Dark Pulse

Please note that while this review is for the PC version, most (if not all) of these things should be equally applicable to the Xbox 360 version.

I will be blunt and honest with you: Section 8 is *NOT* a game for everyone. Period. If you love to just run around and kill people, this is not your game. If you don't like to think very much, this is not your game. If you like to strategize and plot, and outwit your enemies, this is the game for you!

Section 8 hasn't changed too much from our preview and that can be a good or a bad thing. Bad, because some things such as numeric ping counters and things that got patched up in the Open Beta patch are missing in action from the final. (To be fair, the final version compile date was before this patch was introduced.) Good, because TimeGate has promised all of this and more will be in the game's forthcoming first patch.

In fact, they've promised a lot of things for this first patch - which is a good thing. Because, as fun as the game is (and as much as I enjoy it - really!) there is sadly some bad about Section 8 - but if these things get adjusted in future patches, the game can easily become far better than it currently is:

  1. A very common problem - one I myself encountered, as well as Sir Brizz - is that the version of Games For Windows LIVE included on the game disc is outdated! There was an update the day Section 8 came out, and as a result, the game - out of the box - cannot initialize GFWL, or worse, will crash almost immediately on startup. This is a major faux pas - admittingly one that is not TimeGate's fault, but the average PC gamer isn't going to realize it. All he's going to think about is that his game that he bought is an expensive coaster. For those of you who are planning to get this game, make sure you get the latest version from the GFWL website. If you already have GFWL installed and are having problems running the game, uninstalling LIVE and the game, downloading the latest LIVE, and then reinstalling the game seems to cure it for *MOST* people, but apparently not all. If you play on Vista x64 (as I do) you might also need to initially tick compatibility mode for XP SP3. (But once it launches up fine, you should be able to disable it like I did.) In addition, the game will not sign you online initially - you have to hit HOME to drop down the LIVE menu and select to login online, or else your statistics at their stat portal will not record properly. TimeGate has assured us they'll have some fixes in the first patch for this.
  2. Admittingly the price of the game is a factor. The game's $46.99 US for PC and $56.99 for 360 according to NewEgg, and many would argue that's far too much with a game that has only one game mode and eight maps, if you don't count variants that have various different Control Points disabled. I wonder why so many people complain about this, when Left 4 Dead (a game which Sir Brizz and I have clashed on in opinion before) is more or less the same thing in terms of game modes, although it can't really compare to it in maps or price. (Especially since it's had several maps and scenarios added.)
  3. There is, out-of-the-box, no editing capabilities. UnrealED is disabled; attempting to launch it will give you a message saying as much. TimeGate has, however, promised us an SDK will be forthcoming, and hopefully soon, because this game really does need some more maps. There are splash screens and references to the editor in the game's INI files, so it does seem they plan on allowing us to make custom maps - let's hope we can do mods and mutators, too!
  4. Some would say that there are balance issues. Not with the weapons - the weapons are all pretty well balanced if you use them in their niche - but with the Tanks and certain deployables. The general feeling of many players is that deployable turrets don't pack enough punch, whereas the tank is almost too powerful. Four tanks rolling is nigh impossible to stop without massive loss of life unless literally your whole team bands together - something that might be too much to ask of the rambos.
  5. This game is really not meant for single player. While there is a SP mode, it's rather short, takes place on the same maps as in Multiplayer, and essentially amounts to training you how to move your soldier, use deployables, and so on, and can really be completed in, at most, about 3-4 hours. There is offline botmatching as well, but the meat and potatoes is definitely multiplayer (something TimeGate has admitted is their real focus) so if you're picking this up and don't plan to go online with it, it's a rather expensive purchase for very limited gameplay.
  6. The game does sadly have DRM present, in the form of SecuROM. What makes no sense whatsoever is that even the Steam version has this. A lot of people are thinking that the GFWL issues are exacerbated by the presence of SecuROM, and I don't disagree.

So is it all a wash for Section 8? I wouldn't say so. Despite the problems - of which there are many - there are some bright spots in all of this:

