Gives "Death from Above" a Whole New Meaning

Section 8 Screenshot

HIGH The armor design and functions are great.

LOW The single-player mode is over way too soon.

WTF How can it possibly be so hard to land directly on an enemy?

Anyone who reads this site knows that I'm generally not big on online multiplayer games, unless they're of the 2P co-op variety. Those, I live for. The standard sort of "one army versus another army" stuff, not so much. This may prompt some of you to ask what business I have reviewing a game like Section 8, whose main purpose in existence is online multiplayer. The answer? I'm a sucker for really cool-looking armor. The armor in Section 8? Pretty damned cool.

Essentially a first-person Space Marines-ish sort of affair, Timegate's Section 8 features two distinct modes; the single-player and the online multiplayer.

Regardless of the mode selected, the player starts by being "burned-in". Translation? Getting flung from a low-orbit dropship to the surface of the planet at ridiculous speeds. More than just spectacle, it's possible to engage air-brakes and steer to a preferred landing area within the conflict zone, giving a tactical edge to each touchdown. If the player manages to land directly on top of an enemy, it's an instant kill.

Once on the ground, the nifty armor that caught my eye serves its purpose effectively. Besides protecting the character from the impact of landing, it also sports a Tribes-like jet pack for brief flights and can also engage a third-person hyper-running mode to cross vast expanses of the map in a hurry. In terms of design, Section 8 does a great job of making the player feel like a futuristic soldier well-equipped for advanced battle.

The single-player, usually a throw-away addition in a game of this sort, was actually well-produced and serves as an extremely competent extended tutorial. Starring First Recon soldier Alex Corde, the brief campaign unfolds over a series of areas with varying objectives. Capture this point, eliminate those hostiles, and so on. Although it's not going to win any awards for drama, it was better than expected and I felt very well-versed in the game's mechanics after just a few levels.

Section 8 Screenshot

Sadly, the campaign only lasts a couple of hours, and its brevity is a true shame. I could easily imagine an entire game based just on traditional single-player structure, and if a sequel of that sort was announced, I would sign up in an instant for a second tour of duty. Until that day comes, all that's left is the multiplayer once Corde's story comes to its conclusion.

Having cut my teeth in the brief campaign, it was extremely natural to transition into the online modes with no learning curve at all. There are no new twists, or surprise additions, which I greatly appreciated. Technically, online offers a fairly healthy selection of options such as the ability to customize weapon load-outs, the ability to rearrange the traits of the armor, adding bots, and the usual selection of other host options when starting a session. It's comprehensive.

Although I've heard some complaints that there aren't enough people playing this game, I had no difficulty at all finding matches to join. In fact, every game I played was at full player capacity.

After getting my feet wet, I was surprised to find that the satisfaction I got from hopping, running, and sniping on my own carried over quite well to the team game—something I never saw coming given my general predisposition towards solo. Honestly, it's hard to beat breaking into a cross-country sprint with a sonic boom and then leaping high over defensive walls to obliterate enemies from above. Even a hardcore 1P man like myself isn't immune to this stuff.

Although I'll be the first to admit that online multiplayer is usually the least interesting aspect of any game for me, Section 8 did a great job of making it easy to learn and easy to take part in. That facility combined with the excellent abilities of the armor and fast-paced nature of play make for a solid experience that 360 owners should certainly take note of. Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed one time. 3 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains violence. Parents, as is made quite apparent by the cover of the case and description on the back of the box, this game is all about combat and gunplay. Additionally, the bulk of this experience is intended to be had online with other players. Although the content is not particularly graphic (no language or sexual situations, either) it's safe to say that this game is squarely aimed at the teen-and-older audience. Steer your kids clear.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You should be aware that although all dialogue in the game's cut-scenes and during missions are subtitled, the text is fairly small and hard to read in general, let alone in combat situations. It's a little too easy to miss an important update in the middle of a firefight, but the map compensates by highlighting key objectives. In terms of hit detection, the game does a good job of communicating when players are under attack, so no difficulties there.

Brad Gallaway
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