Review: Section 8

Halo-killer. It’s a certainty you’ve heard this expression before. Halo, at the height of its popularity, and even now, continues to be one of the top contenders for multiplayer gamers and simply those who wish to experience an entertaining first-person shooter. Many titles have come and gone that have not quite “killed” Halo, at least not in a similar fashion. Though Section 8, an offering provided by SouthPeak Games has not been touted as the death of Halo multiplayer games, it certainly is simple to see where it has garnered its inspiration from. While you have certainly experience a more solid and engaging shooter before, Section 8 manages to captivate and enthrall with 32-player online skirmishes and a single-player campaign that, with a bit more polish, could have been something much more noteworthy than the final product turned out to be.

Section 8 is, at its core, a multiplayer-centric title. It seems developers created the title solely with online action in mind, as the major focus is certainly surrounding explose battles with some interesting twists in spawning and developments while fighting. That isn’t to say that the single-player campaign mode has been ignored entirely, as in the case of multiplayer cult favorite, Shadowrun. Rather than a series of brief tutorials, Section 8 does provide a competent FPS adventure with a definitively forgettable storyline.
Deep into the future, where humanity has expanded its reach to the stars and beyond, a radical group has appointed themselves the most appropriate committee for taking over distant planets connected to the earth, all while avoiding the watchful gaze of the government. This collective, known as the ARM of Orion, is a nefarious organization with shady intentions. You’re tasked with investigating them as one Alex Corde, a member of “Section 8,” which is an unfavorable position to be in — it’s based on an older military regulation where soldiers are classified as “mentally unfit for service.”
Throughout some admittedly well-constructed levels you will eventually uncover their secrets, as well as some other simple plot devices, though it is clear that the focus was never meant to be on the single-player adventure. This is rather unfortunate, as developers should be aware these days that games that tend to focus solely on online aspect will begin to stagnate after they have lost their initial appeal, rendering the game essentially useless. This has happened time and again in my history of gaming, and it’s a move that I can’t quite wrap my head around. I would much rather suffer tacked-on multiplayer than a tacked-on campaign, considering the full retail price and ephemerality of multiplayer endeavors.
Campaign levels are essentially the very same levels you will find yourself exploring in multiplayer matchups, which can either be considered very lazy or convenient to newcomers to the game. If you play through the campaign, though most areas will be inaccessible to you before reaching certain objectives or checkpoints, you will be better prepared for the multiplayer mayhem to come, as you will have already explored them once previously.
Since the game is all about hitting up the online venues of either your PC or Xbox 360, it’s rather odd that there is only one mode to partake in, and it goes by the name of Conquest. For a title that supports 31 other players, you would assume all the basic multiplayer modes would be included as well, or at the very least a vanilla Team Deathmatch or Capture the Flag gametype. For being the only gametype, Conquest does a fair job of rolling all of what you would expect to find in multiplayer modes into one excursion. Teams jet to victory through combined efforts in capturing other control points, killing other soldiers, and completing missions within known as “dynamic combat missions.” Missions are automatically triggered upon the completion of “feats” such as blowing up a tank or various other combat niceties. Rack up enough feats and you’ll find yourself faced with a DCM to complete. Each mission completed scores you more points, though your opponents will try from hell to high water to prevent you from completing them. Between six types of these that can be triggered via online play and the constant tension of exploring what does and what does not work within this sprawling multiplayer presentation, there’s a lot of learning to do, and some players might be thrown off a bit due to the steep curve.
Capturing control points from your opponents via hacking into the computers littered throughout the maps is always an exhilarating experience, but it can feel tedious after a while, and that’s where the DCMs come in to reward you with a different and more satisfying match each time you play, considering you learn the ropes quickly and can get along with your team. Since you can choose where to spawn, spawn killing has been obliterated, though you can choose for the game to auto-spawn you as well. This was an interesting touch that more games would do well to implement.  The weapons with which you’ll be bravely fighting these battles are limited to six armaments and seven varied pieces of gadgetry to choose from, which is a bit of a small number considering other games’ repertoires, and it should be duly noted that you will need to change your equipment near the end of each dispatch, much like switching multiplayer classes in Call of Duty. Choosing the proper set of armaments is integral to success, as each character’s loadout is varied.

You’ll want to choose what best fits your play style — would you rather keep up the health of your teammates via classes with the wrench and similar gadgetry, or are heavy explosives more up your alley? This kind of play style ensures that all gamers have a fair chance at succeeding, when there are no rewards for being ridiculously high-leveled or experienced save for the fact that with earned cash via missions you can purchase cars or even upgrade your defenses. The amount of vehicles you can choose from is limited to six as well as the weapon selection, though what is offered is quite competent.

I found Section 8 to be fairly balanced, and for that it should be lauded. It presents a varied yet still stagnant FPS experience that is clearly aimed at the multiplayer gamer. Underneath a bit of a veil of banality, you’ll find a rich and entertaining diversion that, while it enthralls and excites, it also suffers from generic storyline syndrome and the fact that it relies so heavily on multiplayer will be a bit of a turnoff. Still, for an underdog shooter that hasn’t received nearly as much press as the big guns have, this title is worth the money or at least a rent, even though it may be short-lived considering the shelf-life of most multiplayer titles and the fact that November is just around the corner.

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