hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Natural Selection 2

Review: Natural Selection 2

5:00 PM on 11.13.2012 // Patrick Hancock

The Reese's Cup of games

The original Natural Selection came out a decade ago as a Half-Life mod. It was one of the handful of mods that managed to stand out from hundreds of others thanks to its unique blend of real-time strategy and first-person shooting.

After years of development, the sequel is finally out as its own standalone product. If you've been waiting a long time for its arrival, it has absolutely been worth the wait. If you're unsure what Natural Selection 2 actually is, be prepared for one of the most engaging and intense competitive games out there.

Natural Selection 2 (PC)
Developer: Unknown Worlds
Publisher: Unknown Worlds
Release: October 31, 2012
MSRP: $24.99

Natural Selection 2 pits a team of human Marines against a team of Aliens. Both teams are similar in concept yet completely unique in playstyle. Each team's objective is to destroy the enemy's main structures (Hives for Aliens, Command Centers for Marines) before theirs go down.

Most players will control units on the ground and utilize a first-person perspective, but one player from each team will be the Commander. The Commander is the backbone of the team, viewing the map from an eagle’s-eye perspective akin to what you'd expect from real-time strategy titles like StarCraft II. The Commander of each team is in charge of placing structures, directing allies, and researching new technology.

The Commander isn't locked in to that position, however. The Command Station (or Hive) is simply a structure that a player can enter in order to take command. If the Commander is doing poorly and a team member wants to switch out, the Commander can leave and someone else can take their place. This is also important to remember when the base is under attack; the Commander is free to leave and begin defending like any other unit before stepping back behind the reigns.

When not playing that role, things are a bit easier to comprehend: listen to the (hopefully competent) Commander and go after the enemy base. The Marines play much like you would expect a first-person shooter to, with an assortment of weapons and gadgets to use, assuming your Commander has researched them. That does not mean, however, that playing Marines is boring. First of all, the gadgets like jetpacks and robotic suits are a delight to use. Secondly, the very nature of Natural Selection 2 itself makes them way more fun to play compared to a standard FPS game.

Aliens are very unique in that each class plays completely different. Every player starts as a Skulk, a fast Alien with the ability to climb and stick to walls. From a Skulk, it is possible to evolve into four other classes, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. No one class is completely better or worse than the Skulk, though they individually fill a specific role on the team.

The Fade, for example, can teleport around and attack the Marines, both confusing and killing them. However, when it comes to destroying structures, the Fade might as well not even try. The Skulk, thankfully enough, is one of the most entertaining classes to play since they are so agile and strong. Even if the Skulk isn't your cup of tea, it isn't long until you can evolve into another Alien using your resources. 

There's an incredible amount of intricacies involved in playing Natural Selection 2, but if I were to try to mention each and every one then I might as well write a book titled Each and Every Intricacy of Natural Selection 2 and charge you each $11.99.

Resources are used to upgrade both your unit, if not playing as the Commander, or the team's base, if you are. They are collected when the Commander places a structure on top of one of the many resource points on the map. If it helps, you may think of them as Extractors/Refineries/Assimilators from StarCraft II. It is therefore crucial for the rest of the team to defend and help secure these points, as it will make it easier on the entire team to march towards victory.

Natural Selection 2 is the very definition of a competitive game. Each player is significant and small mistakes can add up to losing an entire match. Teamwork is absolutely necessary in order to win. Microphones are very much encouraged, if not required. To some, this might be exactly what they were looking for, however it is also easy to see some people being turned away by the amount of teamwork and dedication required to get the most out of the game.

It feels incredibly well-balanced, as long as you're playing in the "sweet spot" of player numbers. I've found that 16-to-18-player servers are the most balanced, resulting in 8 or 9 players on a team, one of whom is the Commander. Having more than that often becomes too chaotic and allows one team to steamroll the other.

The only tutorials available come in the form of YouTube videos. These vary in quality, but most of them accomplish their goal of introducing a new player to various mechanics. There's literally hours of videos to watch, but luckily the general overview does a good enough job in less than ten minutes of introducing a newbie to the game.

The main problem is that there is no interactive tutorial included. The videos do a great job at explaining things, but when it comes down to it, videogames need some sort of interactive tutorial. As mentioned, Natural Selection 2 is a very complex game, so it could only benefit from providing more options.

