Section 8 Review

Platform: Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
UK Price (as reviewed): £34.99 (incl. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $56.99 (Excl. Tax)

This is the situation. It’s a sunny day outside, I’ve just had my lunch and a big soft drink, I’m being told to play computer games and I’ve got my favourite energy-giving Spotify playlist on what I like, but I can still barely summon the enthusiasm to write about Section 8. That’s just how boring and generic we find it.

Scanning the interwebs for some hint about how this tedious little shooter came to be, I’ve come across the mention of Aliens and Starship Troopers as major influences behind the game – a fact which initially bodes well for the game, until you realise that those themes have been incorporated into the gameplay in only the most shallow and trite of senses.

They, TimeGate Studios, say that Aliens and Starship Troopers were major reference points in the game design, but what they really mean is that the game is set in the future and is about soldiers in big suits of armour. The palpable fear and sense of atmosphere that made Aliens so good has been completely overlooked, as has the focus on military doctrine and small-squad tactics that’s central to the Starship Troopers novel.

*Section 8 Review Section 8 Review
Section 8 has tired all the witty captions out of us

So, it’s the future, and soldiers run around in big mechanised suits. That’s what Section 8 is really about and, on paper, there’s nothing wrong with that. In reality though it’s like a wet cake once you take a closer look at it.

Likewise, on paper, there’s nothing hugely wrong with the story of the singleplayer campaign. It tells the story of a soldier who, along with the rest of his squad, goes up against a group called the ARM of Orion, who are in the habit of taking over isolated, almost empty planets. As part of an orbital drop recon unit, your squad then has to drop onto the surface of the planet and accomplish the usual “shoot this, defend that” objectives before you die from exposure to boredom.

In practice there’s an awful lot wrong with the singleplayer campaign. It’s as repetitive as watching Groundhog Day on loop, but hardly as entertaining, and about as interesting as that could possibly be on the 50th running of the film – an analogy that’s especially apt since this is another one of those games that uses the new ‘it’s impossible to fail’ system. To us, that’s almost reason enough to hate the game.

*Section 8 Review Section 8 Review
Missed

While the developers and fans might jump and say that the game is meant as a multiplayer game, they overlook two very important points. Firstly, a lot of the specific errors made in the singleplayer game, such as having uninteresting and mostly derivative mechanics and the blandest level designs this side of Vannilaville, are flaws which are shared with the multiplayer side of the game.

Secondly, just because the multiplayer aspect is the supposed focus of the game, doesn’t redeem the developers for padding things out with a singleplayer portion which can be most generously described as sheer rubbish. Crap is crap, so we really don’t understand why Timegate didn’t just leave the singleplayer out and plough the saved dev time into improving the graphics, because they really need the work. That said, not a lot of what Timegate has done in the past makes a whole lot of sense – see Perseus Mandate for details.

At least they are consistent in failure.

Still, if we’re going to be completely fair to Section 8 then it is worth pointing that the multiplayer side of the game isn’t anywhere as bad as the singleplayer and instant action options. If you’re going to squeeze any fun out of Section 8 (and you will need to give it a mighty squeezing) then you’re going to have to do it in the multiplayer mode.
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