A colleague in the gaming industry recently explained that he was taking an extended hiatus from reviewing first person shooters. When I asked for the source of his sudden cynicism, he explained, “Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the games. FPSs are starting to feel all alike to me.” As an enthusiast of the genre, I didn’t immediately identify with his criticism. Later that week, while playing Wolfenstein, I experienced a moment of empathy. Between the tension created by invisible monsters, and the mini-bosses with Achilles–like canisters mounted on their shoulders, the title had some striking similarities with Resistance 2. Perhaps, a bout of FPS fatigue was in my immediate future as well.
Luckily, genre exhaustion was postponed during my recent time with Xbox 360 release, Section 8. Although the TimeGate-developed title initially appeared to be a formulaic shooter, closer inspection presented a number of mechanics that elevated the game beyond several of its peers. Certainly, players that appreciate tactical multiplayer teamwork over hectic deathmatches will find enjoyment on the title’s massive battlefields.
Section 8’s single player game serves merely as near-obligatory training for the game’s multiplayer matches. Players are introduced to the title’s protagonist, Alex Corde, who strays little from space marine archetypes, in his expedition to assist in the elimination of a rebel faction known as the Arm of Orion. By the time players have completed the campaign, they should be proficient at operating vehicles, buying deployables, and building functional loadouts.
Additionally, players will be trained in three mechanics that separate Section 8 from most of its FPS brethren. Jet-packs allow soldiers to leap up to lofty vistas and outlook points, as well as bound across the game’s maps. To prevent the game from turning into an aerial combat-focused diversion, the developers implemented a lengthy recharge time between sky jumps. As characters tend to move slowly, a press of the left stick will initiate ‘overdrive’, allowing players to sprint across maps. Section 8’s last addition to the genre is the integration of burn-ins, allowing respawning characters to freefall down to nearly any part of the map. Players have the ability to hit the air-brakes during their decent, steering their counterpart into hotspots, or landing on an opponent for an instant kill.
Online matches not only focus on the typical capturing of control points, but also offer dynamic objectives as well. Here teams may be called on to defend bases, destroy and escort convoys, or kill a CPU-controlled target. Accomplishing these tasks requires an ample amount of cooperation between teammates, but victory grants your side an advantage over opposing forces. When a match is filled to capacity with gamers, all of Section 8’s come together quite nicely. Sadly, our experience with the game showed that the servers were regrettably desolate.
The game’s visuals are sufficiently other-worldly; skies are filled with exotic moons while some terrains are peppered with jutting rock formations. The game’s incorporation of the Unreal 3 engine means that environments are filled with moderately detailed textures, while only succumbing to the occasional drop in framerate. The title’s audio doesn’t hold up as well; both Section 8’s soundtrack and voice-overs are rather anemic.
Although solitary players will find little depth in the Section 8’s single player modes, fans of tactical multiplayer combat should be pleased with the title. The game offers enough variation from the deluge of online frag-fests to warrant a purchase for FPS aficionados. Like all multiplayer diversions, a player’s enjoyment is closely related to the size and level of camaraderie found in its community. Hopefully, the impending release of the Halo ODST juggernaut will not affect Section 8 adversely; the game deserves its own devoted audience, as well.
Section 8 was reviewed on retail Xbox 360 code.