Natural Selection (PC : HL MOD)
Release Date: October 31st, 2002
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Genre: First Person Shooter
Posted: December 4th, 2005
Last Updated: July 22nd, 2007
Latest Release: 3.2
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Natural Selection has held a tight grip on me for many years now. It's one of the few Half-Life modifications that I have kept playing and going back to. Natural Selection is perhaps also one of the most unique Half-Life modifications ever made and probably one of the best looking. Its gameplay is a marvel in itself. The execution of character and weapon design is unparalleled. But enough flattering words... what about this game makes it so great?
Natural Selection is a teamplay game that pits Frontiersmen (Humans/Marines) against the Kharaa (Aliens). This game mixes both First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategy genres together. Both teams, while killing their opponents must also do other things like build structures and upgrades their abilities. This genre mix-up is even more apparent when you are a commander on the marine team. The commander has control over all other marines (well at least suggestive control), building structures, handing out weapons, upgrading, etc. What even makes it more like an RTS is that this is all done using a top-down view on the whole map. This genius programming is all thanks to the main designer/programmer of Natural Selection, Flayra.
Aliens are extremely flexible, since you control the outcome of everything, unlike marines which are lead by the choices of the commander. As an alien, you can upgrade yourself (depending if the correct structures are built), evolve yourself into one of the five alien units, and even build your own structures (if you are a "gorge" unit). The alien units are very well balanced, each having their own distinct strengths and weaknesses.
As a marine you basically undergo tasks specified by the commander, but like most new players, you may want to branch out and scout new areas; doing so will possible get you yelled at by your commander because you aren't sticking with the rest of your team. While this can sometimes be beneficial, you most likely will die if you go out alone. The commander usually has the whole game resting on his shoulders, depending on the competence of the team. The commander must drop structures (which are then built by marines), upgrade structures, drop weapons, armor, ammunition, and health as marines need it. While this is only a little insight to what a commander has to do, you probably get the picture.
One of the more interesting features of this mod is that the community has come up with a way to extend gameplay, into new gameplay, with the emergence of "siege maps". They contain no modifications to any code, but rely on the map design itself to explore new gameplay. Basically in this type of map, the teams are separated from a door, which opens at usually 8 minutes after the game starts (but i've seen anywhere from 5 to 10 depending on map). After which, the teams are pitted against each other trying to get to each others bases and do some damage, before a second door opens. This second door leads into what is called the "siege room". From there, marines can build siege cannons to siege the aliens hives, which are conveniently on the other side of the wall. This siege room usually opens at around 15 minutes after the game starts, but again, it varies depending on the map.
But this is only a small insight on what this game is all about, if you want, I suggest you visit the Wikipedia Entry, or just download the game and try it out.