There is an "Explore Mode" present, allowing you to freely roam around maps, try out various classes, or practice being Commander, but it is currently bugged and only allows you to select one of the various maps. The Explore Mode is a wonderful way to learn the intricacies of playing as the Commander, since there are a ton of hotkeys and location names to memorize in order to efficiently lead your team to a win.

For a competitive game, Natural Selection 2 has a remarkable amount of atmosphere. To be wandering around the map as a Marine and hear Skulk footsteps only seconds before a group of them jump at you, taking out your teammates and leaving you alone and sobbing in the corner, isn't something you would normally find in such a competitive title. It has an eerie Aliens vs. Predator feel to it.

The game looks surprisingly sharp as well. In fact, it's the main reason why Natural Selection 2 is quite demanding and takes what seems like an eternity to load into matches at times. The wait serves as a good time to head into the kitchen and eat your Wheaties -- you'll likely need them. There are always optimizations to be implemented which make the game run smoother and faster, and it seems as if the developers over at Unknown Worlds are still hard at work.

Natural Selection 2 may turn some people away due to its very competitive nature, but it rewards those who stick with it and peel back its many layers. A well-executed match is extremely rewarding, whether you decide to play as the stressful Commander or one of his many lackeys. There's nothing quite like being in a room as the Aliens cut the power and lights, leaving your team to rely on muzzle flash and flashlights to locate the flying, wall-climbing, and leaping Alien team surrounding you.

It's a game that combines both real-time strategy and first-person shooter in a unique blend of both, the likes of which you aren't likely to see anywhere else. Sure, it could benefit from an interactive tutorial, fixed Explore Mode, and perhaps some optimization for load times, but what is here is still an incredible team experience. 



Natural Selection 2 - Reviewed by Patrick Hancock
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Patrick Hancock, Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure therealhancock Tips
Watching and playing competitive games like Dota and StarCraft take up most of his time. His three favorite non-video game things in the world are space, dinosaurs, and puppets. So if there we... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

extatix avatarextatix
Heading off to Spiel in a bit. A whole lot of games there, just of the cardboard variety. I love me some board games.
absolutfreak avatarabsolutfreak
Finally finished The Witcher 3. Definitely one of the best games I've played in my 30 years or so of gaming. Now onward to Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
*playing an old ps1 game* "START and SELECT don't bring the menu up?! WELL WHAT THE FU-oh, it's Triangle..."
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
If anyone's playing Marvel Puzzle Quest (any platform) you should join my Alliance, RedRightHand, and help me kick some Galactus butt for their second anniversary event. (Please?)
Shinta avatarShinta
MGS Online Day 3. I have 3 character up to level 10 now, one in each class. They're all pretty handy, but I do miss the scout's mark speed the most on other classes.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
The SW: Battlefront is pretty and has great sound design, but the gameplay is so shallow and has seemingly no depth! If the full game is like this I will be disappointed.
Torchman avatarTorchman
*looks at Amazon preorder* This one's for you Chib'
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Dear Playboy: Love your video game coverage, but how about you start making some topless unboxing videos? Seeing someone unwrap a copy of Call of Duty is boring. Seeing a topless Playmate unwrap a copy of anything is awesome!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
In happier news, Level-5 is already talking Yo-Kai Watch 2's Western release, and better/worse yet, they're considering amiibo support for the series! And hey, if they can't get Jibanyan into Smash, that'd be one way to get the West's attention.
gajknight avatargajknight
I drank a glass of Ovaltine for the first time in years today. It was nice. Like drinking a glass of my childhood, complete with ignorance, embarrassing angst, tears (so many tears) and night terrors. Ah, the good 'ol days.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] This is just depressing. Digital classics on consoles are such a great idea, but it's like not a single company wants to really go through with it.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
My heart will always be yours, Papyrus #2spoopy4me
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I recently beat Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow again, but this time I played on Hard mode from scratch. Outside of dying a few times due to me being an idiot, and enemies hitting harder, it was actually easy. Like really easy.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.
Cannibal Steven avatarCannibal Steven
"You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..." I'm not crying. Not one bit.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary?
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Natural Selection 2

  Nov 11

Natural Selection 2 World Championship gets some help

Nvidia and Intel help the community tournament

  Oct 16

Natural Selection 2 community to start a tournament

Developers and the community team up to bring players together

  Jul 04

Natural Selection 2 adding female marine as free update

For many players, she'll be a natural selection

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -