[We apologize for the tardiness of the review, but the Australian version of Section 8 has constantly been delayed, and was finally just released]
Ever since SouthPeak Games released Two Worlds in 2007, I have been avidly following their publishing career. Two Worlds was a game that offered an incredibly promising idea, but ultimately failed to find any consensual appreciation amongst the gaming community.
Since then, Legendary, X-Blades, and Velvet Assassin have all fallen within the same category of an intriguing idea gone wrong. Does Section 8 break the SouthPeak hoodoo? Or is developer TimeGate Studios doomed to failure with their latest release?
Those are difficult questions to answer. While Section 8 does provide a massive multiplayer experience for console enthusiasts, it ultimately lacks the challenging and unique aspects that can turn a game into a classic.
For those searching for the next Halo: look elsewhere. Section 8 is a multiplayer game at its core, and its attempt at a solo campaign is laughable at best. This fact is endorsed by the “Multiplayer” selection sitting atop “Campaign” in the main menu; TimeGate clearly has very little confidence that their target audience will care much for single player missions.
And with good reason. Starting the campaign, you are immediately thrown into a world riddled with boring cut scenes, poor voice acting, and little to no storyline. Single player mode is essentially a bunch of multiplayer maps pitting you, Alex Corde, and your fellow 8th Armored Infantry units against a horde of bots, and the occasional carbon copy boss.
The voice acting is stale (unnecessarily so), and the cast seems to have been plucked out of every corner of the globe in an attempt to add a universal feel to the game. To be blunt, the script is unconvincing; the addition of random accents only adds another ludicrous element to an already ludicrous campaign mode.
Completing single player won’t leave you glowing with a sense of accomplishment, unless of course you crank it up to the highest difficulty, and for those who don’t have Xbox LIVE Gold, your journey will end here. Without the ability to play online, Section 8 is a definitive rent-first game.
Now that we have the depressing stuff out of the way, let’s get down to what this game is really all about: bigass multiplayer.
Section 8 may not have received all the press in a season when FIFA 10, Assassin’s Creed 2, and Modern Warfare 2 are set for release, but in the world of console multiplayer news, Section 8 reigned supreme.
Too long have Xbox gamers had to wait for 32-player multiplayer, and Section 8 delivers it in spades. Joining a 16-player team may seem daunting to the uninitiated, but after a few matches of team-based carnage you should be hooked on monkey phonics this sci-fi FPS.
Whether you are playing solo or multiplayer, you will always start each respawn several kilometres above the battlefield. The effect is a nice touch, especially if you have a high-definition television, and if you aim well you can do some serious damage by crashing into enemy troops. The drop-in mechanic also allows teams to maintain the upper hand when they are in the lead. For example, if you attempt to drop in over an enemy outpost, more likely than not you will be torn to shreds by automated turrets before you have even hit the ground.
Similar to several other space shooters, your team’s objective is to score 1000 points before your enemies do: namely by killing enemies, and controlling objectives. Random missions are extremely riveting, and you will always find yourself with something to achieve in Section 8, rather than simply flying around with your jetpack, or camping behind conveniently placed crates. Tanks, convoys, and extra outposts can appear at any time during a multiplayer match, and it is thanks to these innovations that the game becomes more than a simple sci-fi arena frag fest.
Unfortunately, there are several basic elements that are simply not attended to, and more often than not, it will have you tearing out your analog sticks in frustration. Standard movement is extremely slow: an inconvenience that TimeGate has attempted to counter by adding supersonic speed, but the inability to shoot when in this mode makes it more of a hindrance than an aid.
The jetpack feature was relentlessly plugged in the lead up to Section 8’s release, but it tends to fall flat on its face in multiplayer. There was rarely a moment when I engaged a member of the opposition and activated my jetpack; it was simply easier to jump, or use the environment, than to readjust my reticle while defying gravity.
All of the preceding thoughts bring me to the age-old argument of whether or not first-person shooters are truly viable on consoles. Halo managed to succeed where previous FPS developers had failed; they combined simple game mechanics with an exciting multiplayer engine, and fans were thankful for it. Section 8 tries so hard to be a console game, but even the epic multiplayer allowance can’t distract you from the fact that the PC variant offers quicker response time, and up to 40-player multiplayer.
Something happened when Bungie’s Halo crashed onto the scene almost a decade ago. All of a sudden science fiction shooters were the latest craze, and developers began commissioning more titles than the market could handle. When that happened, the standard for console shooters skyrocketed. No longer were gamers satisfied with the norm; they expected perfection. As the years have passed, we have been treated to a surplus of games that have attempted to follow in Halo’s footsteps. Some have been brilliant; many have not.
For Section 8 to truly be considered a gem, it would has to revolutionize the way we play this genre. We would have had to be made to think outside of the box, to be challenged in a way we never thought possible and to be entertained in a unique, unorthodox manner.
Unfortunately, Section 8 lacks that ingenuity. To the mainstream gamer, it may be considered an entertaining multiplayer romp, but to console devotees who have waited for a shooter that finally treats them with respect, Section 8 will not be our holy grail.
There is nothing spectacular about the look of Section 8, despite the galactic setting. The maps are decently sized, but even jetpacks can’t make up for the lack of originality.
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The shooting mechanics are clunky, and you may often wonder whether you are, in fact, playing on an Xbox 360. Completing the solo campaign is not in the least bit rewarding, but the drop-in feature will give you something to look forward to.
The developers revert to hackneyed sound effects and music, rather than stepping out of their comfort zone and attempting something unique.
If it weren’t for multiplayer, Section 8 would not even warrant a review. However, 32-player matches are exciting, if only for a few hours.
In a genre filled with dull, uninspired shooters, Section 8 sits atop of the pile of mediocrity.