  1. The developer, TimeGate, has been VERY vocal with their fan base. They do reply to topics on the official Section 8 forums, they give weekly updates to progress, and they do things such as interviewing players in the community - including yours truly. They even allow forum users to ask questions, directly to the developers, and have run contests, including "Best Picture", "Caption this image" and their current contest, a pumpkin-carving contest - giving away signed, original art to the lucky winners. Few developers display this level of reaching out to their community, and it's always admirable to see ones who do.
  2. The game, while flawed right now, is still totally playable. Assuming you're not of the rambo mentality and like to think and plot a bit, I find the game to be tremendously fun and enjoyable, and patches and updates will only serve to make it even more enjoyable. It does get a bit boring playing on the same eight maps, but the maps are well-polished, (mostly) well-balanced, and you never run out of enemies who are very tricky and constantly getting the drop on you when you least expect it. Plus, there's always the possibility for add-on content and DLC.
  3. The gameplay itself is incredibly well-balanced. There are no inherent "classes" so really how well you do depends partially on what role you decide to play, and how you specialize. For example, if you think you're going to be running from control point to control point a lot, you might want to invest in some passive modules that make your character run faster, as this way you can get to the CP faster than the other guy. If you think you're going to be defending CPs, you'll definitely want to put some passive modules into armor and shields. And of course, you want to have the right weapon loadout. A defender will do pretty good with a Machine Gun, a Shotgun, and some Detpacks, but he's probably not the best type to equip with a Sniper Rifle, a Rocket Launcher, and a Sensor Blocker. This is all fully customizable, so there's really no excuses - it's up to you to pick the right loadouts and passive modules, and if you don't, expect to eat floor a lot.
  4. The game isn't all dependent on killing. Believe it or not, you can get points just by helping your team out. Run around and heal up teammates, deployables, and base defenses. Protect VIPs, Outposts, or Convoys. In fact, there's even an achievement that you can only get by killing nobody in the game and finishing with 30 or more points - a very easy feat to do on Teamwork alone. (Though maybe not on the no kills part!) So you don't have to have godlike aiming abilities to help your team out - indeed, making sure that Convoy stays healed can be what wins the match for you.
  5. A tactical mind is a good thing. Those of you who played Assault or Onslaught/Warfare are the sorts of players who would probably like this game the most. I've seen some incredible things during my play - whole feints and everything. Two enemies would hack a control point, and three or four guys would respond, and they'd waste them and secure the point - only to find out that their most heavily fortified base had all of its defenses taken out and there's five or six very angry enemies there to stop them when they return. Simply genius.
  6. The game's pretty much hack-free. I think I've seen one player who had a speedhack, but I haven't seen this player since and cannot determine if he got banned from GFWL or not. Arguably, a speedhack would be more damaging than an aimbot in this game, since no weapon can instant-kill you and a vehicle of any kind would destroy an aimbotter; a speedhacker would be able to run, be almost impossible to shoot, and would likely close in with the knife, killing you in 2-3 hits.
  7. There is unfortunately no demo for the PC version at the current time, and the Open Beta no longer works, so your only methods of seeing how the game flows are knowing a friend who has it, watching videos of it on Youtube or some similar site, or having an Xbox 360 - for that version *DOES* have a demo.

Of course, what would the good and the bad be without the ugly? There's a few of those, too.

  1. The most controversial addition to this game: The ability to lock on to your enemies. This is either something you'll love or you'll hate. The lock-on is *NOT* something abusable - it only lasts for a certain amount of time, and once used, it must take some time to recharge, as all abilities (such as your jetpack) take. It is not a crutch - a skilled player should generally still be able to outdo someone who cannot aim - but it does level out the playing field a bit, as you cannot get cocky and think you can out-aim everyone. There are also ways to break the lock-on - ducking behind cover, jetpacking over a player's head, and a special piece of equipment called a Sensor Blocker all will completely cancel out a lockon, and will empty it as well. In addition, players who skillfully use their lock-on wisely will really tear it up; if you lock-on to the first guy you come across, and he manages to break it, you're in for a world of hurt when he jetpacks over your head, activates his own lockon, and you have to hide fast, knowing that for at least a few seconds he can out-aim you. Little bits of strategy like this are the sort of nuances you have to accept - and embrace - if you plan to play Section 8.
  2. Server and player populations are a bit low. It could be because the game is new, or because of the multitude of GFWL problems, or because of TimeGate's difficulty in getting public servers set up via big-name server hosts (due to GFWL) but right now servers and players are a bit on the thin side - probably roughly UT3 levels. This is something that will hopefully change as TimeGate works out a way with mass-server providers to easily get the game up and running, but as of right now, there are ample servers in the US, UK, and Australia, and a few private ones (Such as the AOD Brothel) going. Your best chances for a game are, of course, the evening/night hours in whatever region you're in. Also note, GFWL hides servers that are full, making the player and server population slightly less than it actually is. The only way to get a full server to show up is if it's in your favorites list.
  3. Some people have had problems getting their stats to be kept track of, while others are getting dropped in the middle of the game for no good reason. This is again blamed on GFWL, and fortunately if you rejoin quick enough your score and money *ARE* kept, so this is generally just a minor annoyance. It also seems to only hit certain people - I know of one person who gets dropped constantly and has ranked up past Level 20 six or seven times, whereas I have never had a problem with my stats updating and have been dropped from the middle of a match perhaps twice. Again, TimeGate has been looking into this problem and should have some fixes out with the patch.

So, the final verdict: Is Section 8 the game for you? Well, as I said at the beginning, it really depends. If you're willing to put up with some small flaws, overlook the currently small number of maps, like to think strategically, and enjoy being part of a rather close-knit community/forum where players are constantly debating strategies, improvements, and dev chatter, then you'll probably like this game. It takes a lot of good elements from several games and does it pretty well. On the other hand, if you believe a Sniper Rifle should almost always kill anyone in one or two shots, that lock-on is a crutch for aiming skills, and that player numbers and your body count are all that matter to you, Section 8 is not the game for you. It takes a certain kind of player to really enjoy this game - someone who loves to think on their toes, who doesn't mind taking time to fine-tune their loadouts, who enjoy the challenges of both cerebral thinking and twitch reflexes. If you're down for that, then you should get this game, because the only place I can see it going is up in terms of future content and quality. If you're sitting on the fence, try to find a friend who has it, or watch some videos on Youtube. If you're Gung-Ho Rambo, find something else and pass this one up - there's nothing here that'll really keep your interest in any way.