A new IP with some killer new moves!
Posted 3 years ago By - Curtis McDonald
TimeGate Studios got their start making real-time strategy games and are probably best known for making the expansions for the original F.E.A.R.. Now TimeGate has brought to fruition years of work and have released Section 8, their first major IP. Section 8 places you in a futuristic battlefield where you launch into battle from 15,000 feet and burn-in fast and furious. Whether you play through Carde’s Story, the single player campaign, or hop straight online to shoot it out with other players you will certainly find some unique features in Section 8. The question is, does Section 8 capture the appropriate excitement and is it unique enough to capture fan’s interest or does the burn-in simply go down in flames?
The story of Section 8 revolves around the ongoing war between the 8th armoured infantry and the rebel group, the Arm of Orion. The human race is expanding through the galaxy and the insurrection on frontier planets started by the Arm of Orion causes mayhem on scales never before witnessed. The government of Earth decides that the only recourse is to send in the 8th Armored Infantry, better known as Section 8, the most fearsome and deadly military organization at their disposal. Section 8 refers to an old U.S. military discharge regulation for those mentally unfit for service. The suicidally dangerous missions that the 8th Armored is known for earns them the nickname Section 8.
You step into the powered armour of Alex Corde, who spurned a guaranteed place in the premier Military Academy on Proxima Centauri to sign up as a raw recruit and volunteer for the Armored Infantry Reconnaissance, the most dangerous arm of the Infantry. The single player campaign has you starting off on your first assignment with your new squad and as you progress, your skills and battle savvy has you quickly rising through the ranks as you eventually hunt down one of the Arm of Orion’s top generals.
Unfortunately, I needed to dig into Section 8’s official website to learn the vast majority of the story and character information as none of this is really given to you in-game. The single player campaign is simply little more than an overly long tutorial with a bit of lore slapped on and a few cut scenes thrown in to make it seem more like an actual campaign. While I am certainly disappointed with the lack of a real, separate single player campaign, it must be noted that Section 8 was always touted as being mainly a multiplayer game. In effect, Corde’s Story really does a decent job of familiarizing players with many of the game’s innovative elements.
Section 8 does have a number of r
eally unique features that make the game interesting and fresh in a rather crowded FPS market. The most obvious of these is the burn-in spawning; this really brings a whole new level of tactics to the FPS battlefield. No longer can you guarantee that your six will always be covered. Deployables also become an important factor especially with the use of anti-air turrets to stop the enemy faction from burning-in on top of your position. Rocket turrets to deter enemy heavies and tanks and mini-gun turrets to give pause to infantry. Also included are sensor arrays and supply depots.
Another important feature is the lack of discreet and separate game types in Section 8. You do not choose to join deathmatch or capture the flag style games when joining a match, although all of these game types, and more, are present in one form or another. Each match begins with both teams burning into the map where ever they please and trying to secure capture points (typically a base or building of some kind). Once all of the capture points are secured the teams try to steal these points away by hacking and holding the central control terminal, which turns over control of the bases defences (built in sensors and weapons) to that team. Meanwhile the A.I. starts cranking out the dynamic combat missions (DCMs). The DCMs are additional and voluntary side missions that take place during a typical multiplayer match. These missions fill the role of different multiplayer game types such VIP where an Uber NPC will spawn and if you help him reach your base he will assist in fighting the opposing team, this is of course opposed by the Enemy VIP DCM that tasks the opposing team with killing your VIP before he makes it to your base. Intelligence missions task you with picking up enemy intelligence and getting back to your base but while carrying intel you are unable to run meaning you will need lots of backup. DCMs really do require a lot of teamwork but also net the most victory points (VP). The first team to 1000VP wins the match.
Each player also has access to a whole load of customization abilities when it comes to their soldier. Weapons, equipment and passive mods can all be tailored to your playing style. Do you like being a tank? Max out your shields and armour plating and grab a machine gun and rocket launcher with some mortars and det packs on the side. Feeling sneaky? Boost your stealth and sensor jamming abilities and grab a sniper rifle and knife. Run and gunner? Give yourself some additional lock-on time and boost your jet-pack flight time. Oh yeah, everybody comes equipped with a jet pack which also adds a lot of verticality to firefights. You will also have access to an overdrive mode that becomes activated when running for a short time. Overdrive sends you careening across the landscape at high-speed and is very much needed with the huge maps.
Section 8 was clearly designed to take full advantage of the preference of PC gamers for the mouse and keyboard combo. Like any FPS, Section runs best with a decent gaming mouse and higher DPI settings will result in a more responsive game. Despite this, the controls for Section 8 still feel a touch muddy. Section 8, like most Games for Windows branded PC games, also supports the Xbox 360 controller but I would strongly recommend steering clear of that option as you will be quickly cut down in-game due to less accurate and responsive control.
Section 8 takes place on a number of maps that are largely similar in style and substance but really huge and really fun. With the free X Server software also being made available, computer savvy gamers or server hosting folk will be able to host their own servers using the X Server software making PC matches capable of 40 players. Full matches really take advantage of the huge and open terrain and with tanks and heavies running amuck massive battles and firefights are guaranteed to occur.
Graphics and Audio
Section 8 doesn’t slouch in the graphics department. The powered amour and vehicles are highly detailed, the lighting effects are suitably flashy and the environmental textures are surprisingly good and detailed for such large and open maps. As long as you have a fairly decent GPU you should be able to run Section 8 at high quality and resolution. TimeGate clearly put a lot of effort into the look of Section 8 which is all in all effectively stark and military while still being some excellent eye candy. The few cut-scenes in the campaign are really nicely done and the animations are great but there is something slightly off about the characters themselves.
The audio of Section 8 really manages to capture the feel of each weapon, explosion, airdrop and clang of metal as a heavy crashes down from a leap. The score is tasteful and subtle with the exception of the title music playing while you are accessing the front menus which is overly loud and ostentatious. The sound effects at the title-screen are also very off-putting by being far too loud and piercing to the ears for simple menu selection sounds. The voice acting is suitably cheesy for a military themed game with super gruff officers giving orders and overly pleasant sounding female voices acting as your armour’s AI communicator. The voice acting isn’t particularly fantastic but it also isn’t terrible.
The deep customization system, the numerous weapons, vehicles, types of secondary equipment, deployables and passive mods coupled with varied and randomly activated dynamic combat missions, massive maps and a number of different co-op and swarm modes makes Section 8 a game with some of the highest replay value around. Combine that with an AI balancing system that makes sure games are fun and never become too one-sided means that the game is also accessible to anyone regardless of shooter experience.
Unfortunately, I suspect that the initial impressions of Section 8 will not be positive for many due to the slightly odd setup system, fairly complex character customization system and bland single player campaign. This is fair to a certain extent as all of these are valid issues but once you become accustomed to the game it really does offer an awful lot of value. Section 8 proves that TimeGate can develop a major AAA IP of their own and with some refinement Section 8 may become a serious and important FPS franchise.