Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Developer: TimeGate Studios
Publisher: Southpeak Interactive
System Link: 2-16
Online Multiplayer: 2-32
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Given the popularity of sci-fi based first person shooters, it is no surprise that we see various releases from the myriad if developers that populate our small blue planet. It is the big games like Halo, Killzone and Metroid that have shown how crazy those who are fans of the genre are when it comes to buying and playing these “shoot the alien race” games. While at E3 earlier this year I passed by a game called Section 8. No, it is not a prequel to the great sci-fi movie District 9. It is another first person shooter based in a science fiction universe where you are tasked with taking down a menacing alien race. The trick here though, the game is pretty much geared for multiplayer play rather then a single player. So what did I think of Section 8? You will have to read on to find out.
Visually I had high hopes for Section 8 given it is a release well into the lifecycle of the Xbox 360 while also being released on PC. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed somewhat as the game was not nearly what I had expected. If there is one word that I can use to describe the graphics, it would be that they are ‘generic’. Being that we have all played sci-fi games that involve space marines, there is not a whole lot new being brought to the table visually. It seems that the title brings a lot of what we have already seen before to the table. Now in the long run that is not particularly a bad thing, however given the triple A titles that will be launched from here till Christmas, there are some much better looking games yet to come. That being said, the game is solid enough that it is better than others, so that is somewhat positive. There is pretty good used of lighting, shadowing, particle effects, explosions, etc, and the game maintains a pretty good framerate. That being said,, just don’t expect to be wowed with what you see on screen.
As with the visuals, the sound gets the job done, but not in a spectacular manner. The music is adequate, and can be there when needed, while the sound effects portray the action on screen to a tee. There is ample use of explosions, gunfire, and enemies dying on the battlefield too. That being said, I found that I was not in awe of the audio that I was listening too. The weapons just seem to be missing the energy that so many games before it offer. My fellow reviewer Trevor H always notes how games like Call of Duty or R6: Vegas have such solid sounds, and when I think of why he says this I totally agree with his thinking as these games sound so much better then Section 8. That is not to say that the game’s sound sucks, it just could be better. In the end the word ‘serviceable’ comes to mind when thinking about the sound.
When I first saw this game at E3, I didn’t give it much thought as I stopped, took a quick look, and moved on to my next meeting. It was one game that I wanted to come back and play during the three day conference, unfortunately I didn’t get the time to as I found myself in too many meetings, as well as looking at too many other titles on the show floor. After E3 I heard a few people say that Section 8 was a “poor man’s Halo” and I didn’t hear much more after that. In all honesty I had forgotten about the title until it hit my desk for review. Once I took some time to sit down and play the retail version I was very surprised to find that the meat of the game is offered up as a multiplayer event. There is a story mode, but this is very short and mainly a way for you to understand what the multiplayer gameplay is about as you go through the same levels as those found online, but in smaller sections opening up more as you gain ground on your enemies and hit specific checkpoints.
Ok, so the game is not about single player campaigning. So what does it offer? It offers up a 32-player online experience that seems to take a mix of different games before it, mixes them up, and pours out the “Section 8” experience. The only mode you will find in the multiplayer mode is called Conquest. Here you must capture and hold a series of enemy ‘points-of-interest’, with the more areas you capture and hold the more points you score. All the while you try to stop the enemy from trying to hack and capture the areas that you control. Does this sound familiar? For me I couldn’t help but think about the Battlefield 2: Modern Combat which was initially released on the original Xbox and an enhanced version was also released early in the Xbox 360’s lifecycle. Same concept, same style execution, different setting.
During your play in Conquest you will find that you can complete something called Dynamic Combat Missions (DCM). This is basically the term for different types of gameplay that can be played within the Conquest mode, however the AI decides what type of mode within the mode you’ll be playing. There are a total of six including Commando, VIP, Outpost, Intelligence, Bomb and Convoy. The interesting thing about the Dynamic Combat Missions is that you must trigger them by completing a set number of specific tasks. Once you activate them it becomes a mad dash to complete the DCM as it is a timed mini-mission that can bring some pretty great bonuses to you if get it done. Of course there is an incentive for the opposing team to stop you as well given that stopping those who are trying to complete a DCM brings on its on prestige and ‘riches’ so to speak.
