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Section 8 (like it's filmic namesake District 9) is a shooter that walks its own path. Although this has resulted in a slightly muted single player, it is more than made up for this by a raft of fresh ideas for mutliplayer gaming. This game with its heart on its sleeve creates so many new ways to loose yourself in perpetual multiplayer bliss.
We start in pretty traditional territory. Soldiers in space-marine garb play the protagonists as we head into a familiar single player campaign. Corde's story tells of a series of missions on the planet of New Madrid, where our hero works through familiar objectives and cut-scenes.
Not obhorent, but by no means inspiring. All so far as been done better, bigger and badder elsewhere. The enemies are far form intelligent and require only rudimentary shooting skills to out manouvure. The landscape and backstory are generic and over familiar. And the general macho tone is one we have heard many times already.
But the secret is that Section 8 was never meant to stand on the merit of its single player game. The fact that Corde's Story is buried in the menus is a little give away. In fact you could almost see the whole campaign as a, somewhat drawnout, introduction of what the multiplayer game has in store.
And what it has in store is, to use Nintendo's vernacular, a little disruptive to say the least. This starts with the ability of a fallen player to restart where they want. As they fall back to earth they can pick out a suitable location, and this in one fail swoop removes the stalwart shooter fan's ability to keep track of their enemy. Put simply, they can now be pretty much anywhere, within reason.
Although the lens is still dialed in, as opposed to the wideangled approach from the likes of MAG, the sense of team play is palpaple.
Then, on the way back down they can also customise their basic character classes - engineers, snipers, anti-armour and the like. By mixing different elements of these players can create an unusual (and sometimes inadvisable) mix of abilities. Jetpacks, weapons, equipment, vehicles and abilities all go into this wonderfully liberal melting pot - the Loadout System.
Whereas this at first seems like an overly loose mix and match affair, given a bit more time and experience and you soon develop nuanced ways of employing the abilities and equipment to suite your tactics once on the ground. Take this and place it in a team setting and it becomes a key part of co-ordinating your forces, ensuring that you complement each other's chosen abilties.
This, combined with the large sprawling environments on offer, takes Section 8 into distinctly Role Play territorty. A multplayer gameplay with the emphasis on the multi. One-man-army types are going to balk at the lmitations on both their abilities and tactics. Well organised teams however will revel at pre-match tactics and developing a strong, complementary cross-section of abilities.
Although the lens is still dialed in, as opposed to the wideangled approach from the likes of MAG, the sense of team play is palpaple. In many ways this makes it most like Warhawk's tactical battles. As a newcomer it takes a while to realise quite what is going on. But when you do, you realise that you need to find some friends to play with or a group willing to help school you on the finer points of Section 8 tactics.
Away from this innovative fare, Section 8 sports some solid visuals powered by the Unreal engine. Think Warhammer meets Halo here. These are easily matched by the audio which I found (donning headphones) enabled me to pinpoint enemy fire almost as much as the on screen clues. The whole package is really quite impressive.
There is a great story here in terms of what can be achieved by a dedicated developer determined to innovate rather than replicate what has gone already.
Like anything new though, Section 8's innovation may be its achillies heal. By side stepping much of the normal progression seen in games like Halo and Call of Duty, they may also be side stepping their audience. Players need to have a reason to spend considerable time here before they will really see a return in terms of gameplay. That single player campaign is a great idea but I'm just not sure if there is enough conventional fun there to keep people playing for long enough.
This all makes it much more likely to be a slow burner than an all out hit. There is a great story here in terms of what can be achieved by a dedicated developer determined to innovate rather than replicate what has gone already. Hopefully those of you reading reviews such as this will do some leg work and get the word out. This is a game that will live or die on the strength of the community that builds around it.
Sure, it's far from perfect, and misses out on lessons learnt elsewhere. But what it does do is bring some genuinely new ideas to the genre, while creating a game that is a lot of fun to play. And this is an ideal space in which to loose yourself for hours - perpetual play perfected. Expect to see these innovations appearing in other shooters before too long - and when they do, let's remember where they came from.
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