As someone who never played the predecessor, I can't comment on any similarities or improvements; what I can say, is that this game is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer shooty pew pew games I've played in years.
First off, it looks lovely. Whether you're playing Aliens or Marines, the game has a very nice polished look to it and while the standard map rotation isn't massive, they are well balanced
, which is something I have found to be lacking in a lot of similar team based games. The balance is more impressive when you consider that these aren't typical teams, either. Playing as the basic Alien species, the Skulk, gives you the ability to wall walk and hang onto ceilings, making you a perfect ambush predator. Marines can develop jet packs later in the game, allowing them to fly, but both teams have very distinct differences which makes the need for balance more important.
NS2 is also a game which is very hard to 'carry'. Whereas in other games in a similar vein, you can have a random player join your team and absolutely face ♥♥♥♥ the opposite team with seemingly no help from you or your mates, who are in their minds probably sat with their heads up their arses. This is a game where teamwork is absolutely necessary to succeed, and when you do succeed, it is glorious
. A win on this game on either team feels amazing, like you've worked your balls off to earn it.
As with every other multiplayer game in existence, you will sometimes get a ♥♥♥♥ team. Sometimes you will be on that team, it happens. Other times you will be on the murdering death squad team and feel like you're a god. A lot of the time this responsibility rests on the team Commander. The Commander will sit in the Hive/Command chair, depending on the team, and will take on a top down view of the map. They are in charge of deploying resources and upgrading abilities/equipment for their team; they also direct their team mates as to where they should push or where the commander thinks they should push. Team synergy between the troops and the commander is vital, and I've not seen that nailed so well before as in this game.
The NS2 community is also very friendly. The first time I decided to play Commander I was a nervous wreck, but I was guided and helped by my team mates and - shock horror - NOT
screamed at for my lack of experience. I've been in the odd game where new players are given crap, but the vast majority of games I have played have been with very nice people who are endlessly helpful. Even starting out playing, other players will help if you ask and give you tips as to what to do.
One downside I've found to this game, and it's a major one, is that the player base appears to be dwindling. This means that relatively full games are getting harder to come by, especially later on at night. Many servers are empty and it's a real shame, because this game is a bundle of fun once you get to grips with it, which leads on to my next point.
NS2 has somewhat of a steep learning curve. When I say steep, I mean that it takes a while to get learn the benefits and playstyle of each Alien and also the Marine weaponry and equipment.
I've personally found that this isn't a game where you can just pick a class and play however the hell you want, you have to know what you're doing with certain things otherwise you can be a bit of a spare part. For example, when you play on the Alien team, initially you will spawn as a Skulk. To play the other 'classes', you have to Evolve into them and this is done through your own personal resources which increase as you play, push and kill. The most expensive class, the Onos, is an absolute beast, but new players (and old) can sometimes be seen playing them and just rushing into Marine bases because at first glance you see your massive health pool and think you're an immortal juggernaut. Tactical maneuvres, organised by and with your team, are the key to success in this game and the solo warrior approach simply will not work.
NS2 also offsets potential pitfalls presented by fellow players. Occasionally, you will get a complete and utter turd as your Commander - it happens. Thankfully, you can choose to Eject ♥♥♥♥ty commanders, along with a plethora of other commands such as voting, signalling to your team mates and taunting, amongst others. Team communication is vital in this game so a mic goes a long way for those times when you're getting the ♥♥♥♥ shot out of you and can't type your predicament. Map pinging also helps brings sticky situations to your team mates' and commander's attention.
Overall, awesome game. I only hope that the playerbase gets a revival, because it is a shame that more people don't get to experience the brilliance that is Natural Selection 2.