Section 8 is Milspeak for "Mentally unsuited for military life". A "Big Chicken Dinner", or BCD, is a bad conduct discharge..... Both about sum up the character that you play in this game, and his squad. Psycopaths all, intent on maiming and killing in varied and inventive ways. Sound just up your street? Well strap on your space-marine armour and prepare for "Burn-in".
Very reminiscent of "Planetside", "Tribes"and "Unreal Tournament" (it uses the Unreal Engine) "Section 8" takes the best of the Space-Marine genre and pretties it up with some excellent graphics, indeed, the intro scene is movie quality computer art, as stunning as scenes from the Starship Trooper movie. Section 8 system requirements are fairly typical for current generation graphically-impressive games taking advantage of multi-coring. My middle-of-the-road gaming-rig handled it well with no lag in multiplayer despite my graphics card being just within specs.
Single player follows the career of Trooper Corde, who we met in the intro scene through a series of increasingly difficult missions that act as a tutorial and ensure that you will not disgrace yourself too badly when you move in to online multiplayer. Mission one introduces you to the joys of "Burning-In", a sort of force-field assisted HALO drop from a troop shuttle that is used throughout the single and multiplayer games for initial deployment and subsequent respawns onto the 8 different maps included. This is quite a nice lead in to combat,giving you a quick orientation of the battlefield and locations of your friends and enemies, as you approach the hard-stuff, with or without the use of airbrakes. (Just don't pick inside the red circles as your dropzone, those mark anti-aircraft fire areas.....and they hurt!) Basic weapons and tactics are introduced as well as "buying" on-call deployables such as resupply stations, automated minigun, AA and rocket turrets, and the exosuits and tanks which beef up your character's combat abilities.
Weapons start with a simple but deadly melee knife, a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, squad automatic weapon, rocket launcher and sniper rifle. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses and there is an interesting "Lock-on" sighting mode which rewards a little experimentation. There are also equipable repair tools, sensors, stealth modules, gyros for absorbing recoil and improving re-aim, armour modules, anvil armour-piercing rounds, grenades, demopacks, artillery strikes and marmite sandwiches. The game comes preloaded with standard Assault, Engineer, Sniper and Support loadouts. They are worth examining closely to see the benefits and abilities they offer. Then you can go on to create custom loadouts of your own, if you feel the situation really requires 5 cans of baked-beans, a combat-knife and a toilet-plunger.
Missions are all combinations of the take control points by hacking the central computer type, and complete escort/interception/courier tasks while thwarting the enemies attempts to do the same. The 8 preloaded maps are all well balanced and contain features for all player types, high-spots for snipers, choke-points for ambushes and open ground for armour. All loadouts come with enhanced speed-run, jet-packs and the crouch mode to aid accuracy at the expense of mobility. As an aside, I was surprised there was no prone position for increased accuracy, especially when sniping. I know the Unreal engine supports it as my favourite First Person Shooter "Red Orchestra" uses the same engine. Players online told me it was to encourage mobility and keep battles fluid. This it does, battles take place on approximately 2km squared maps and so far have never gotten bogged down or boring.
Multiplayer is the strongest part of this game, and has room for all levels of ability, from noobs like me to hardened killers with thousands of scalps at their belts. Credits come for kills and other achievements which can then be used to "buy" deployables. As you gain XP you get promoted through the ranks and unlock awards, and it's not too fast thst you can "beat" the game and become totally ownage in a few hours. A week getting pwned as a noob has advanced me to a mere corporal.....and there are five-star generals out there reducing me to raspberry jello on most multiplayer maps. Online is handled for PC through a free (silver) subscription to "Games For Windows Live" which worked fine for me after the usual registration rigmarole. Although it's still early days for this game, I always found a multiplayer server with real people in. Some use bots to round out the numbers and the bots are no push-overs, although, not as challenging or satisfying as wasting a "real" opponent.
I like it, it reminds me alot of "Planetside" on a smaller but much more graphically appealing level. Online play has been fun, the community has been helpful, inclusive and welcoming to a noob and the developers quick to fix bugs and listen to player constructive criticism. The game is incredibly polished, so far I have only found one hole-in-the-map when I "burned in" to a cleft between two spires while looking for a good high sniping spot. A quick exit soon fixed that jam. It gets a place on my hard drive, just one seat down from "Red Orchestra".