Jetpacks are back in style.
Preview by Nathan Fessler (Email)
June 5th 2009
Space marines aren't exactly a fresh concept thematically, but it's been proven over and over that first-person shooters don't need to shatter the artistic mold in order to hold their weight. Games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 don't top the Xbox Live activity charts week after week because their design is fresh or abstract - they achieve this status by letting players compete in an accessible and balanced environment. Likewise, SouthPeak Interactive's Section 8 is on course to carve out its own community with a cocktail of genre familiarities and interesting twists.
Section 8 is on course to carve out its own community with a cocktail of genre familiarities and interesting twists.
When I settled in for my first match, the game seemed to present itself like a greatest hits collection of first-person shooter mechanics. Contestable spawn points? Check. Multiple character classes? Check. Jetpacks à la Tribes? You guessed it. There's a risk involved in treading the beaten path, but as I played more it became clear to me that the implementations aren't just a case of copy-and-paste.
For example, spawning occurs hundreds of feet into the atmosphere and the first obstacle will involve a plummet to the surface. Players are free to spawn above an enemy-controlled base, but doing so means that they will have to contend with a barrage of turret fire. “Dynamic multiplayer experience” was the phrase of the day, and this is supported in part by side missions which become available mid-combat based on a team's accomplishments or style of play. These missions aren't required to win a match, but completing them will create various advantages. If you successfully escort a computer-controlled character to your base, you might find him sticking around to rain bullets on any uninvited guests.
One person can't fill every role on a battlefield, and Section 8 acknowledges this with a character scheme system that lets each individual play to his own strengths. Custom schemes are set up at the beginning of a match and allow a player to select two weapons, two pieces of auxiliary equipment - such as a knife or mortar, and one passive module that equates to a handful of stat bonuses. There don't seem to be any weight restrictions or item dependencies, so choosing a powerful weapon for one slot doesn't have to mean a pea shooter for your second. Go ahead and rock that sniper/missile combo.
A single-player campaign will be present and is described as being more objective-driven, but there's clearly a big emphasis on the competitive multiplayer aspect. There was just one map available to play on the E3 show floor, but it was enough to gather that TimeGate Studios is putting a lot of care into refining and elaborating on genre hallmarks. Section 8 has an ETA of August 2009 and just might be worth a circle on the calendar.