Sir Brizz

When I sat down to write this preview I was a little confused about where to start. After all, I can't really think of any specific game that Section 8 reminds me of to springboard what I want to say about it, despite the fact that the game often reminds me of dozens of games across all genres.

I guess the first thing is to mention what Section 8 is. Section 8 has you taking control of a military unit called Section 8 because they are often given assignments or missions that are seen as "insane" by other units or command. There is a full blown single player campaign, with online co-op through Games for Windows Live, however we were not given a preview of this part of the game. The multiplayer, however, is where the game is going to really shine for some, and hopefully foster a wide ranging community of online gamers.

Section 8 mixes gameplay from so many sources that you are sure to find yourself reminiscing in gameplay from games I won't even think to mention here. It has similar class based, control point nabbing gameplay as Unreal 2's XMP but much improved and polished to boot. You'll find traces of classics like Tribes, Battlefield, UT, and a plethora of other games at your fingertips the moment you jump into the game. Unlike other games that have tried this and failed, Section 8 manages to pull it off with such panache that you will find yourself drawn back to the game over and over no matter how "cheap" the last game seemed.

So, we've mentioned control points. Those are important in the game. They give your teammates safe places to spawn and collect supplies. Speaking of spawning, this isn't your classic "Oh, I died! I'll just magically appear out of thin air in a few seconds!" Noooo. In Section 8, respawning is immensely cool. You're called in from the sky and you can drop in anywhere on the map (not protected by Anti Air cannons) to accomplish your missions. And when I say drop in, I mean it literally. You fall from the sky. This is probably the single coolest spawning mechanism I've seen in any game. The animation is cool. The effect is cool, and the gameplay benefits are outstanding.

As far as missions are concerned, capturing control points is not the only thing you'll be asked to do. There are also a load of "DCMs" or Dynamic Combat Missions. These range from calling in an "Outpost" and defending it for a certain amount of time, to dropping in a VIP and escorting him to his destination safely. There is a whole rule system for how these are triggered that I can't really delve into here (because I know basically nothing about it), but I'm sure when the full game comes out, people will figure out good ways to coordinate their DCMs.

Now, on to the core gameplay. The action is fast and highly entertaining. Getting from point to point isn't too difficult, since you can run, sprint (after running for a few seconds), or use your Tribes-alike jetpack to lift you up to high places. The controls for shooting feel tight and are nicely tweakable in the settings, and kills are both gratifying and fun. There are several loadouts to select from, with a Sniper class, an Engineer, Medic, Heavy Gunner, Light Gunner, and a couple other classes. You can also customize your class and fill different skills with skill points and load yourself out with different weapons. This gives another level of breadth to the game as you can completely customize your loadouts to your own strengths.

Finally, racking up kills and earning points also earns you cash that you can spend to call in support from turrets or vehicles. But be careful. Like spawning, these are dropped in from planes, except these planes can be shot down before your package ever arrives! Thankfully, it's usually pretty easy to find a spot to drop in a tank, and turrets really only help you when they are near a control point you are trying to defend.

Performance-wise, the multiplayer version we played ran great. I have an average system, and I constantly posted 60+ frames at medium-high settings. And the graphics don't look bad at all. They may not be the Gears of War level of detail that everyone comes to expect from UE3 games these days, but considering the size of the maps, and the number of people and events you can have going on on your screen at one time, it hardly matters. You won't have time to check if your enemies genitals are quivering like in Batman, or to inspect the detailing on the butt of others' suits. Standing around in this game is liable to get you killed quick.

Ultimately, Section 8 is one of those games where you pick it up for a second to try out a gameplay feature or to take a screenshot, and you emerge hours later with bloodshot eyes wondering how you are going to wake yourself up in the morning to attend the doldrums that have to pass before you can get back to the game.

(Editor's note: the version we played used Gamespy for server browsing. The full game will use Games for Windows Live)

Images used by permission.