Review: Section 8 (PS3)

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In a market dominated by Halo and Call of Duty and various other known mainstream franchises, breaking onto the scene with a new FPS IP is a mighty tough task. Even tougher when that new IP’s chief focus is multiplayer in a mainstream arena where consumers are unrelenting in their demand for great single-player and great multiplayer in the same package – not one or the other. Undaunted, TimeGate Studios has taken on this seemingly insurmountable objective with its latest game Section 8, a sci-fi multiplayer-centric FPS first released last year on PC and Xbox 360 and now also available for PS3 as a PSN downloadable. Mission accomplished?

Section 8 is hardly an original work of FPS design, but overall, I’d say that yes, TimeGate has successfully completed its mission.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, TimeGate has done a lot of other developers proud with Section 8, as it pulls many different ideas from other top FPS titles and weaves them together into a unified experience, with a few unique touches for added punch. Overall, Section 8 plays a lot like team-based war games such as Battlefield and the similarly under-appreciated Frontlines: Fuel of War, and also pulls elements from other titles like Tribes, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Medal of Honor Airborne.

Although Section 8 is outfitted with a single-player campaign that is actually a pretty fun ride while it lasts – eight missions and maybe four hours of gameplay with a thin sci-fi storyline – this is not a game to consider if you are a solo gamer. Multiplayer is clearly the focus, and fortunately the multiplayer is well executed.

Up to 32 players battle it out online in a game of conquest, capturing controls points and completing Dynamic Combat Missions (DCMs) to earn Victory Points, with the team that reaches the designated point total first declared the victor. The constant struggle of capturing and defending bases is nothing new for a multiplayer FPS, but the DCMs bring a much needed unpredictability to what would otherwise be a very predictable game without them.

DCMs are timed sub-objectives that are automatically triggered over the course of a match and reward your team with bonus points if you successfully complete the provided objective within the time limit or defend the objective target for the duration of its activation. These DCMs come in six types with objectives ranging from escorting/assassinating a VIP commander to intercepting and destroying a stranded vehicle convoy, and really make up for the fact that the game really only has the one match type. Elements of typical FPS modes like team deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill are all rolled up into one dynamic match type, which is neat in concept and absolutely thrilling in execution.

Another nice touch is the orbital burn-in feature. When you enter a match or respawn after being fragged, you pick a spawn point anywhere on the map and are then dropped into action like a dropship trooper with the option to plunge to the surface below as quickly as possible or activate a breaking system halfway through the freefall so you can guide your soldier with finer precision. This cuts out a lot of the tedious map travel common in online war games of this ilk, which is a definite plus because the vehicles in this game control like crap and the on-foot movement speed is pretty damn slow. Built-in jetpack thrusters and a third-person super-sprint mechanic also help alleviate navigation hassles – none of the maps (21 in all) are overwhelmingly huge either, which is nice.

The nuts and bolts of Section 8’s gameplay are also nice and snug. The weapons aren’t the most exciting you’ll ever see or hear in an FPS, but they are still fun to shoot and the controls are tight. Multiplayer staples like leaderboards, customizable weapon loadouts, a ranking system and earnable rewards (badges, feats, etc.) are in place as well, as are some other nifty features like the option to balance uneven teams with AI bots if there aren’t enough live players (the AI is quite good too) and the ability to call in supply drops, turrets and vehicles during battle. For a game that hasn’t gotten a lot of pub, I’ve also been surprised by how strong the community seems to be. I’ve been able to find full matches within seconds every single time, which I didn’t expect considering other PS3 multiplayer games I’ve been dabbling with over the past couple months (MAG, BioShock 2, Aliens vs. Predator, and so on) aren’t exactly booming with players.

One area where Section 8 stumbles a little bit, though, is in its visual presentation. The game has an appealing look overall with its dreamy star- and planet-filled skies and sweeping space landscapes, but the art style is very much “generic sci-fi” (*cough*like Halo*cough*) and the Unreal tech powering the game is showing its age with flat textures and elementary level geometry. And in case you were wondering, there is very little difference between the different platforms. I’ve played both console versions and would say that the PS3 version looks a bit sharper and maybe runs a little smoother, but these improvements are marginal at best. However, the PS3 version does come with three bonus maps that were paid DLC on the other platforms and some other minor tweaks (all difficulties for the campaign are unlocked from the start, for example).

As a full-price retail release on PC and Xbox 360 last year (you can find both cheaper now though of course), Section 8 was a tougher sell because of some of the drawbacks I have addressed. But as a $30 PSN game, it really is a no-brainer if you’re itching for another multiplayer FPS obsession.

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Pros:
+ DCMs and burn-in spawning bring extra excitement and unpredictability
+ Deftly pulls ideas from other FPSs without ripping them off wholesale
+ Solid core FPS mechanics
+ Surprisingly entertaining solo campaign
+ Good community features

Cons:
– Generic sci-fi graphics
– Lousy vehicle controls
– Sluggish movement speed

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for PC and Xbox 360
Publisher: TimeGate Studios
Developer: TimeGate Studios
Release Date: PS3 – 3/25/2010, PC/Xbox 360 – September 2009
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-32
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!