previews\ Aug 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Section 8 - PC - Preview 2

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or even if you have, for that matter – you’ve probably played more than your fair share of first-person shooters. Taking a glance at South Peak’s Section 8 might understandably yield little more than a shrug from the average gamer looking for a summer distraction. However, the full shooter experience offered by Section 8 is often greater than the sum of its parts.

Superficially, the game is obviously targeted toward a young male demographic. Brawny males in heavy powered suits running around with guns doesn’t exactly scream of originality; in fact, it resembles about half the games currently on the market. That being said, Section 8 does make a considerable effort to distinguish itself in an oversaturated genre. When the game opens with an introductory cinematic, there is no sign of the excessive gore, silly one-liners, or obnoxious rock music that pervades so many similar titles. Instead, we are offered a glimpse into the personal thoughts of a protagonist. With nearly poetic precision, he recalls the scene of a childhood birthday, a stark contrast to the cold interior of the armored carrier he currently occupies. He admits that his pending task has an element of “fun,” and this reminds him of what’s like to be a child. This seems to knock gently on the fourth wall of the game universe, a refreshing way to introduce a new story.

Whatever potential lies within the single-player narrative, it will remain a mystery for a while. This preview beta is focused exclusively on the multiplayer gameplay modes. Just as demonstrated in the opening cinematic, the player enters the field of battle by way of an airborne drop. This ties in surprisingly well with the online modes, as it allows you to select a spawn point which, rather than allowing you to magically appear on the map, offers you the chance to pinpoint a location of your choice in which to drop into the action. Once launched from your vessel in your powered battle suit, you assume control of the character before even hitting the ground. An airbrake is available to help slow your descent, and you can even maneuver slightly in the event that you should spot a more desirable patch of ground during your high-speed drop.

This also helps to cut down on those long hours you might have spent in other games, trudging through an enormous map, trying to reach the heart of the action, only to get shot down by some unseen sniper. Of course, many games do allow you select spawn points, but few have implemented it so stylishly. At the top of the HUD is the standard “tug-of-war” in points between the teams. This, combined with the frequent use of jetpack jumping, stirs up memories of Star Wars Battlefront. However, Section 8 seems to balance itself nicely by incorporating elements from multiple shooters. Fans of Call of Duty will instantly understand how to make use of the upgrade slots to build a better soldier, while any who’s played Halo will have no problem grasping the basic regenerating shield mechanic. The amalgamation of these elements works surprisingly well for Section 8. It takes the better bits from previous games and presents itself as something that is easy and intuitive to play.

In addition to the usual arsenal of firearms, Section 8 mixes things up with vehicular elements, as well as turrets. The pace and ease of navigation is also complemented by some of the aforementioned abilities. If a platform is just out of reach, you can activate your thrusters to access it. If you need to beat a hasty retreat or just don’t feel like taking it slow and safe, try a burst of speed and you’ll clear the terrain in no time. This might not always be preferable, of course. The introverted gamer might pause to admire the odd specular lighting effect or vibrantly colored landscape. The audio is similarly effective; it takes no tremendous risks, but the menu’s theme music is rather catchy. Section 8 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in any way. It merely presents itself as smartly-designed shooter, one that will certainly appeal to gamers hoping to satisfy their itchy trigger fingers.

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