Natural Selection 2 Preview
Originally a mod for the Source engine, Natural Selection has come a long way. Now the game has its own custom built engine, and it’s doing something different with it – a mash up of the FPS and RTS genres. Not only that, but each team uses an entirely different play style; as an online multiplayer things can get quite interesting.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with competitive FPS games – god knows there are enough of them about. This one has an advantage over others you’ve seen before because not only does it use fast and brutal combat to tie you into the scenario, it has the slower and considered tactical gameplay of RTS for those who want more control. The first thing I should let you know is that they tie together really well. All players start off in first-person mode with a weapon… and not much else; from there you can choose your own play style. Get in a command pod to see the top down view and tell your team mates what to do. The maps are point based so you know the other team will be heading in a similar direction. More points equals more resources, and for the marine team that means buildings where you can spend your personal stash on upgrades and gear.
“not only does it use fast and brutal combat to tie you into the scenario, it has the slower and considered tactical gameplay of RTS for those who want more control.”
The aliens get to spread goo all over the place and ‘evolve’ to change classes that have abilities. Buffs such as stronger attacks and faster running can be added to your alien too. All these advantages must be researched, things like jet-packs and flamethrowers really do change the flow of play dramatically. The leader can be useful in the heat of battle too though, by using his own resources to give guns, health and shields to players.
The shooter part is less like CoD and more like Team Fortress 2; there are no iron sights or sprinting – moving, timing your attack and team work are more important to success than anything else. Marines get a rifle to start and depending on what the commander researches they can upgrade at a base to things like shotguns. These upgrades aren’t necessarily better but are used in different ways; shotguns are better for lots of small enemies whereas the grenade launcher doesn’t fare well in close combat.
Aliens remind me of the special infected team from Left 4 Dead because they are weaker but can overwhelm the marines in numbers and speed. The basic dog-like creature you spawn as has a close combat attack that can climb up walls; from there you can evolve to a big bat (fast attack) or a different type of dog (engineer type), that can fly quickly and disrupt groups or build blobs to block hallways and other structures respectively.
The RPS and FPS mesh really well together while having very different feels to the way they play. The shooter is satisfyingly fast while the strategy makes you think hard about what tactics and buildings you need next. I don’t believe that it’s been done before and if it has it will need to go pretty far to play as well as Natural Selection 2. It’s nice to see indie companies taking on the projects that we have all thought of but nobody else had the balls to go through with.