Far away from the prying eyes of the war-fearing citizens who make up the bulk of peaceful society, a battalion of armor-clad soldiers stages needless battles in desolate environments. Section 8 is a generic look at the struggles futuristic space marines will have to go through, but despite its uninspired trappings, the intergalactic fights are unpredictable and chaotic, and the diverse array of objectives gives more thoughtful players a chance to help their team in ways other than unmitigated destruction. There are a few missed opportunities in Section 8, such as vehicles that are all but worthless and environments that are too large for their own good, but the main elements are enjoyable, though not quite gripping. With a dull aesthetic and heavy reliance on gameplay techniques found in other first-person shooters, Section 8 struggles to stand out from the pack, but the engaging matches and satisfying gun battles make this online-focused game worth playing.
The biggest difference between the PlayStation 3 version and last year's Xbox 360 and PC releases is the price. This downloadable-only game is $29.99, significantly cheaper than the full-retail price both games went for when they first debuted. In addition to the more reasonable entry fee, there are three bonus maps as well. These were available on the other systems, but you had to shell out extra cash to get them. There are not many players currently taking part in the action, but the intelligent bots do a good job of filling out matches. Other than that, this is the same game as before.
Although the focal point of Section 8 is the 32-player online conflicts, there is a single-player campaign that goes slightly beyond mere training levels. The story surrounding your feats is entirely forgettable, but the levels themselves are generally well designed, offering a fun alternative to the online warfare. The maps in the campaign are the same as in the online mode, but they're structured differently, and their vast size mimics a real-life siege as you slowly gain ground, complete objectives, and push the enemy further and further back. Whereas the multiplayer versions of these maps are completely open as soon as matches begin, the single-player offerings have walled-off areas that open only once you reach certain checkpoints. Because its levels are structured in an easily digestible fashion, Section 8 is able to introduce you to this world without overwhelming you with sprawling levels and an overabundance of objectives.
The only match type in Section 8 is called Conquest. Here, two teams strive to earn victory points by killing other players, capturing control points, and completing dynamic combat missions (DCM). There is no way to choose just team deathmatch or a capture-the-flag variant, but the different objective types are all rolled into this mode, making for an ever-changing, unpredictable experience. To capture a control point, you have to find either a neutral or enemy-owned computer and hack it by tapping A. Once it's in your possession, you earn the accompanying turrets and other defensive structures, making it difficult for the other team to steal them back. Every few minutes, teams earn points for the number of control stations they possess, and victory is awarded to the team that reaches the designated number of victory points first.
Although the tug-of-war aspect of capturing control points can get tiresome before long, the dynamic combat missions do a good job of keeping matches fresh. You earn feats by completing certain tasks, such as killing two players with a knife or destroying one tank, and once you earn enough feats, a DCM is automatically triggered. There are six different mission types that can be initiated, and these diverse objectives add a lot of excitement to the matches. You have only a limited amount of time to complete these, so it makes for frantic action as you try to beat the clock while your opponents attempt to halt your progress. Not only do you get more victory points for successfully passing (or thwarting) these missions, but you earn other bonuses that make victory easier to achieve. For instance, if you can successfully steal intelligence from within your enemy's base, you can see your opponent's positions across the entire map. Because of the importance of these mini-missions, teams usually go full throttle trying to complete them, which makes for exciting combat sequences.
Whether you're playing alone or with 31 of your closest friends, there are six guns and seven gadgets to choose from, though you can carry only two of each at a time. It's not easy to switch your gear midbattle, so you'll have to choose your loadout wisely depending on which objectives you want to go after during your life. The guns are entirely standard, and include the requisite fast-shooting automatics, a slow but powerful shotgun, and an ultraprecise sniper rifle. They each excel in specific circumstances, so you can't rely on just one gun throughout. The missile launcher, for instance, has such unpredictable splash damage that it's virtually worthless against another human, but it can destroy a turret with just a few blasts. The gadgets are just as diverse, including a wrench that can repair structures and heal fellow soldiers, remote-controlled mines, and a knife that gives you a melee attack. The sensor blocker is one of the most valuable gadgets, allowing you to mess with your opponent's radar so you can rush into his base unseen. The limited number of weapons and gadgets is disappointing, but they are well balanced and fun to use.
While walking from fight to fight, you character moves incredibly slowly, but you have a few tricks that make movement a little more interesting. First, you can sprint. If you run for a few seconds without interruption, you kick into overdrive, which lets you move at an exaggerated rate, and if you crash into enemies, you kill them instantly. More importantly, you have a rocket pack, which allows you to jump ridiculous distances. The ability to jump all over the place lets you tackle objectives in new ways, since you can easily crash through the ceilings of certain buildings instead of simply walking through the door, but the difference it makes in combat is even more apparent. It's easy to fly behind cover midbattle or surprise your opponents by dropping in unexpectedly from above, so you have to constantly be on your toes. The difficulty of hitting a flying target is mitigated by a lock-on system. By zooming in on foes, you can enable lock-on, which gives you a steady aim as long as they stay within view. This feature isn't overpowered because an enemy can quickly jump or run away from your sights, but if you lock on to oblivious foes, you can kill them before they have a chance to evade you.
As you complete objectives, you earn money, with which you can purchase turrets and vehicles. The turrets are especially helpful, letting you set up minigun-wielding or rocket-spewing units to defend your control points while you go off to complete a dynamic combat mission. The vehicles, on the other hand, are quite lame. You can summon either a mech or a tank, but both are extremely disappointing. The mech is even slower than your sluggish walking pace. With no ability to sprint or jump ridiculous heights, it can only plod along the ground, drawing fire from enemies tauntingly out of your reach. Although you have more energy within the mech than outside of it, your foes can easily surround and dispose of you, quickly showcasing how fruitless your purchase was. The tank is just as ineffective, getting stuck on every divot and pebble along these rocky roads. It's a shame the vehicles are so utterly pointless because the battles could have used a dose of variety. With only six different weapon types, battles can unfold in only so many ways, and the worthless vehicles don't add any much-needed spice.
Beneath its generic exterior, Section 8 is a fun take on the ongoing battle between rival space marines. Though there is only one match type, the dynamic objectives keep the action feeling fresh and continually force you to switch your tactics to counter the changing battlefield. The expansive environments can get lonely if you find yourself far away from everyone else, but they are well constructed, giving many different ways to try to capture control points or ambush your hapless enemies. And if you can't find enough players to fill all 32 spots, you can add as many bots as you want. The bots present worthy adversaries and allies, not only in their battle acumen, but in the way they approach objectives or just hang back to defend your base. With a few more weapon types and vehicles that actually worked, Section 8 could have been a lot more exciting. As it is, this is a satisfying take on the genre that makes up in fun what it lacks in innovation.