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Preview: Section 8 Hands-On

| 28 May 2009 00:33
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TimeGate Studios' upcoming sci-fi shooter is making a play to nab an audience in the crowded FPS space, and it's going to do it by making a dramatic entrance. From 15,000 feet in the air.

The respawn is one of the most aggravating instances in any competitive game. Either you automatically pop back to life in less than a second without any drama, or you're stuck watching everyone else have fun for five minutes before you can get back in on the action. Longer if you got killed in the first minute of the match. All those Counter-Strike memories are flooding back to you now, aren't they?

If Section 8 comes off to the cynical gamer as a generic space marine shooter, at least consider its take on the respawn. There's no magical resurrection teleportation device in this game. Instead, when you die, the screen displays a bird's eye view of the battlefield, marking off where enemies and allies are. Double-click on that spot, and then you're catapulted from 15,000 feet in the air toward the ground, hurtling down through the atmosphere before landing on soil.

Sounds like a cheap novelty, but it's a pretty thrilling one, and has plenty of ramifications on how multiplayer action unfolds in Section 8. First, since you can spawn anywhere, spawn camping doesn't exist in this game. Second, it gives matches a steady momentum since you can always spawn in on where people are fighting, or back off if you want to take it easy. Third, if you get it right, you can drop in and land on some poor sap's head for a kill. Yeah, I didn't get good enough at this to pull that one off.

So how does the rest of Section 8 compare to its most interesting feature? Well, from the handful of matches I played, it feels a solid capture-point shooter that comes off as fairly rudimentary but packs in its fair share of nuances.

The maps are huge, and feature five or six capture points, so moving efficiently is vital and takes skill. You hold shift to run, and after you've run for a few seconds, can go into an overdrive mode to sprint like The Flash. From there you can launch off on your jetpack, which requires an easy touch to use well. It reminded me of Tribes, and will probably attract the same kind of people who mastered all the advanced jetpack maneuvers in that game.

Killing your enemies works like in any FPS - you shoot them using your standard FPS arsenal of armaments. You can choose from preset loadouts for your character, but also customize what guns, gear and abilities (like speed boosts for your jetpack) you'll bring into battle. I went for the standard shotgun-and-rocket-launcher loadout, so I didn't get a chance to test how complex this feature is.

As you kill enemies and capture resources, you'll gain points which basically act as cash to purchase helpful things like giant mechs or anti-air turrets, which will blast down any would-be airborne infiltrators. Dropping 15,000 feet onto someone's face is pretty damn satisfying, I'd imagine, but getting shot straight out of the sky? That's just shameful.

Section 8 will be released on PC and Xbox 360 this August.

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