Natural Selection 2’s Combat Mod Going Standalone

Natural Selection 2: Dance-Off

Half-Life begot the mod Natural Selection, which begot standalone sequel Natural Selection 2, which together with NS1’s Combat mode incestuously begot NS2’s Combat mod, which now begets standalone game Natural Selection 2: Combat. It’s all a bit like Chronicles with assault rifles.

Faultline Games are taking their Combat mod standalone, they’ve announced, expanding and polishing it up as one would expect. Combat’s a murder-oriented version of Natural Selection, focusing on the asymmetric humans vs. aliens FPS combat while doing away with RTS-y bits like resource-gathering and commanders. It also splashes in RPG-y levelling, with murder-earned skill points unlocking new weapons, tech, life forms and whatnot.

I’ve never played the NS2 mod, but in NS1 would often hop on a Combat server to eat space marines while waiting for a slot to open up on my favourite ‘Classic’ mode servers. It was a fair bit more welcoming to new players than the base game, as the RTS layer can be almost as intimidating as the commanders yelling at you for ruining everything. Which also made it a welcome break from the stresses of Classic, or handy to hone specific skills. The standalone is unlikely to work similarly as a gateway, but then the whole idea is for it to be complete and enjoyable in itself.

“We’ve spent the last two months polishing and rewriting the parts of the mod we didn’t like, adding new features and gameplay modes and starting to think about how we can make an interesting metagame,” Faultine said in last week’s announcement. No word yet on when it’ll launch.

Everything a space marine could need


  1. Chuckleluck says:

    This isn’t for me. The RTS layer is the only thing that keeps me playing NS2, it’s like the Commander from Battlefield 4, except these commanders actually *do* things. Besides, the guns are horrid.

  2. dE says:

    It’s good they’re seperating it this time. Combat Mode is one of the prime murder suspects for the community of NS1. The amount of Drama and Community split it brought upon NS1 was like watching a Class Streisand Shitstorm, maybe even a Class Orth Shitstorm.
    A few months later, the Deathmatch crowd had moved on to other games for the most part and what remained was that small and bitter part of the disillusioned RTS crowd, that had remained steadfast throughout the storm. It was never the same again.

    • El_Emmental says:

      That’s not entirely true, there isn’t a “Deathmatch” crowd of unruly immature Combat players vs fine and refined gentlemen/ladies playing the Classic mode, many of them played both.

      NS1 always had problems with selecting the right Commanders to have a balanced battle.

      In purely RTS games, you can easily “gg” and immediately disconnect once you realize the other team got a better build order or has the upper hand (= you’re very unlikely to ever come back into the game – especially in a 1 vs 1 situation). In NS1 (and still in NS2), Commanders have to stay and try to make the end game not too boring and one-sided for their team, once they clearly know they have 0 chance of ever coming back.

      Over time, such thing gets boring: no more than 1 game out of 5 is actually enjoyable and challenging for both sides:
      (a) because there’s always a commander worse than the other (don’t try to pretend that once you’re 5 or 10 min in the game, you can easily vote out an average/bad comm and win back the entire map – they already got all the RTs, bases and tech – voting the game out is just letting you build one or two RTs and lose miserably 5 min later at best),
      (b) because all it takes for a team to win in almost all public games (relying on private games alone only means the game is already dead) is a decent commander + 3 good players, denying the first expansion of the enemy base (Hive or Base).

      The NS1 devteam, then Unknown World Entertainment on NS2, countlessly promised they would fix these problems, but they never really did anything.

      Then came NS1 Combat: all the FPS combat fun, none of the RTS “works nicely 1 out of 5 time”. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that yes, all the people who played NS1 despite the RTS severe flaws, migrated to a much more enjoyable and balanced game mode, only playing on the classic RTS+FPS mode when they would be ok to endure all the terrible unbalanced games (with usually no more than 1-2 good game per entire night spent on NS1, from 6 pm to 2 am).

      What “killed” the NS1 community was the devteam shortcoming in fixing the serious problems related to the RTS nature of the game. The success of the Combat game mode only revealed the importance of these problems, it only proved the original recipe was deeply flawed in its actual execution.

