Section 8 is the type of game that has the markings of just another first-person shooter for the Xbox 360. Your character is a generic soldier fighting a group of generic enemies in mechanical armor. However, once you dissect what’s under the hood the game delivers one of the most in-depth and enjoyable multi-player experiences for those patient enough to learn all the intricacies. This is also the game’s downfall as going into it without the intention of playing online is truly a waste of cash. Section 8 is not for the solo or casual online player. This is a team game that emphasizes the use of communication and dedication. If you can handle all of the pre-requisites, this could easily become one of your favorite online destinations for the next few months.
The first time I dropped into the game I chose to go with Instant Action; just to kind of get a feel for what I was getting into. The sheer amount of things to keep track of can be overwhelming at first. This is why I highly recommend taking a course through the single-player story mode before trying to tackle any of the online features. The story mode follows Alex Corde, a new recruit in the infantry division dubbed Section 8. This nickname was given because of the soldiers’ want to be on the front line of battle. Section 8 is the first line of defense, and to be on it you have to be just a little bit crazy.
The story mode isn’t going to win any awards for incredible narrative, but it does a fantastic job of introducing you to all the nuances in the game. Think of it as an expansive tutorial and it will make more sense. Each level has you executing various objectives that become imperative in online battles. Capturing control points, stealing and delivering intel and bombing missions are just some of the DCM (Dynamic Combat Missions) you will be introduced to in multi-player. Being an online-focused game this mode does wonders for preparing you for the onslaught of things to see and do in multi-player.
Once you have become familiar with the ins and outs of the way the game works hopping online is a breeze. I ran into a few connection issues and laggy servers in my play time, but nothing out of the ordinary for a game of this type. I imagine when more people start to get the game and the dedicated servers become more commonplace, the game will run a lot smoother, but for review purposes getting in and having fun wasn’t much of an issue. Once in a game you immediately recognize what separates the game from the rest of the herd.
Burning in is probably one of the coolest spawning mechanics in recent memory. Instead of selecting pre-determined spots to jump back into the action all players will be dropping in from a low orbit base. This allows you two options: you can opt to spawn in with your squad or simply choose a spot and drop down. This gives you a chance to get back to any spot on the map without having to traverse the battlefield. There are dangers though, as you are burning in enemies can attack you and if their base is lined with anti-air guns, dropping into their nest will prove suicidal. This also makes the action relatively non-stop, and the ability to customize your loadout before each burn is definitely a plus.
What makes Section 8’s multi-player so much different than what you are used to though is the dynamic combat. There is no traditional deathmatch style game here. Scoring frags nets you what are capped Victory Points (VP), but they are minimal when compared to other objectives. Capturing control points and performing DCMs are the main goal, and are what keep things moving at such a brisk pace. This also requires a steady dose of teamwork, so using a headset is highly recommended. Collaborating on where to strike and what to work towards are essential to victory. This game is not for commandos who think they can carry the team by themselves, which is another reason for its appeal.
Completing these objectives and earning VP also nets you points to access deployable items on the battlefield. Calling in vehicles and turrets isn’t new to the genre, but the sheer amount of possibilities here keeps things interesting. Running low on ammo? Simply call in a supply depot. This changes the dynamic of combat and keeps matches interesting the very end. Section 8 relies so heavily on things like this that it also becomes its downfall. If you are not in a solid match with good players, the experience can be extremely hampered. I love being able to customize my loadout, save it for future spawns and creating tactical strategies, but when you get in a room full of people who just want to kill each other; the fun quickly dissolves.
Visually the game looks good. Character models are nicely detailed if not a bit generic in design, and the maps are enormous. Frame rate problems don’t plague the action often and the details and explosions are well done. I am in love with the presentation though. This game has the best Achievement tracker ever in a game. It lets you sort between Achievement types and shows your progress. This is also true of your stats, leaderboards and customization options. This game was built for stat junkies like myself. Sound doesn’t fare quite as well. Music is forgettable and the voice work while good, is not featured enough to matter. Sound effects though sound great on a good setup.
Section 8 is what it is, a great multi-player experience that will likely suffer more because of the community and less because of the game itself. If enough people purchase the game and grow a solid community I can see it quickly becoming one of my favorite online endeavors. Unfortunately at the time of this writing it was already feeling like a ghost town at certain hours of the day. Section 8 is a must-buy for people looking for another great team-based shooter that manages to think outside the box. I just hope enough people recognize it to keep the online battles flowing.