Section 8 Hands-On - August 5th 2009

Dropping in from high orbit is super-slick shooter Section 8, an FPS with bold plans to refine the winning formula of frantic multiplayer action. TGSN went hands on with the game at a recent press event in London.

A quick glance at this year's release schedule will reveal a plethora of first person shooter titles vying for your love and attention. Never before has this genre been so crowded. Standing tall amongst the big hitters like Call of Duty and Halo is going to require something a little bit special. But at the same time, you can’t go forgetting the basics. For every high profile voice actor, ludicrous advertising campaign, and promise of ever more destructible scenery, the game itself has still got to be fun to play. Section 8 appears to have taken that philosophy, launched it from space, and slammed it into the ground with all the pomp and circumstance of a big name release.

Multiplayer will be Section 8's defining feature.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an FPS attempt to refine the gameplay innovation of other next-gen efforts. The highly publicised “burn in” feature echoes EA’s Medal of Honour Airbourne, and aims to solve the issue of spawn camping. This constantly shifts the balance of power on a map, as reinforcements can land anywhere on the battlefield. Thankfully, TimeGate have come up with a simple point and click system that has you burning in without breaking a sweat. You select an area on the map as your designated drop zone, but once you’re away, mid flight adjustments can be made to alter your trajectory. You can even land on other players, but this is next to impossible to pull off (although that didn’t stop me trying!). You are vulnerable to anti-aircraft and small arms fire when spawning, which forces you to think on the fly and adapt to each situation. This also guarantees that you can get straight back into the action, whether you’re on a personal vendetta or are close to losing an objective. It works well in practice, and adds a dynamic to large scale battles that encourages co-ordination and teamwork. The sight of other players descending through the atmosphere is also a nice touch.

And it doesn’t take a genius to notice the Counter Strike-esque level of customisation available. But once again, TimeGate have managed to take things one step further. Unlike the perk system employed by the most recent Call of Duty games, Section 8 allows you to mix and match weapons, gadgets and upgrades to your heart's content. There are next to no restrictions on the combinations of items you can throw together; this can even be done on the fly, ready for the next time you spawn. It’s a fool proof and well designed system, and it didn’t take me long before I found myself tweaking my load out to respond to different situations (as opposed to just selecting another pre-determined class). You could equip a sniper rifle, a sensor blocker and a knife, to remain hidden and defend yourself at close range. But should you stumble across an enemy tank and meet your maker, you could switch out your equipment for something more explosive, burn in close by, and enact your revenge.

Unashamedly fun.

The spawning and customisation options are designed to work together, and this led to some particularly memorable moments during our time with the game. After being hunted down and repeatedly killed by one of the developers playing on my server, I felt that enough was enough. I decided to bide my time, picking off people here and there from a distance whilst keeping myself out of harm's way. My efforts were rewarded with the option of deploying a sensor jammer, one of many items that can be dropped in during a match. I made my way to an enemy controlled base, deployed the jammer and started capturing the point. My ruse worked, as sure enough my developer rival came strutting in to investigate, completely oblivious to my sneaky camping ways. After a fairly tense 30 seconds…I died once again. My competitive nature notwithstanding, Section 8 reminds me of “the good ol’ days” when Goldeneye 64 and Call of Duty 1 could keep me playing for hours on end. It has a similar addictive quality, which should guarantee a thriving online community post-launch.

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SouthPeak Interactive
TimeGate Studios