When people see another bunch of space marines, with yet another kind of cool helmet, there’s every chance they’ll turn away from Section 8. But that could be a mistake. Timegate Studios aren’t trying to tell a clever story here – although there is a single-player campaign to train you up for the online action. Section 8 has been built around that multiplayer game.
In building a new and beefy online experience, Timegate have taken inspiration from the games they love. It’s traditional point-capturing action at heart, but they’ve nabbed a bit of PC’s Battlefield 2142’s aesthetic, and the excellent jetpacks from the old online shooter Tribes, among plenty of other stuff. Then, they’ve tried to remove everything that bugged them about those other games.
So, maps are far more dynamic. Now all the capture points start off neutral, and players can choose to be dropped anywhere on the map. And you don’t just spawn – possibly borrowed from PlanetSide, you’re launched into the atmosphere from 15,000 feet, in a process called ‘burning-in’. This is safe the first time, as everyone else is doing the same thing – but once people start capturing and building anti-aircraft guns, it becomes a bit more treacherous.
As the battle progresses, both teams acquire requisition points, and these can be spent on (among other things) mech suits, four-man tanks, supply depots, auto-firing turrets, and sensor arrays to have the enemies plotted on your mini-map. These are all placed by players, so you won’t end up with the same old choke points. You have to react to your enemy’s tactics, instead of map knowledge.
As the battles progress, you can choose ‘Dynamic Combat Missions’ to boost you requisition points and overall team score. For example, escorting or defending a specific base anywhere on the map. You reckon you can escort a truck safely across the map? Shouldn’t be any problem. Only the enemy team will all be alerted that there’s a big reward in destroying that truck.
That everything’s controlled by the players in these maps, and that the maps seem well-designed and good-looking, makes the scope for long-term varied enjoyment huge. But it also means that playing with random dicks will be twice as frustrating. Timegate just have to find a way to get their ideas across, because it’d be a shame if the generic feel stopped anyone from actually enjoying it.
Feb 5, 2009