In 2002, Charlie Cleveland created Natural Selection, a Half-Life mod that combined the first-person shooter genre with a top-down real-time strategy game. Heavily inspired by the atmosphere of Aliens, Natural Selection pitted a team of regular machine-gun wielding marines against the Kharaa, a race of mutating alien species. Back in 2002, the game stood out from the pack because it offered something new: competitive but asymmetrical combat. Ten years later, the game’s forthcoming sequel, finally becoming a reality, is still a notable outlier amidst the plethora of military shooters. I talked with Charlie Cleveland and Unknown World’s Advocate Hugh Jeremy at E3 yesterday and took a look at the game’s upcoming release. Natural Selection 2 looks to carry its burden of ten years with aplomb, even while venturing into a market that has changed a great deal since its predecessor first built a group of core players.
At the turn of the millenium, the shooter genre was at a turning point. Natural Selection was released in between Halo and Halo 2, and the first-person shooter genre was moving away from the Doom era and was incorporating strong narratives, adventure-game conventions, and RPG elements in games like Metroid Prime and Deus Ex. Rainbow Six had already brought in tactical game play, but the strategy genre and the shooter genre were still relatively distant from one another. Natural Selection was unique, yes, but it also came at a time when the large studios were redefining the FPS market and were doing so with flare.