In Section 8 you are a member of one of two warring factions of humanity with access to high tech armor and weaponry that puts Iron Man to shame; giant mechs, tanks, and a vast assortment of weapons are yours to blast your opponents into oblivion. So what would anyone do with this kind of weaponry? Why of course they would launch themselves into the atmosphere so they can come straight down on top of enemy and then call in ships to drop the rest of their equipment from the sky. This the basic premise of Section 8 and its arena style combat.
Do you want to know the deep and rich back story behind the war your fighting? How have humans come to colonize other planets and what type of technology they use? Read the game manual. The single player campaign of Section 8 is so minute and condensed that the majority of information about the characters and the ongoing rebellion of the Arm of Orion is found in the game manual. In the single player mode you will be doing much the same as the other two modes of Section 8, firing weapons, hacking terminals, calling in airdrops, and dropping from the sky after you’ve been downed over and over again. You could play as Private Corde for a few fleeting hours experiencing the dissatisfying and empty story or you can play online multiplayer. I recommend the latter.
Multiplayer, Instant Action, and Corde’s story comprise the three game modes of Section 8. Each has a sub set of options, for instant, different difficulties, online or LAN, and even multiple modes in instant action which change the conditions of a match from varying degrees of unfairness. The only mode worth mentioning is Multiplayer, since it will be the only opportunity you will have to play against a human opponent complete with their ability to improvise and strategize. A human player’s imperfect aim is much preferred over the zero to uber solider difficulty of the bots in single player modes. The main objective in multiplayer is to capture and defend control points in order to generate a large enough score to achieve victory. Like the capture the point mode made famous by the Battlefield titles, this means controlling more points than the other team is key to victory.
To speed things along Section 8 also awards points for each frag, hack of a control point, or defusing of a hack during a match. A form of currency is also added to a player’s in game stats when they score a point giving them access to support structures, heavy armor, or a tank to help with combat. The support structures include an anti-aircraft gun to keep spawning enemies from getting the drop on you, a supply depot that repairs armor and structures as well as replenishing ammo and allowing a player to switch classes mid-combat, a radar array that detects enemies, a mini-gun turret and a rocket turret which are best against infantry and armored vehicles respectively.
Players themselves have a wide variety of different options when picking a class to play as; with two weapon slots, two support items, and 10 points that are distributed over 9 different attributes called passive modules. The basic weapons are a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, assault rifle, pistol, shotgun, and machine gun which all have expected attributes. The pistol and shotgun are better for close quarters, the machine gun and assault rifle are better for medium range, and the sniper rifle and rocket launcher are best when fired from a long distance. The support items include everything from grenades to a repair tool to fix yourself, your teammates, and friendly structures and armor. Experimenting with the different customizable options was both fun and frustrating for me as it took a while before I settled on a load out that fit my play style and didn’t have any functions that I didn’t use. When I did hit that sweet spot where the attributes complemented by play style multiplayer matches became much more enjoyable.
Online Multiplayer matches are often fast paced and hectic thanks to an interesting use of achievements. No, not the kind that gets you gamer points. Section 8 has its own multiplayer achievements which are shared within a team and used to start new mission objectives during a multiplayer match. As a match progresses more achievements are unlocked and more secondary objectives are activated until things get to a point where there are 4 secondary objectives going on, two control points are being hacked, while each team has it’s own tank and several soldiers in heavy armor. The natural steady progression that online matches take are incredibly fun to participate in. For actual achievement points I didn’t do too bad in my limited time with the game, scoring almost half my points in the super short single player campaign.
Despite the games complex customizable options Section 8 is a first person shooter at heart. Maps contain 2 to 4 control points and are designed to be defensible with their own regenerating turrets and support structures. The design of each map is focused around the control points, forcing players to approach from certain directions by placing the control terminals inside buildings or on top of structures. So despite a players ability to drop in anywhere on the battlefield their options are still limited by the area covered by AA guns. There is still plenty of room to maneuver on foot using the super sprint function on your armored suit and the landscape is generally flat allowing for the liberal use of vehicles and sprinting. Natural landscapes blend in well with the high the super structures that the control points occupy. Nothing looks functional or practical to use outside the parameters of the game giving the impression that everything was recent built for the purpose of warfare.
The look of the game is fantastic and the art style of the different structures, weapons, and vehicles are sleek and futuristic however nothing ever feels “lived in”. Sometimes while I would play a match and look around at the different structures I would pretend that humans didn’t actually exist in this world and we were all playing the parts of machines fighting a perpetual battle that would never truly be won. Then the game would start to chug and my immersion would break, reminding me that I was playing with a whole bunch of humans in a simulated environment that depended on an internet connection. The sound track is appropriately heart pounding orchestra music that seemed to be taken directly out of the Lord of the Rings films and the voicing acting was solid, if unnecessary.
Section 8 is a generic shooter featuring a short single player story and an expansive multiplayer experience. While the depth of the multiplayer certainly is impressive there isn’t enough content on the disc to justify paying full price for this title. Because this is a new game and the single player campaign isn’t worth the price of admission the multiplayer suffers from droughts of any online competition. I had a lot of fun with this game and I would recommend it to anyone with a Xbox 360 and a gold membership, if only so that I have someone else to play with.