      Sadly, NS2 haven’t fixed most of these problems: while they were busy making a new engine, tweaking lifeforms, and finally doing some proper optimization, the most direct task of “what could we do to reduce the amount of public games ending up in a short stomp” was barely touched:
      – almost all the training and documentation on the Commander role was done by the community and never properly implemented in the base game,
      – there is very little guiding/safeguard measures in the Commander role (that would be removed, let’s say, after 20 victories as the main Commander (most time playing as the Comm during that game) ?) so most Commanders struggle with basic base and RT expansion, and aren’t actively supporting/following their own troops in deployment/combat,
      – the communication system between the troops on the ground and the Commander is way too limited for that level of strategy involved (if most of your team doesn’t have a microphone and is fluent in english, you can be sure your game will be ruined)
      – there isn’t any system compensating a massively unbalanced game. Example: an “External Reinforcement” wave helping out the losing side just enough so they can bounce back, boosting the final score of the team that triggered that need for such additional support. The main goal of the game would be forcing the other team to rely on reinforcements, not necessarily “win” the final round – it would maintain a level of intensity throughout the whole match and make every effort worth it, no matter what is the current situation.
      – and many other suggestions/ideas that have been sitting on the UWE forum for years and never got any feedback from the devs.

      It’s kinda the same with all indie titles trying to do an AAA MP game (thinking that without the SP campaign, it will be feasible): they dream big, they achieve a very buggy initial release, finally get most of the “features” they wanted and fix most bugs 6 months after release, then fail to fix major gameplay/game design issues because they don’t realize how bad it is and can’t (according to them) take the financial risk of funding additional modifications, so they make one or two DLCs that don’t sell that well or at all, make one or two smaller games to pay the rent, and maybe announce a sequel 5 years later, hoping everyone forgot about the previous mess.

      Off the top of my head, that very thing happened to Brink, Red Orchestra 2 and Natural Selection 2. They were all made from ex-modders, they all followed the same pattern.

      Chivalry (also ex-modders) managed to do a much better job because they didn’t try anything too fancy: no complex siege game mode, a simple HP bar (no fancy armor detection), siege weapons are fixed turrets put there by mappers. Said like that, it sounds like a cheap port of the original mod.

      But they focused on *the* main problem of the game: hit detection, both for blocking and hitting your target. Should be easy, right ? It’s a real nightmare. It took them a while but they nailed it (in my opinion). It’s only after properly handling that main challenge (it’s mostly fixed), that they started adding customization (helms, uniforms, etc) and DLCs (that warrior thingy).

      Meanwhile, Brink worked on guns/classes customization and design, instead of fixing level design and objectives design. Red Orchestra 2 worked on tank simulation design (despite clear signs the Unreal Engine 3 couldn’t handle that at all – vehicles are bouncing off the ground) and guns/classes customization/stats, instead of working on the pace design and optimization. Natural Selection 2 worked on impressive lightning, dynamic infestation and new/tweaked abilities, instead of working on public games balancing.

      That’s why NS2 Combat is likely to have a certain success and can afford going standalone: many people I know who tried NS2 stopped playing it because it was too confusing, and the few who understood how it was working realized it was a real gamble to get a decently balanced game once a night, so stopped playing it on a regular basis.

      • Misnomer says:

        Fantastic post. I would really love for RPS at some point to do an in depth look at the problem with small developers and MP games.

        As much as everyone loves to lampoon the CODs, Valve games, and BF games. There is a lot to say that a cutting edge FPS is just beyond anyone without a massive budget and super team to sustain and patch with any real size community. Your points about NS2, Brink, and RO2 are all right on from what I have seen.

      • Asurmen says:

        Have to disagree with a lot of this.

        IN NS1 and NS2 there was absolutely no requirement for the Comms to stay to the end game. Both games can ‘gg’ like an RTS by agreeing within the team and dumping yourself to the Ready Room. It’s how most NS1 matches ended.

        I don’t think any killed the NS1 community more than merely time. No game has an infinite shelf life. I know that’s why I stopped playing at least. After following it for years and playing for years, I’d had my fill, and there was still plenty of full servers around at the time.

        The hand holding while it game. How would that be done? There’s little opportunity for UI elements when you’re trying to display a top down map.

        The communication issue, well, I’m going to be blunt. Anything short of a Commander using voice is a band aid fix. Don’t go Comm if you don’t have a microphone or aren’t willing to use it.

        You’ll have to expand on the External Reinforcement idea.

        Basically I’m not convinced there is anything you can do about bad Commanders. They exist and they will always exist. Public games doesn’t necessarily mean much though. Find a server with good regulars and you’re rocking.

        • El_Emmental says:

          [ I wrote an extensive answer, but since it requires additional work to be readable (barely :P), I’ll only edit it in tomorrow – sorry for the delay, I hope you’ll understand :) ]

      • dE says:

        Such a long post for what amounts to essentially a strawman. You will notice, I’m sure, that I have not said that Deathmatch players are unruly or similar. Those are your words, which you put into my mouth, to argue against.

