Natural Selection 2, the game Aliens CM should have been
Ok so pretty much everything thatís come out about Aliens Colonial Marines says it sucks. Possibly the only good thing to come out of it is this.
And if you donít get that you really need to watch some Mel Brooks films.
However I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share my opinion on an indie game, because you know I like indie games. Natural Selection 2 which presently sits on steam at £18.99. Why am I doing this now ? Well it pretty much is the game Aliens colonial Marines should have been and somehow a bit more. So for those who donít know Natural Selection 2 is the sequel to the original Natural Selection mod made for Half Life, not Half Life Source, not Half Life 2, the original old Half Life game. Except Natural Selection 2 is a stand alone game with its own engine.
So whatís the game about ?
Well its part Starcraft and part first person shooter. The game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where the team of Aliens take on the team of Marines. Each team then is split into the majority on the ground and one person on each team being the commander.
Each team has to fight to gain the resources from the extraction points. Marines get the advantage of once a room is powered they can call in item drops, meaning they can essentially set up anywhere rapidly, while the Aliens have to have all their structures on the infestation to grow. Yes you know that weird hive like stuff in the Aliens film ? Well this game has a feature for this where by the Alien team spread infestation via cyst chains across the map, if the chain to the hive gets broken then the infestation begins to die and structures take damage.
As a commander itís up to you to build the base, research the upgrades, manage the expansions, help and direct troops oh and allow me to point out, these troops have free will as they are real people so while you might get the one guy who volunteers for a suicide mission and with the aliens at the command centre doors takes down the aliens upgrades. You might also spend 20 minutes trying to explain to a guy why when he was having his face eaten by 5 enemies with no support you didnít drop him health and ammo, and trying to explain why it would have been useless.
Welcome the what really is the best Aliens Experience on the Market. You can have Marines losing minds stuff, running away and doing some very unexpected things because they are not AI they are real people playing them.
Aliens and Marines each play differently with Marines being pretty weak alone but stronger in groups and Aliens being more melee close ranged focus, relying on dropping on players from the shadows and getting in close undetected. Aliens get the advantage of alien vision which works in complete darkness letting them hide in the shadows and watch, while Marines rely on Torches especially for checking the dark areas of the level oh and unlike in Colonial Marines in this game aliens can come out of the vents.
Both teams begin at the bottom, Aliens with Basic units and Marines with Basic armour and weapons and as the fights progress and you gain resources Marines get better weapons and more useful ones such as flamethrowers, Grenade launchers and the siege vehicle in the form of the Arcs. Aliens get different evolutions from the base building and defender in the Gorge to the flying Lerks and the deadly fades to their final ultimate unit the Onos. The game however isnít an arms race as such as while an Onos is powerful or an Exo suit, you need the back up to make it work and to keep it alive and you need a commander to have done their work making sure you have the upgrades to make it work. Heck end game Aliens gain a very powerful siege breaker in the form of Xenocide, essentially aliens self destructing in the enemy base. Can you imagine if that has been in Colonial Marines with the whole Acid blood angle ?
The Dynamic is honestly great with the power system letting aliens kill the lights in areas and shut down most marine structures quickly leading to some very tense hold outs where a team of Marines desperately tries to keep the turrets and power battery up and fight off an alien push while one lone guy at the back tries desperately to get the power back up to bring in more Marines.
Sure you also get the feeling of being a badass space Marine sometimes and thatís nice, stomping through areas in your robotic Exo suit and killing aliens, that is if youíre commander set you up well, but even so thereís the tension that any moment the Aliens could try to turn it around with one of their giant units the Onos.
So why should you get Natural Selection 2 rather than Aliens Colonial Marines ? Well firstly the gameplay is tense with Aliens initially being fairly easy to kill and only able to ambush and take down one Marine solo however the clumping of the Marine boots approaching your hiding place or the skittering of claws on metal Marines hear as they walk about. The dynamic lighting on the game even on my mediocre non gaming laptop looks great and I play on minimum settings, no really it looks at least as good as most modern console games to me (and runs at about the same FPS too).
Itís Cheaper, £29.99 here in the UK for Aliens CM, £18.99 for Natural selection 2 and Aliens CM already has a season pass thing out, while NS2 is steam workshop enabled and already has plenty of mods including one that might be recognisable. So youíre paying less.
Now the games not perfect.
Ok thereís no single player and Iím hearing some high end machines are even struggling to run it on full settings. Also some maps and the creatures are being balanced still because of a few issues but considering the gameplay is so atmospheric itís definitely more Aliens than Colonial Marines is.
I will also say the lack of a tutorial beyond about 3 hours of video tutorials does hold it back, as does the rather intimidating learning curve, but put in some time and ask people questions and you will learn how deep the game is (Just don't jump in the command chair until you're well out of the rookie stages).
However rather than being a set story as such, each game is its own story. From the Marines storming in to wipe out an enemy nest to desperately trying to hold back a seemingly overwhelming tide of aliens until you get reinforcements to you.
I should say, this game was made by and by an indie group who made their own engine. Why the hell is Colonial Marines with all its funding such a terrible game when this game did so well without a huge development budget from a publisher ?
I'm actually saying about this here because honestly its an indie game and I've kind of wanted to talk about it for a while but now with Colonial Marines turning out like this is seems the perfect time to point out an alternative, one which I own and do very much enjoy (despite my laptop being rather underpowered to truly enjoy it)