Do you consider the Master Chief to be one of your many heroes? Do you emit a growl of satisfaction every time you slay a Hellghast? Did you like any of the F.E.A.R. expansions? If you answered yes to any of those questions than I suggest you give Section 8 a try because in a market filled to the brim with shooters, this game has managed to not only be good but also introduce some interesting new features to the genre.
Not surprisingly, this game feels like a solid shooter. The guns feel satisfying to use and the controls are solid. The game’s polished gameplay was to be expected as the studio behind the game, TimeGate Studios, also created the fairly decent expansions for the popular supernatural shooter, F.E.A.R. I’m not necessarily saying the expansions were good, as playing all the way through the games’ repetitive environments proved to be more of an endurance test, but the series has always managed to have great gunplay.
While this game has a single-player story, anyone who’s played Unreal Tournament III will recognize the format. Like UT3, this is an online game so the campaign basically serves as a 5+ hour introduction to the game’s world, controls, and story so that you’ll be prepared for the real meat of the game: the multiplayer. Once you’ve spent some time in it you’ll be more than ready to play online, especially since many of your objectives in the campaign are the same as your missions during the online mode.
Besides being a fun tutorial, the single-player has to have something to give you a reason to play it over the multiplayer, right? Right. So in it you are introduced to Corde, the game’s lead character that manages to fit snugly into the familiar space marine mold. Through several cut-scenes (some gorgeous, some not so much) Section 8 tries to make him an interesting character, someone we can relate to, but unfortunately he never manages to be terribly interesting.
However, this won’t matter at all when you’re playing the game online. While the idea of yet another sci-fi themed FPS might sound a bit familiar, and for the most part this game is very familiar, Section 8 also manages to bring with it a breath of fresh air into the stale and overcrowded shooter market. This isn’t another shallow shooter game because there’s a deep level of customization that comes with it. I’m not talking about the facile choose your armor and call sign type of customization, because in this game you are really given the opportunity to make your character your own. Very few shooters have such a high level of customization that Section 8 has, where you can choose your weapon selection, your class (sniper, assault, etc.), and you can also get passive modules that give you bonuses during combat (like the perks in Call of Duty 4).
If you’ve read or seen anything on this game before reading this than you probably already know how you spawn in the various arenas. Section 8 doesn’t have you spawning in set locations, or randomly generated ones either. Instead you are shot from a dropship 15,000 feet in the air where you then get to watch as your character nosedives into the earth, building, or enemy character (if you’re really talented) at astonishing speeds. This is by far one of the game’s coolest features, and while it may at first sound like a really cool gimmick, once you are a few seconds from landing you are given the option of activating your Go-go-gadget-oh-please-God-don't-let-it-fail-afterburners to slow yourself down and glide to a location of your choosing. This practically solves the all-too-common problem with camping and also introduces a welcome level of unpredictability to the game’s frenetic battles.
One of my favorite features in this game is one very few games have anymore: instant action with bots. So when I’m not interested in interacting with actual people I can jump into a game of my choosing and play with people who don’t judge me. Or make fun of me when I commit the atrocity of friendly fire. Or when I kill myself. I can count the number of great shooters this generation that have instant action with bots on one hand, and that’s a shame because sometimes I just like to play alone.
All in all this is a great game with solid gameplay, beautiful worlds, tons of customization, and an excellent multiplayer component. If Halo and Unreal Tournament got together to make sweet sweet baby love, Section 8 would be their gun-toting offspring. I only wish the walk/jog speeds were a bit faster as you basically get to choose between ‘grandma with a bad back’ slow or ‘get the hell out of my way’ fast. The tank controls could use some polishing too, but in the end all the complaints I had with this game were minor. If you’re looking for a solid, intense shooter with great character customization and an equally great online multiplayer, you can’t go wrong with this game.