Review by Shadow Spork
"The most unique mod out there since sliced bread!"
Okay, maybe that last part may not be so satisfying and original, but Natural Selection is. It's the most unique and innovative mod out there today. This game is a Half-Life mod that combines two genres: First Person Shooter and Real Time Strategy. This is also the largest third-party Half-Life mod out there, by the amount of users playing the game.
Since there is almost no storyline, the only story that is involved is depending on what map is currently played. It is also an online multi-player game, which would also explain why I combined the story and game-play together.
Like any other shooter, you go first person. But there's also one unique addition. It's also a strategy game. In recent updates, a new game-play mode has been added called Combat, but we'll get to that later.
The strategy side of the game belongs to the Marines. Basically, the Marines objective is to eliminate the Aliens that are invading the lives of humanity, or lack thereof. The commander of the Marines has the ability to get into a command console, where the player will do the strategic points of the game. The other players will be able to do not only shoot the Aliens, but also build structures at their base. This consists of resource towers, which is scattered all over the map with resource nodes, defensive structures, labs, phase gates (used for teleportation), and so on. The commander places these structures at the usual spawn points of the Marines. There are also upgrades and equipment, like weapon damage, armour, grenades, mines, even a welder to repair armour and to use certain functions on different maps. There is also Jetpacks for those who want to go mobile, or Heavy armour for those who want to survive and defend.
On the other side is the Aliens. Their objective is to fend of the intruders (the Marines) and try to conquer certain places. There is no command at this side, however there are several unique abilities and types of Aliens. There is a skulk, which is what you spawn as by default. These are fast, raging and biting creatures who loves the taste of human flesh in the morning. There is also a gorge, which is the builder of the Aliens that also does some bile bombing against the Marines. A Lerk, which is an Alien that has wings. It bites, and spews out toxic gas. Fade, which is probably the most offensive alien creature in the game, can scratch you to death, and spews out some bio rockets. Finally, the largest of them all is the Onos. A large Alien type creature that would remind you of seeing a moose, or a buffalo out in the fields. Unfortunately, these things attack you by stabbing you with it's horns, shock waving you motionless, or just devouring you for lunch (which is not a pretty site on your screen). Of course, there are structures as well, like resource towers, defensive structures, offensive structures, and a hive.
For both sides, they each have to destroy each others structures. The most important structures are the Command Console for the Marines, and the Hive for the Aliens. If one of them is destroyed, one of the species would win, like if the Marines destroyed the hive, they'd win, and vice versa.
The Combat version of the game is pretty straight forward. In this mode, it eliminates the strategic part of the game. Just intense battles similar to Counter-Strike, or Day of Defeat. The only difference is that you gain experience so you can get personal upgrades, like armour, bigger guns and equipment in the Marines side, and better abilities and gestating into different types of Aliens in the Aliens side. There is no building structures. Just combat, hence the name. To tell the difference in between them, certain maps are labelled differently for different modes. If the map has an initial name ns_<map name>, then it is the regular Natural Selection mode of the game. If the map has an initial name co_<map name>, then it is the Combat mode of the game.
Overall, the game-play of this game is huge. Not much story, but enough to establish the objectives of each side. Therefore, it's a 10.
The audio in this game is really amazing. The music just sets the mood and the nature of the game of how dark the mod is. It also gives you the actual feeling in game, within Combat maps, you get the feeling of being pumped because of the intense action that's happening. On NS maps, certain paranoia would set in. It's all because of the music. The sound effects are amazing. Hearing footsteps of the enemy would get someone paranoid, or hearing fleshy and wet sounds would get the marines a bit nervous. Background map sounds are great as well, radio comm for the marines are played out as well too, and so is the aliens grunts and their voices. A perfect 10.
Even though this game is using the dated Half-Life engine, it's still pretty good. It may not be the sharpest, nor the most advanced like FarCry, Doom 3 or Half-Life 2, but that's where the shortfall will end. The textures in this game are awesome. It would be described as watching or being in a sci-fi movie. The models of both the Aliens and Marines are just simply well done. The weapons and structures are also done well. Really not bad for a game that uses the Half-Life engine. A noble 9.
The controls are just simple. Of course, if you've played Half-Life or any other PC first person shooters, by now you'd know what the controls would be, the standard WASD and mouse for movement and the point and shoot ability respectively. For the strategic part of the game (for the Commander in the Marines), using the almighty mouse is only needed. Though, you'll might want to use the keyboard shortcuts for a more faster approach because you'll need to quickly support your troops in intense situations. It will take a bit some time to get use to, but in the end, you'll be able to get your troops frag some Alien ass.
Once you begin playing this game, you will be hooked for hours. This is for the more casual gamers out there, who wants a different experience from all the other games out there, especially the Half-Life mods of Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat and Team Fortress Classic. You'll definitely enjoy this multi-player experience.
Natural Selection would not only defy Darwin of his theories, but also would blow him away with this game. The combination of Real Time Strategy and First Person Shooters really opened up the eyes of gamers. For those who want to take a break from Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat or Team Fortress Classic, or to do some target shooting, or want to play an RTS and an FPS at the same time, this is the game for you.
Overall Score: 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/04
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