Built with a futuristic theme and a “drop anywhere on the battlefield” attitude, how does Section 8 stack up against other games in the overcrowded First Person Shoot genre?
Section 8 was designed around one key component – multiplayer. Like Quake or Battlefield before it, gamers are not exactly going to pop in this disc to enjoy an engrossing single player campaign. The gameplay is best played with you and 31 other online strangers. However, instead of straight up Deathmatch, players are tasked with taking over control points; the longer you reign over a control point, the more points will be awarded to your team. The mission objective might be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t without its options.
The game can be action packed but that doesn’t mean it is without strategy. By default, the game assigns a set list of weapons and items to fulfill a certain role on the battlefield (ie, basic soldier, heavy guns, medic, etc). The player is given the freedom to bring almost any combination of weapons into battle, but everyone still seems to use the simple machine gun most often. Why? Because it is easiest weapon to kill opponents with, probably due to the game’s auto aim feature. Weapons like the rocket launcher only seem to work against armored vehicles and the sniper rifle suffers because the game’s use of the second analog stick never works right even after playing around with the sensitivity options – it doesn’t move along the horizontal axis fast enough.
Although the weapons might be a little unbalanced, the computer controlled bots are not. For the most part, they do their job. They will try and secure some capture points, they will fight the enemy, and will even aid with dropping support cannons. Unfortunately, sometimes they have trouble staying to defend captured points, but they still do a decent job considering how open ended the gameplay really is and are acceptable substitutes for a possible lack of human players.
Due to the higher player count, most the game’s maps are quite vast. Instead of hopping in a vehicle to travel from Point A to Point B, each character has a built in Overdrive function that causes the player to run at super human speeds – think of Samus’ Speed Boost power up. Combine this turbo running function with the double jumpable jetpack, and you would be surprised how many places you can reach in a short amount of time. The camera also pulls back from the first to a third person perspective to give a wider view of the landscape complete with a blur effect to really create a good sense of speed.
Running through each stage like the Flash can be cool, but it has one major downside – there really is no middle speed. When not in Overdrive mode, the player seems to move at a snail’s pace, which makes even the shortest of distances a grueling task. Also, Overdrive is only activated after holding down the sprint button for a few seconds. This makes it easy to accidentally boost into walls or other objects like an idiot and it could very well get you killed if you are not careful.
One of the coolest features about the game is the drop point function. Instead of spawning at a random place on the map, the player selects a drop point from a simple 2D map. Once selected, the player literally drops in from the sky with the speed of a rocket, and thanks to the shielding of each character’s power suit, can slam into the ground unharmed and without any sort of parachute. This adds strategy to the game because you can choose to drop deep into enemy territory (which has the possibility to damage the enemy with a well placed drop), can join your buddies in a heated firefight, or can spawn in an uninhabited part of the map to claim a capture point uncontested. In defense of this, players can place anti-air turrets to prevent the opponent from dropping in unwanted areas. In terms of control when dropping, the only option is to choose whether or not to slam on the air breaks; there is no horizontal movement whatsoever. This is unfortunate, because choosing a detailed drop point from a dinky map can be difficult. Once airborne, many times the player will wish that they fell just a few feet away, which could make landing on a building or enemy much easier and much more entertaining if even a subtle lateral gliding mechanic was introduced.
Visually, each environment supports some decent graphical quality considering how large each map is. Combine each massive map with the fact that the game literally drops you into each firefight from 15,000 feet in real time and you have to at least acknowledge the technical aspect of making this function possible. As for the presentation, the game’s few FMV’s look pretty nice and each soldier’s powered armor looks cool, although a bit too cookie cutter. Some more minor details, like the water, some particle effects and even the game’s narrator are not exactly of the highest quality, but still get the job done. The music, however, is more forgettable and not exactly the game’s strongest element.
If Section 8 does one thing right, it is providing the player with a near limitless wealth of how to proceed with each mission. From being able to drop in from anywhere, to customizing your own weapon set, to traveling at high speeds at will, each mission will definitely play entirely different from the last. Keep in mind, however, that this game is really only enjoyable when playing in large groups online. The game itself even acknowledges this by placing the majority of Achievements within the multiplayer setting. The heavy emphasis on multiplayer is not a negative, this fact just needed to be known to single player gamers.
Section 8 mixes many elements from previous games in the genre, and actually does so pretty well, but the control issues, overall weapon imbalance, and even slight learning curve prevent this game from being all that it can be. However, if you have exhausted your Halo 3 tactics and are craving something with a similar flavor of Star Wars: Battlefront, then you might want to take a peek at Section 8.
Not As Good As: Halo 3
Also Try: Orange Box
Wait For It: Modern Warfare 2