Through Steam, you could find n dozens of servers, of which about 20 had decent ping, and of those, about three were packed, while all the others were completely empty.

Strategic Encounters

This is what the victory of the Aliens looks like, bound (including) by a horn in the middle.

This was honestly disappointing. Okay, I’m not good at playing NS2, so I can’t really enjoy the local battle, but how can I learn? Where is my combat practice?

If you’re lucky enough to play on a popular server for at least three hours, you’ll get a taste of what Natural Selection is all about. There you’ll experience hunts in the style of those Aliens, open warfare with infection a la “Starship Troopers,” ambushes, positional warfare, and everything in the world. Playing in such company is undeniably great – NS2 gives you room to maneuver. There is room for improvement in shooting skills, knowledge of the map/enemy specifics, and various tactical tricks. Moreover, all of this is far from being in its infancy, all of the above will truly matter.

The best moments of your gaming life grow out of such all-encompassing entertainment. Moments that you want to tell your friends about later: “And you know what, here I’m hiding on the ceiling. And this guy burns the whole room to hell, and then his flamethrower runs out, and I jump up…” and so on. On the other hand, it seems to me that not everyone will be able to reach the most delicious part of NS2 – some will be too lazy to wait for the weather at the servers, some won’t like that the first twenty deaths result in one kill, some simply won’t like the concept of the game; after all, Natural Selection is a specific product.

Nevertheless, it is definitely worth trying the game. Truly original team shooters will always find a way to please.

Natural Selection 2
Action, Multiplayer, Strategy
Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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