|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: TimeGate Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: South Peak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (32 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Pending: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
My time with Section 8 was quite enjoyable. While I don't see myself clinging to this one past the next several weeks, it's been a fun romp that I certainly don't regret. It's important to know that this game is all about the multiplayer action. In fact, it was designed specifically for online play. The single-player campaign, though entertaining, is essentially a glorified tutorial. If you're one of those few Xbots that doesn't have a Gold subscription, or if your broadband connection is lacking for PC gaming, you'll want to take a pass. For the rest of you, there is a lot of fun to be had, and there are a lot of unique concepts that are well-implemented.
Upon firing up the game, you'll be presented with a quality cutscene that helps flesh out the setting. Interestingly, the following start menu is headed up by the Multiplayer tab - further evidence that this title is all about online play. However, if you're the patient or methodical sort, Section 8 does give players a rather short yet surprisingly fun single-player option. The story is definitely light (to be kind), but it gets the job done. Players will take on the role of Alex Corde, a recruit of the 8th Armored Infantry of the United States Empire. Also known as Section 8, an "antiquated" military term for mentally unstable soldiers, this unit is the toughest collection of warriors the US Imperial Army has in its armed forces. This group of futuristic, power suit wearing paratroopers has been called into action to wrest control of various planets away from the invading Arm of Orion - a splinter group of humanity imposing their will on the outskirts of the empire.
While this narrative never really grows beyond the initial setting, it does provide players with a battleground in which to practice. The single-player experience, though extremely linear, introduces you to every preset character loadout, how to capture control points, going about completing combat missions, purchasing deployables, using vehicles, getting around the battlefield, and "burning in." All of these skills are needed for mastering multiplayer, and by the time you reach the end of Corde's Story, you'll be perfectly familiarized with the game's mechanics.
Moving on to the meat of the title, multiplayer is a unique and fun experience. While it doesn't rival the best multiplayer games out there, it provides a great and unique experience that's probably better than all other second-tier shooters out there. What makes the multiplayer portion so good is the emphasis on strategic elements and the teamwork-centric approach.
For starters, players have the ability to spawn with their squad or can free spawn anywhere on the map. By looking at the TacNet (the map and class selection interface), players can choose to "burn in" (drop into the battle from a low planetary orbit) wherever they'd like. This allows you get right back into the action, get close to the objective, perch yourself on a sniper blind, or flank the enemy unexpectedly. This first layer of tactical assessment really sets the tone.
The next bit of strategic goodness has to do with the way the game is set up. Rather than concentrating just on kills, multiplayer matches are won through the accumulation of Victory Points (VP). That means racking up kills is only one small piece of the puzzle. This puts an emphasis on capturing control points, healing comrades and deployed weaponry, and completing the current combat mission. Also, rather than allowing players to choose between different standard match types, the game objectives are ever-evolving. If you are a shooter fan that only appreciates deathmatch variants, Section 8 is likely not for you. However, if you enjoy other game types like escort, CTF, and zones of control, Section 8 has a lot to offer.
The game has each side of the conflict focusing on capturing control points (computer panels and terminals that control strategic equipment such as AA guns and radar towers) and pulling off Dynamic Combat Missions (DCMs). By capturing control zones, not only is your team awarded with a lot more VP than taking out individual players, but you're also given strategic advantages that allow you to better control the battlefield, giving you the edge. Likewise, combat objectives will constantly be thrown at you and your team. These are complex missions that will net your team major VP. DCM types include Commando (assault an enemy base), VIP (basic escort missions), Outpost (defend a strategic location), Intelligence (nab the intel and return it to a specific point), Bomb (sneak a bomb into an enemy base), and Convoy (pilot vehicles to a specific destination). Needless to say, in order to accomplish these complex goals, you'll have to work with multiple other players to get the job done efficiently. The combination of racking up kills, sneaking behind enemy lines to wrest control of a zone away from them, and completing more complex missions gives the multiplayer a unique characteristic that's very enjoyable.