STAFF REVIEW of Section 8 (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009.
by Tony Ingrassia

Section 8 Box art You are the Elite of the United States Imperial Forces; your unit is known as ?Section 8??..Section 8; irrational, insane, or mad. Your fight: to free the innocent and oppressed from the ?Arm of Orion?. Your destination: New Madrid. Geared with the most modern gear, weaponry and technology, access to Heavy Armor and Tanks??sounds like a non stop action packed experience.

Section 8 is the newest First Person Shooter from Timegate, and it?s jumping into a genre pool filled with some pretty big fish; the heavy hitters of the genre. Will the intense ?Burn-In? and Jet packs be enough to keep Section 8 in the company of all those FPS? Let?s take a look and see.

Forgive the dramatic intro to this review, but let?s face it, you need to come up with some pretty aggressive and intense imagery and wrinkles to stand out in the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre. My personal opinion is that with games like Halo and Gears of War harnessing gamers by the thousands online, you better have your big boy pants on and have something to offer or be sucked up into no-mans land. Alright, enough drama, let?s get to the game???.Section 8.

So your part of an Elite Military Squad sent to New Madrid to defend some of the out of the way colonies the US has left out there. Armed with some impressive armor consisting of a ?Tribes? like Jet pack that adds a nice fighting dynamic to the battles, you arrive on the scene not on the ground but overhead in space. You then ?Burn-In? to your location. The Burn-In system replaces the spawn system in S8 (Section 8) and actually does give you some interesting flexibility. Via your ?TecNet?, your pre-burn HUD, you can carry out a few things. One, you can determine where you want to drop into action, first thing that came to mind was, no more ?Spawn Campers? when I go on-line. You can also tweak your weapons and customize your characters gear in preparation for battle. When you chose a drop location on your HUD map and ?Burn-In? your literally hurled to the surface at break neck speeds, once you reach a certain altitude you have the option to hit your brakes and maneuver your exact drop location. This replacement of the spawn points does give Section 8 a nice change of pace, if your truly a ?Section 8? you can drop right into the action behind, in front of or right on top of the enemy.

S8 does have a wide variety of weapons available to you, assault rifles, rocket launchers, a variety of grenades and bombs, along with a few gadgets like Sensor Blocker and Repair Tool that can ?Repair? (Heal) a target or yourself. Your armor is equipped with a Jet Pack and Overdrive capabilities. The Jet Pack helps you leap distances and hover a bit and has short bursts available which recharges when not in use. Your overdrive is a sprint mechanism; sprint for a short distance and you go into Overdrive, increasing your speed drastically and even overshooting your target at times.

So there is your basic gear but you can also acquire ?Requisition? points to requisition Heavy Armor (A Mech Like suite) and Tanks. You gain points by playing, defeating and accomplishing both basic objectives and ?Dynamic Combat Missions? which are random add on missions that will be offered up as you progress through the regular goals of the game. Add to this a few different Turrets that you can utilize and Supply Depots and you have a good overview of what you?re dealing with.

Alright, so those are the ?Specs? of the game, S8 starts off getting your attention but unfortunately it doesn?t hold it long enough in my opinion. For one, the campaign mode is way too short and being able to be completed in a ?Normal? session of gaming; I?m not talking marathons here. I know what some would say, but it?s online capable and that?s what most will play. Well again, the on-line offering is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing we haven?t seen before or done. The objectives are noting more than a variation of ?Capture the Flag? which is called Hacking, or whatever, but it?s still just sitting there for a period of time to control the objective.

The actual combat, again, while fun in the beginning; becomes a game of chance with the over the top health/armor that opponents and NPC?s are boasting. It seems to take forever to take anything down, and while you would think this make it a greater challenge, it doesn?t. It just turns the battles into stretched out cat and mouse games, add the jet packs and overdrive and the battles seem to take forever to complete. Now I?m not saying that gamers have short attention spans, but you do need to feel like you?re making a dent rather than just chipping away at a never ending situation. I kind of felt like I was beating on a boulder with a plastic hammer at times.

Online; S8 is a 16 on 16 matches that consist of the usual fair, quick, custom, advanced, private and even System Link options. From there you are playing the same ?Campaign? objectives and DCM?s (Dynamic Combat Missions) only in a player vs. player arena (Unless you opt for bots to fill in).

I do want to mention the ?Swarm? modes available in the Instant Action menu. If you love living as an underdog this is for you. Swarm mode pits a small group consisting of players and friendly bots against a larger group of enemies. Again, a great idea and concept, but the above mentioned ?Never Ending? health issue makes this a little one sided?..bots are stellar opponents in S8; there is no confusing a ?Real? opponent with a bot. Now S8 may appeal to some, this is of course one gamers opinion, but the tactical angle that S8 states goes out the window because of this health issue. It?s a problem in game play and drags the game down and it could be the one single factor that may have derailed Section 8.

Section 8 looks great, sounds above average and tries really hard, but the short campaign mode will disappoint the non LIVE players; there are some out there, and the LIVE experience for me was just too much work for little reward. I know that sounds harsh and it?s hard to really put into words how much the Health issue really makes a difference in the pace of the game, and oddly so contradictory to the whole speed element in S8; the overdrive and the Jet packs. You get to your opponent in a dazzling dramatic manner and then you feel like your hitting them with nothing special, it turns into a slap fight for lack of better words.

Like I stated in my opening, the FPS genre is a tough nut to crack, and I?m glad that studios are still trying to re-invent the FPS wheel and I?m sure some great ones will eventually show up. Unfortunately Section 8 falls into the ever growing group of FPS that just don?t make the grade. I would love to see how Section 8?s game play would change with some adjustments to the health system, I can?t emphasize enough how that one dynamic affected this game for me.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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