Natural Selection 2 is a very complex game. It takes a while to learn the ins and outs. So I made this tip guide to help new players (and free weekenders as NS2 likes to have these events).
Here are some tips sorted by type, this isn’t an all-inclusive list of tips, but some that will help you early on in your time sorted by performance, Marine, Alien and Combat Mod.
Natural Selection 2 is a fairly demanding game with relatively poor optimization. Game is mostly CPU bound and thus you need a fairly powerful CPU to get decent framerates. Graphics card doesn't seem that important. The recommended system requirements are a bit of a joke as the game is barely playable on a 3.0 ghz Dual Core processor.
Here are some tips so you can get okay performance with mid to lower range machines:
Reduce your resolution and graphical settings. I used to run the game at 1200x800 with every graphical setting off/low on a Core 2 Dual 2.98ghz E7500. I used to get regularly 30 to 45 FPS in this game where TF2 nets me 120 FPS on high medium settings. To do this, go to options, graphics and start setting things to off or low
Windows users, in task manager, go to processes, find NS2.exe and set it to run at high priority.
Exit other programs you have running in the background
In console, type “R Stats_1” for some performance measures in the top left of your screen. If you see “0 MS waiting for GPU”, it means the choke point is your processor and not your graphics card. I got a midrange GTX 560 and I never see anything more than “0 MS waiting for GPU.” To get rid of the info on your screen, type the same thing into console.
If all you want to see is your Frames Per Second, type "FPS" as that will leave out the rest of the information that "R Stats_1" displays.
Avoid commanding if possible. Veteran players should be commanding the entire weekend. It takes in my opinion, about 20 hours split between marine and alien to get a good feel for how the game plays at the FPS level and thus what you need to do as a commander to help your team.
Press “C” a lot. That will bring up your map. NS2 maps are fairly complex and it’s easy to get lost. Regularly checking your map lets you know where you are, where your team is, where the action is and anything you need to respond to. If you have a fancy pants mouse with side buttons, I find it's easier to rebind the map key to that.
Get a mic. Communication is really key on this game. Talk to your teammates, warn them of what’s coming, coordinate attacks.
Stick together. Even a lone Onos (the scary rino-turtle tank thing) goes down relatively quickly. Same for the Exo (the mech/robot suit). Even at the most basic alien level, a pack of skulks can be very formidable. A train of gorges can defeat a few marines. And it’s much easier for Marines to get kills when they’re covering each other
Upon starting a game, don’t all head together in one giant pack, split into smaller squads and explore the map. Games have been lost in 2 minutes because one team left their left flank entirely open.
RT stands for Resource Tower, which gives personal resource which is the game’s money. The more you have the more money you get the more stuff you can buy.
Pay attention to your money. Last night I regularly saw rookie aliens with 100 res still playing skulk. They can afford a fully upgrades Onos. I saw Marines with 100 res using the basic rifle when they could be packing a dual mini gun Exo. Losing a game with full money is just silly. Spend the cash, it doesn't do you any good once the game ends.
Just as individual players generate money from resource towers, so does your Commander which is called "Team Res." You can check on how much "Team Res" is avaliable to your Commander by pressing "Tab" and looking at the number in the top left of your team's chart.
Wondering just what your Commander is doing? Press and hold "J" to bring up the tech tree which will show you what's been researched, what's being researched and how far along it is.
Many maps have secret rooms showing funny stuff in their waiting rooms. Like a Godzilla sized fade playing a carnival claw game. Or a strip club (I kid you not). Have fun finding them!
Someone spamming the mic? Hold down tab and then look for the rotated wifi symbol next to their name. Click it and release tab. You've now muted them.
Grab a welder. Armor doesn’t get repair anymore from the armory and thus to repair your armor, you need to weld stuff (which does a bit of welding on yourself), find a MAC (it’s the floating yellow building robot controlled by the Commander) or have a friend weld you. Without armor, you die very quickly.
Stay in a squad, but space out. It’s easier to shoot things when you’re not all clumped up
Check ceilings and doorways as Skulks can climb walls and wait to ambush you, press F for flashlight to make this easier
The blue glowing doorway is a PHASEGATE, it’s a teleporter that lets you instantly move across the map to other teleporters. Don’t walk if you can teleport. Exos (mech/robot suit) cannot teleport
Regularly glance behind yourself. That should reduce the amount of times you’re ambushed from behind
If a friend has an Exo (mech/robot suit), grab a welder and weld them. Never leave an Exo friend alone if possible.
Exos are overrated. Sure they look cool as it's a mech, but in my experience a jetpack is way more useful. When I first started I thought Exos were the coolest thing, but they require so much support and their manuverability is extremely poor.
I personally feel the most useful tool Marines have is the jetpack. The Commander has to research it from the Prototype lab which looks like a vertical cylinder with little helicopter blades on it from where you buy it. You can channel your inner Boba Fett and fly around the map in short bursts. You also buy the Exo (Mech/Robot suit) at the Prototype Lab and can upgrade the weapons from single to dual railguns/mini guns.
Practice the take and hold strategy. Move into an area, lock it down and then move on. Don’t take a tech point, move on, only to die and lose control of the tech point.