I found that as I played, especially online, that the idea of the DCM’s brought about some freshness to each match, as you just never knew which of six modes would be activated once you completed all the necessary tasks. So even though there was only one specific mode, the DCMs were able to inject a little more into each match given that the battle unfolded in different ways each time.
There are different classes of soldiers available, from those who specialize in short range weaponry, long range sniping, to those who keep your equipment in running order. Does this sound familiar? I couldn’t help but think of the COD series, or even Wolfenstein on the original Xbox. You can also make customized characters with specific attributes combined to make a character that is specific to you. From being the teams repair man (both in equipment and health) to being a infiltrator who sneaks into your opponents base, steals intelligence, and kills a few baddies while there, you have a lot of options available. An interesting feature here is that should you want to change it up you can do so during a match, on the fly nonetheless. Should you find that your role as a sniper is not needed you can change to a heavy weapon character in an effort to inflict some heavy damage on your foes. Again, similar to COD, you are rewarded with how well you do with each character as you accumulate points that allow you to do such things as summon anti-air guns or mini-gun turrets to name a few. Overall, it really does come down to how you want to play the game that will lead you to choosing your character class.
To ready you for battle you can equip two weapons on your character. You can choose from a total of about six. There is nothing new here that you have not experienced in any other FPS game before. You have your automatic rifle, pistol, shotty, and even the traditional sniper rifle that is great for shooting from afar. As I played around equipping the various weapons for my character(s) I was somewhat overwhelmed with what was offered. The shotty just didn’t feel like shotty’s from other games, and a powerful weapon like the rocket launcher seemed somewhat inconsistent in the results it gave. Overall the weapons just didn’t do it for me as they seemed off, and not the oomph that I have come to expect with weapons that are featured in today’s FPS titles.
Along with the standard weapons are some pretty neat gadgets. They range from a simple wrench that is used to repair items and heal teammates to remote controlled mines and a sensor blocker that messes with your opponents radar. The latter reminded me of time spent playing R6: Vegas and how you could equip a radar jammer and mess with the other team. All in all the gadgets are cool and you can do some pretty neat stuff with them.
Another neat aspect of the game is that your character is equipped with jetpacks. Yep, you have a rocket strapped to the backside of your body that you can use in short spurts. You can use this to jump on top of rooftops or you can use it in combination of something called overdrive where you can run super fast and if you hit an enemy while running in overdrive you can cause significant damage to the enemy you hit. Heck, time things right and you can go through a wall or roof in an effort to get an enemy computer to hack it. All in all the jetpack made for some pretty interesting scenarios that adds a bit more to this game.
I found that this game is not for the faint of heart either. What I mean by this is that the game does seem aimed at the more veteran or hardcore gamer. With 32 people online at one time things can get a little crazy and casual gamers, or those not particularly familiar with FPS titles, will find all the action somewhat hard to follow. From choosing the right class of character, working/communicating as a team amongst the craziness, getting used to the control of the game, to knowing what is taking place on-screen, gamers will have to have experience both as a general gamer, as well as an FPS fan to really enjoy what this game has to offer.
As I mentioned earlier on, this game is best as a multiplayer affair. Although a brief single player campaign does exist, mostly as a large tutorial, playing the online Conquest mode is what this game is all about. For those who can’t make it online all time you can play Section 8 offline as there is bot support. On a side note, the bots can be used online to fill emply spots. Overall the AI bots are somewhat competent as they took on the role of killer, hacker and even healer or repairer. Heck, they even went after the aforementioned DCM which was somewhat surprised me. The opposing teams bot offered up a stiff enough challenge as well. You will find that these bots allow you to learn the online maps, as well as experiment with the class based system to see what suits you the best.
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