E3 2009: Section 8 Hands On Preview
Written Tuesday, June 09, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
SouthPeak weren’t showing much at E3 for the Xbox 360 this year but what they were showing though, the small publisher had high hopes for. On their booth was a totally reworked Raven Squad and their upcoming sci-fi first person shooter from TimeGate Studios (FEAR Files), Section 8. We got the chance to go hands on with Section 8’s multiplayer on the show floor and as usual, we like to stick our noses in and report back on how the title is shaping up.
Section 8’s multiplayer mode is set to feature a standard 16 player set-up, allowing 32 players to play on a dedicated server. The multiplayer mode we took part in consisted of 2 teams of 8 facing off against one another in a race to score 1000 points. The ability to score points rested on two fundamental design features; one, you can score a small amount of points by killing opponents, and two, you can gain big point pickups by fulfilling the map objectives that randomly crop up. So one minute you could be escorting an AI driven VIP from one side of the map to the other, and the next, you could be asked to infiltrate enemy lines to place explosives on various waypoints.
Like various other shooters these days, Section 8 allows you to select a class before you spawn, but the ability to custom build classes exists allowing you to choose any two weapons, your two secondary pieces of equipment (in other words, your gadgets) and your passive modules which relates to your suit’s strengths. The weapons on the whole seemed quite balanced except for the sniper rifle that seemed to be really underpowered, thankfully however, the rockets weren’t too overpowering which was a blessing. Allowing you to select all the weapons right out the blocks ultimately means that balance is essential and I think it’s safe to say TimeGate got that one nearly right.
The controls are responsive enough, if not a little overcomplicated and unnatural at times but Section 8 does look to add a little bit of innovation into the genre with a few noteworthy gimmicks. The first of which allows you to not only drop in (like an ODST from Halo), but to choose where you land with the ability to steer with brakes as you get closer to your intended destination. However, dropping in isn’t without its dangers as enemy anti-air turrets can shred you to pieces if you choose to land in a hot spot. In addition, Section 8 allows you to access an overdrive function that can be initiated with the click of an A button after an extended sprint. This thrusts you into third person mode and allows you to get from one side of the map to the other with relative ease. Combine that with the jetpack and you’ll be making good ground in no time ... I just wish that sometimes it was a little easier to know where you’re going to though, from an mission objective standpoint. Last, but not least, you also have the ability to auto-lock for around two seconds when you’ve tracked an enemy in your scope for a certain amount of time. Thankfully, it’s not too overpowering and can’t be used all the time ... it merely adds as an assist every so often but in no way really shapes a firefight.
The problem with Section 8’s showing at E3 this year was that it sat amongst a great set of shooters on show which really combined to show how generic its multiplayer was. Sure, Section 8 does a few things that sets it apart from other shooters, like the overdrive function and the drop-in spawning mechanic, but novel gimmicks aside, the multiplayer was pretty bog standard and in order to make it a worthy purchase, we’re hoping that the single player story mode will set it free. If it doesn’t, SouthPeak’s Section 8 stands a good chance in being drowned out by the already established shooters set to drop this year, and maybe even some of the lesser ones. Their only saving grace may be that it’s heading for an August release, and not in between set franchise titles like Halo ODST, Left 4 Dead 2 and Modern Warfare 2. There is still hope for the title, but that hope surely remains in its single player, and not its fast, frenetic and fundamentally ordinary online mode.