A lot of FPS’s go for some sort of gimmick. The genre is so solidified, saturated, and standardized that to have any sort of success it has to do something different or unique, and to do it really well.
Section 8 is actually very much a lot like other shooters; the fact that you are a space marine with two health bars, one including shields, is the first clue. But it does have some quirks. The most noticeable difference is respawning, something you’d never think would change or become awesome in any way, but on this point they have done very well. When you respawn, you come in on a pod and it feels like you’re inside a meteor crashing towards earth. You have your minimap on while you’re crashing towards the battleground and can see just how close your enemies or allies will be. Just before you land, you have a chance to hit the brake and exercise some control over where you’ll hit the ground. Crashing next to allies to heal them or next enemies to get right into the fray is always enjoyable, and the need to pay attention while dead keeps you in the game, instead of in and out of it like when you die in most other shooters.
There are some other unique features too, but their execution is a bit more flawed. Section 8 bears the strongest resemblance to Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, where multiplayer consists of large group battles based around bases, checkpoints, vehicles, and deployable turrets. That game is good, though not spectacular, and one of its problems is that on many maps if you had no vehicle you had to either sit around waiting for one or you had to walk for 20-30 seconds, only to get sniped. Section 8 solves that problem by giving players the ability to run very, very fast, in fact, sometimes faster than many vehicles. You can get to where you want on large maps with ease. You’ve also got a short bursting jetpack that helps greatly with navigating around the large cliffs, boulders and buildings that are so frequent in the scenery.
The running feature is good for traversing the map, but not much else. The most annoying thing about it is that it is doesn’t control well when you’re trying to stop from starting or trying to start stopping. To activate it, you must walk continuously without stopping, and it seems like every time I was walking nearby the length of walking I wanted to do was just over the amount needed to activate it, making me dash right before I got where I wanted to go. There is a cooldown too, and it’s annoying to have it continuously be wasted. The jetpack is a little better, but when the burst runs out and you have to wait for it to recharge, your jumps are so tiny and pathetic that you’re practically a sitting duck. And if you have no run or jetpack, you’re done. Unlike Halo or Gears of War, you can’t charge in and get a kill or two before you go down, and unlike Unreal Tournament or Quake, you can’t run for your life to go heal or powerup.
It gives the feel of all your kills and deaths more a matter of being at the right place and right time rather than being good at shooting or dodging, and this even if you’re a skilled FPS player.
Of course, the thing to remember is that it’s a large-scale team game with vehicles, turret and supply depot summoning, and coordinated strategy. But getting the strategy coordinated is difficult. Players actually sometimes invited me to parties—when I could find people playing. The servers are frequently empty and already there are not many people playing the game, unfortunately. A trip over to various forums confirms this. Incidentally, the forum of the PC players is much more active, so one wonders if the game community is superior on that platform. Voice chat comes more easily over there, anyway.
As for the single player campaign, it’s hastily pushed together. It’s mostly pretty easy (on medium, anyway) except for a couple of levels. You can respawn infinitely, and though there is supposed to be some sort of storyline, it’s very sloppy and confusing. It’s basically about “us vs. them” and the drama and acting is a little cheesy. It’s clearly a primer to prepare you for multiplayer and to get you accustomed to the vast customization you can give to your 6 loadouts (there are 6 classes, but you can ultimately change every single about them, so they are more like save profiles than classes). But the multiplayer lacks a community—to find some good games you will have to get online and seek out the loyal core that schedules games together.
Section 8 is flashy and enticing at first, but the vehicles and deployable structures have been done before. The super sprint, jetpack, and respawn are unique and thoughtful additions, but they aren’t major achievements that redefine the genre, or, for that matter, make the rest of the game fun.
ESRB: M for violence and a few naughty words. This is M in the way that Halo is an M, not in the way Gears of War is an M.
Pros: Cool respawning, big maps don’t leave you out in the boonies, classes are highly customizable
Cons: Boring single player campaign, hard to find people who play when it’s a heavily team-based game, graphics and combat are derivative