The original natural Section and its sequel, Natural Selection 2, were both well-made and unique takes on the FPS genre that blended elements of RTS games via the “commander system” with the more traditional shooter gameplay. Natural Selection 2: Combat on the other hand, ditches Commander mode for a more focused and personal upgrade system, match-based levelling mechanics, and a stronger emphasis on deathmatch-style firefights that still retain a tactical and unique perspective.
While at first glance, Combat may seem like a stripped-down and casual-focused bastardization of Natural Selection 2, the game manages to combine match-based RPG-style upgrades and base defense mechanics with the uniquely Aliens-esque multiplayer action and maps of the original with great success. Like vanilla NS2, Combat features wonderfully bleak and industrial spaceship maps that harken back to the Nostromo or one of 40k’s Space Hulk crafts, and overall it makes for a tight and tense battlefield for both factions. The graphical quality here is incredibly nice and clean, and runs beautifully, even on budget GPUs like my GTS 450. Those with nicer graphics cards are also in for a treat, as the models and environments look great on high-end hardware, even if the model animation quality is a bit stiff at times.
While the graphical elements are almost identical to NS2, the gameplay is a different story. Eschewing the Commander mode for a menu-based XP and upgrade system. Marines get weapon upgrades, mech suits and special abilities, while the Alien faction gains new evolutions and powers over time. It all feels a hell of a lot better than the hollow and easily-gotten Killstreaks in games like Call of Duty and doesn’t unbalance the playing field or feel cheap, even when massive mecha armor is involved. That being said, the lack of weapon skins and other customization/progression elements is a bit disappointing. That said, the inclusion of a skill-based matchmaking system is something I feel this game really needed, and I’m glad Faultline Games decided to implement it. In the long run, I feel that skill-based gameplay will do a l,ot more to keep people invested in this title than any customization options ever would, and I feel that F
Sadly though, while I enjoyed the game quite a bit, there are a few key issues that really hold it back. the fact that Natural Selection 2 Combat is based on a spin-off mode for the original Natural Selection means that it will forever be in the core game’s shadow, doomed to play second fiddle to a game with an already established and hardcore fanbase. And while this may not be an issue for Natural Selection newbies, veterans of the core game who prefer the RTS elements over Combat’s deathmatch-y approach may want to pass on this standalone version and play the mod if they’re so inclined.
Overall though, I think the game is a solid pick for fans of old-school, Half-Life-style shooters, and is certainly one to consider for a LAN Party or late-night Twitch session. However, NS2:Combat’s gameplay and upgrade systems may not be enough to sway hardcore fans of TF2, Counter-Strike or Quake Live for long. Honestly though, it doesn’t have to. While it may suffer a bit from its nature as a spin-off, the game’s fun and fast-paced enough to stand on its own, and with Steam Workshop integration and mod support at launch, NS2:Combat’s got all the bells and whistles a great PC FPS game needs, without being bloated or overindulgent, and I applaud it for that. If only I could say the same about other modern FPS titles.
You can get Natural Selection 2: Combat at 4:00pm PST on Steam today.
A solid and highly enjoyable title, Natural Selection 2: Combat is recommended to fans of Half-Life and competitive multiplayer shooters.