Weapons are purchased at the armory
The Grenade launcher and flamethrower are advanced weapons that you can buy from the advanced armory which upgrades from the regular. There is no friendly fire in the game, but your own grenades and mines can kill you.
The observatory and scanner reveal aliens and mark them with targeting circles making them easier to see.
Don’t run away by yourself as a marine to get health. This isn’t TF2 and you will likely die running away.
Check vents. The maps have vents all over them allowing Aliens to move between rooms much faster than Marines without jetpacks.
If you come across a fallen weapon, you can press “E” to equip. Same like most other FPS games that let you grab discarded weapons
ARCs are mobile sonic artillery which can shoot through walls and are built at the Robotic Laboratory and contolled by the Commander
Avoid standing behind another marine as it makes it harder for the marine in front of you to dodge and it blocks part of your aiming area.
There are 5 alien types, Skulk (weird alien doggy), Gorge (Looks like a small hippo or an alien piggy), Lerk (the flying rat), Fade (hunched over two legged one) and Onos (scary, rino-turtle tank). Skulk is the most basic form, gorge is support, onos is the tank, fade is the quick moving assassin and lerk is the aerial support.
Every class has its own abilities, movement and skills. There are guides for each one on the internet. Too long for this basic tip sheet.
Press B to evolve into another lifeform. Also, find a safe place to do so as you’re easily killed as an egg. Also, find a relatively open space as the devs still haven’t fixed the getting stuck in the map after evolving. Avoid evolving in doorways. Press X and then Z to request a mist from the Commander who can then speed up your evolution
Every class can get upgrades as the Commander researches them, from silent/invisible when walking to extra armor and extra energy. Alien attacks are limited by their energy supply.
The floating insect things are Drifters which the Commander controls and can help build and provide attack abilities
Don’t be afraid to run away. Where Marines generally die if they run, aliens often move fast enough to get away. Onos and Fade should run once they’re down to between 50% to 75% of health. Skulks are free so don’t worry about dying too much.
Hold down control to walk silently. Skulks (the weird alien dog thing), make a lot of noise running and you give away your position. Silently walking lets you set up ambushes much better
Don’t front rush marines as skulks. Generally doesn’t work. Ambush them from the side or from above.
Get off the floors as a skulk. You can run on walls and ceilings and you move faster on them rather than the floor. If you do end up on the floors, spam the space key as you'll jump around and thus move faster and be harder to track.
Combat Mod Tips
Combat Mod is a mod where the basics of the game, taking points, research, and resource towers don't exist. The point of the mod is still the same: Destroy the enemy Hive/Command Chair. There is no Commander either. Combat mod is NS2 team death match. You get resources via repairing, over time and killing enemies. The more resource you get, the more things you can buy. In the server list, a server will specify "Combat" and have a map name that is generally co_XXXXXX to identify it as a combat map. You'll have to download the mod during the loading period. You can download the combat mod from the workshop instead to save time.
Unlike the regular game, upgrades do not disappear upon death. Once you buy a shotgun, you keep the shotgun until the end of the game.
Aliens work a little differently, when you die, you revert to a skulk but all of the resources you paid to evolve return to you. So if an Onos cost 8 resource and you died, you get back 8 when you respawn as a skulk
You can reset your weapon choices which kills you, but refunds all of your money.
The major strategy difference between regular NS2 and Combat is that dying actually matters. In regular, you can die and it's not a big deal outside of losing whatever you evolved or bought. Dying in Combat gives the enemy resources in which to make themselves stronger. "Feeding" or dying without doing kills or damage often results in enemy Exos/Onos being purchased early on.
Combat Mod has a function at a certain time where nothing can be repaired. The hive cannot be healed and the command chair cannot be repaired. Once overtime starts, it's a mad rush to do more damage faster than the other team
Marines use "B" to buy upgrades just as Aliens do to evolve, also you do not need to be at an armory to get upgrades. Armories only serve as healing stations.
Many of the same stock maps are present, but scaled down to fit the needs of combat.
There is a limit of exos and Onos per team.
One of the best Marine upgrades early on is "scanner" which takes the scanner function of the commander and gives it to the player which scans automatically at intervals. Helps your team know what's going on. One or two people on a team having it should be enough, but constant scans give Marines a big advantage.
Xenocide, or suicidal exploding skulks often play a big role late game in Combat Mod. As marine, you want to get armor II to survive a xenocide attack. For aliens, wait until your allies move in and do damage before xenociding. Lerk Spore + Skulk Xenocide is one of the most effective strategies in Combat Mod. Killing 7+ Marines with a single Xenocide after spore is not unheard of.
Like many games, there are mods that you can add to your game to change things like crosshairs, HUD and color schemes and NS2 is no different.
I personally find these two mods extremely useful:
Now, I'm very much of the school of thought that rookies shouldn't Command. However, some people are going to jump in the chair with little to no experience. They should however, read this guide first:
Again, this isn’t an all-inclusive tip sheet, but some tips to get you started and hopefully stay alive. One more thing, if your server has a few veteran players stomping new players, find a new server. Some less than nice veterans feed their egos during sales and get outrageous kill to death ratios (like 35 to 1, or 70:3). They make the game very unpleasant.