By – Brandon Dayton
I can hear them in the walls. In the vents. They’re everywhere. We need to keep the resources flowing to fund the glorious war effort. The attacks are relentless. Most of the time we’re fighting some dog-insect hybrid, helped out by squat little fat ones. It sounds bad enough but sometimes they come a lot larger, and with wings. Carpet bombing, as improved upon with poison. Sounds impossible, but I hadn’t told you about the gigantic horned fellas. We got mechs to deal with them, but anyone outside one of the tin-cans usually ends up painting some wall. If we could eliminate the hive, our boys might just stand a chance.
I pick up the comm relay and attempt to call headquarters. The radio is dead silent. “Commander, are you there? We’re taking heavy fire!” I construct a turret near the armory to defend it from the horde of stealthy aliens that seems to have fabricated from nothing on the right flank. The turret is almost complete. With our new turret spewing hot lead at the alien scum, I notice that the display on my rifle shows low ammo, time for a supply drop. Used to be you’d have someone to do this sort of thing for you, but our commander seems to have gone MIA. Oh my! We forgot about the vents!!
That was only a part of my experience playing NS2: Combat, a MOBA-lite FPS shooter that takes place between aliens and human marines. The combat feels tight, with every weapon functioning about as you’d expect. Playing as the aliens is a whole different story, and has a bit of a learning curve as you learn that “Hydra” means “Turret”. While you may be used to charging headlong into a fight as the marines, the aliens require a bit more finesse and stealth. The aliens might lack some offensive power, but are much more mobile, with most being able to navigate the vents to flank the enemy.
Eventually you will get into the groove and begin stalking those marines via the vents with the best of ’em. The strategy used by each team is vastly different, and while it does allow for a taste of something else, you will inevitably find yourself drawn to one team over the other. I personally prefer the offensive prowess of the marines over sneaky alien tactics. As long as you keep a nice long line of sight, the marines are almost unstoppable. Just watch yourself while passing any dark corners, as there is bound to be an alien stalking you.
The gameplay is great, however radar dishes and teleport gates used to be built by your commander, now it’s all up to troops on the ground. I’m not overly fond of opening menus during FPS combat, for obvious reasons. Skill points are awarded from combat or destroying enemy structures. Damaging the enemy will reward some experience, while killing him outright means a pretty good chance for a level-up, and another skill-point. These points can be assigned to a wide variety of perks, from healing faster to jetpacks, from cloaking devices to new weapons.
Some are locked by level, which prevents the entire map from being overrun by the tank-like marine mechs or alien behemoths within the first 5 minutes. Much like the original Natural Selection 2, with which I’ve logged about 30 hours on Steam, NS2 Combat has a decent pace most of the time. Some matches can become locked in a stand-still for far too long, depending on the teams strategy, though I really hesitate to call turtling a strategy. Leveling up can be a bit of a pain, since due to the small community, (about 2 servers worth) there are quite a few hardcore members.
You will encounter them a lot. Eventually you may be able to overcome them in combat. That day hasn’t come yet for me. The music is decent, but doesn’t leave any sort of lasting impression, however the graphics and aesthetic are nice enough to keep you well-distracted from the unimpressive music. There are a variety of graphics options, just in case you wanted your game to be widescreen or windowed. Technical problems in this game are few, and during my hours of playing my only issue was a sole occurrence with my jetpack getting stuck inside a wall.
I played this game with a mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately NS2: Combat currently offers no gamepad support, but everything is able to have a new mouse/keyboard binding implemented. Want to shoot your rifle with the spacebar, and jump with left click? Do it. You can bind everything exactly as you please. There are so many rebinding options, that some don’t even have a default key assigned, which is pretty impressive and allows for a large amount of customization. Steam Workshop support is also offered, which will allow you to alter the game even further.
NS2: Combat is nice to pick up and play, but lack of a commander role leads to having to spend your hard-earned level up points on turret and teleport gate construction, which would be fine. However, few people will actually take this step to help their team win. It’s considerably more entertaining to wield a shiny new flamethrower and jet pack combo. The control points don’t seem to mean much anymore. So there is no objective other than rushing the enemy base and smashing things, and while that has its time and place, it limits the replayability and tactics that wrapped me up in the original Natural Selection 2.
The layouts remain much the same, though with a bit less height variation which I can’t disagree with, except that again, it drains any sort of tactics that could be implemented in combat. NS2: Combat is a game that probably should’ve remained just a mod for the original Natural Selection 2. It’s great fun, but only because of what the original offered. NS2:Combat doesn’t really add any value of its own. If you’re in the mood for some straight-forward FPS action with a hint of MOBA and a dash of RTS, I’d suggest picking up the original.
Conclusion- Is it Worth Your Money?
As much as I love the original Natural Selection 2, I have to say NS2:Combat doesn’t offer enough bang to justify your buck. Instead of adding to the gameplay, Faultline Games stripped away some key elements. Without commander support, or trying to wrestle resource points away from the opponent, you’re looking at just another Aliens vs. Predator.