Section 8: hands on preview

Screaming through the atmosphere from 15,000 feet as you plummet like a bomb, you take in the entire battlefield before jamming on the air brakes, landing hard and ripping people to pieces with heavy automatic fire. Section 8 takes dramatic entrances seriously.

The game gets its interesting name from a U.S. military discharge order if you are deemed insane. Considering the fact that the soldiers in the game are basically shot on to planets without so much as a parachute, or a pillow to land on, they would have to be mad as rabid dogs to sign up for such duties.

The game recently had a limited open beta phase which gave us a taste of the multiplayer portion of the game and it seems very promising at this early stage. Basically it is a deathmatch between the two factions, Section 8 and Mars, for control of various strategic points on the map. The winning condition is first team to 1,000 points, which means that games can be quite furious and last 10 to 20 minutes, which seems just about right.

Points are scored by shooting out the enemy’s major organs, as well as point capture, assisting the team and destruction of player based structures and vehicles. This means that if killing is not your best strength, being an engineer and repairing everyone and major structures is still a point scoring option. Having said this, the game is very much focused on combat; so playing 100% support is not necessarily an option.

The main gimmick of the game seems to be the respawn system funnily enough. You pick a rough area to drop down on, start your rapid descent, deploy your air brakes half way down and then fine tune your landing. It means that you can land anywhere on the map really, although some places are better than others, as a lot of the enemy owned strategic points are covered with anti-aircraft guns which happily chew you out of the sky. Also, if you deploy your brakes too early, too late or not at all, you absorb a very rough landing and end up staring at your hands and potentially broken wrists for a few seconds whilst recovering.

When you have landed there are still some interesting options open to you, such as a handy jet pack that can boost your jumps nicely, a sprinting mode that once warmed up would put Linford Christie to shame, and the ability to call in vehicles in exchange for the money you earn scoring points. In fact for an online shooter, there are a lot of options open to the player.

We haven’t had the opportunity to try the single player game yet, but at the moment we know that the protagonist, Alex Corde, is a Section 8 member who drops down to planets and takes care of trouble.  Like the multiplayer mode, vehicles can be delivered to you on demand and you can drop at blistering speeds to each location from a drop ship.

The only vehicle available in the beta is an anti infantry walker that has a couple of chain guns and some big robot fists to let you get up close and really personal. You do need to make sure the site you call the vehicles down to is clear as there is about a 20 second wait for vehicle delivery that can seem like 20 minutes if you are bogged down in a tense gun fight. They serve as a very nice reward for your efforts though, giving you a lot more armour, but the downside is that they make you a significantly bigger target. It is quite easy to suddenly have three anti armour infantry drop down right on top of you and start force feeding your new toy explosive death.

If you were to compare Section 8’s multiplayer to any other game, it is a bit of a cross between Unreal Tournament and Tribes. There is a lot of running and gunning involved as the player has a surprising amount of manoeuvrability once they are used to the controls. There is a handy temporary lock on feature that gives you a couple of seconds to focus your weapon on the enemy, which can be helpful if you want to start a high flying evasion. It is not enough to give anyone an unfair advantage, but is just enough to let you focus on moving whilst beginning the attack. Of course it denies the possibility of a headshot whilst in the auto aim mode, so it’s not something that everyone will want to use.

The full game will be crashing into shops on the 11th of September for Xbox 360 and PC, and hopefully be as good as it is promising to be.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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