        Also no, the RTS mode wasn’t deeply flawed as you put it. You just so happened to not enjoy it, which is fine and brings us back to my initial point: It attracted a different crowd. Different people enjoy different things.

        • derbefrier says:


          • dE says:

            “There isn’t a “Deathmatch” crowd of unruly immature Combat players vs fine and refined gentlemen/ladies playing the Classic mode, many of them played both.”

            I have not said anything along those lines, yet he makes it seem like I did just so he can argue against it. Pretty much a strawman. And in your case, seeing as you have nothing to contribute like usual, I’ll happily put you back on the blocklist.

        • El_Emmental says:

          I didn’t meant to be any rude dE, I’m sorry if I came across as such.

          It’s just that reading “It’s good they’re separating it this time. Combat Mode is one of the prime murder suspects for the community of NS1. […]”, then “A few months later, the Deathmatch crowd had moved on to other games for the most part and what remained was that small and bitter part of the disillusioned RTS crowd, that had remained steadfast throughout the storm […]” seems to only paints the Combat mode playerbase as a “Deathmatch crowd” that is “one of the primer murder suspect of the community of NS1”, an unruly mob moving from one popular game to another, while the RTS crowd “remained steadfast throughout the storm” – not to say faithful – to the original mod.

          It is not only unfair and putting everyone in two separate baskets, it’s also insinuating one group was at the source of the disturbances while the other one was bravely enduring it. It’s a very manichean view of what happened to the NS1 community and I don’t think it’s complete enough to be held as pertinent. I don’t deny some of it is true, I just don’t think it’s the most constructive way we should look at the problem and challenges faced by NS1 and now NS2.

          My intention wasn’t to be impolite with you dE, I quickly moved to a lengthy post regarding NS1/NS2 and mods for that very reason – I only wrote that first paragraph to communicate my opinion on your initial statement, but I never thought it was any necessary or fruitful to discuss it any further.

          I perfectly understand there is a lot of sadness and inner ire, when anyone who have been greatly involved in a culture, a movement, an era, had to suddenly endure the fall and the loss of it all, with only time and outsiders to blame (at first).

          But I think the only positive way to handle this after all these years, for both the community and the culture we used to enjoy, is finding reasons and elements that we can control through feasible solutions : there is no way we’ll ever educate/convert/control the “Deathmatch crowd”, the legions of ‘Call of Duty’ fans will never be domesticated.

          I really believe it would be tilting at windmills, it would be a sisyphean task : the “crowd” needs to constantly be educated, there is MILLIONS of fresh new members every year – there is no way we would ever have the capacity of handling that much people, no community can survive their blind fury. The Horde cannot be stopped.

          That’s why I think working on improving the games/communities, to make it a better overall experience for everyone (from the hardcore veterans to the newbies willing to learn and change), is a much more constructive approach of the problem – thus my suggestions regarding the Commander role, or External Reinforcements.

  3. sharkh20 says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just put alien skins in COD?

    • Moraven says:

      Well, you already have the L4D/Payday/Evolve co op alien slaughter mode in CoD, Extinction.

      And seeing how the aliens and marines play nothing like CoD…

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      I’m starting to think that people don’t actually know what the words “Call of Duty” mean. It’s just understood that if you want to insult any FPS for any reason, you go “COD! COD COD COD! COOOOOOD!”

      It’s kind of like calling people “gay” in-game.

  4. killmachine says:

    so, you need to buy the standalone to play what you could play, would it be just a mod? or will everyone who bought ns2 get a free copy of ns2 combat. or will it go free2play? will they finally optimize the loading times?

  5. Randomer says:

    I didn’t get into NS1 until after the Combat mode came out. I found it far more approachable than the classic mode. I do enjoy the Classic mode in NS2, but the though of ever taking the command chair still terrifies me.

  6. Moraven says:

    Combat was fun for a quick game, but the aliens gameplay is just not the same and never could fully enjoy it as much as the standard game.

  7. PopeRatzo says:

    murder-earned skill pointsl

    You mean, like Hotline: Miami?

  8. Hunchback says:

    And the circle is now complete…

  9. Wolvie501 says:

    I just cannot understgand what htye made the decission to go stand alone for.

    This mod only had 40 to 70 unique players spread across 2 visited servers…

    This isnt enough to justify a standa alone release.

    This is a money grab for UWE. Thats all it is.