Section 8 Updated Hands On

Fancy hurtling through the skies then killing an enemy from the impact? If so, then you should probably check out Section 8.

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If you mixed one part Battlefield, one part Tribes, and added a healthy dollop of sci-fi, then you'd probably get something like SouthPeak's upcoming shooter Section 8. Thankfully, there's much more to this game than mimicking what's gone before, mixing powerful mech combat with lightning-fast airborne infantry. If you're a fan of team-based shooters, then Section 8 looks like it will warrant further investigation.

We were treated to a multiplayer hands-on session when SouthPeak recently dropped by with Xbox 360 code, which supports up to 32 players per match. The goal in multiplayer matches is to earn more points than the opposing team by capturing bases, scoring kills, and completing missions. You play as one of two opposing factions in the game: the 8th Army Infantry or Arm of Orion. While both teams look different, they're equally matched when it comes to weaponry. From what we know of the story, you play as a soldier in a unit known as Section 8, an elite team that drops into hostile areas through a process called "burning in." This involves dropping to the planet surface from several thousand feet, reaching terminal velocity and using your suit's thrusters to brake just before hitting the deck. If you time it too late, you become disorientated on impact and need to rest a moment before continuing. Because there's a degree of control to falling, skilled players can land on top of an enemy and score an instant kill or land on higher ground, which is ideal for sniping. You can also be killed in the process, so it's always a good idea to brake as late as possible.

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With just a few button presses, you can easily set up a match between any combination of humans and/or bots on both teams, and one interesting match type is one-man army, where you're on your own against a team of bots. Section 8 is similar to Tribes and Battlefield, as your goal is to earn more "requisition" points than the other team by capturing bases, scoring kills, and undertaking dynamic combat missions. DCMs are specific objectives, such as destroying supply depots, planting bombs, escorting convoys, or destroying enemy gun turrets. We tried an escort mission where we had to follow a slow truck laden with supplies, and we soon felt like sitting ducks, finding unwanted attention from every direction. Successfully completing a DCM earns your team a wad of points, so it's a great way to get a leg up on the other team.

Section 8 allows you to customise your character using a variety of different weapons and abilities. Primary weapons include machine guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and pistols. Equipping a melee weapon may be commonplace in shooters, but you can forgo this completely in Section 8 and equip grenades, mortars, or a repair tool instead. The repair tool can heal both yourself and vehicles, saving you trips back to the supply depot. With two slots available for both primary and secondary weapons, balancing your payload is completely up to you. You can also equip up to 10 passive modules, and each one gives you unique abilities, such as additional armour plating or improved aiming. There are 36 slots in total, and each module has several levels, so you can choose to focus on a few skills or spread them out. There is no one-shot sniping in Section 8, so if you prefer long-range attacks, you may wish to equip the anvil damage skill, which brings the number of headshots for a kill down from three shots to two, or the gyro stabiliser, which reduces weapon recoil. In addition to customisable upgrades, each player has a few other skills at his disposal. The overdrive sprint mode automatically activates after running for a few moments and is quite useful for traversing some of the bigger maps at a fast pace. Meanwhile, a jetpack gives you a quick burst of altitude. Finally, a lock-on option allows precise aim on an enemy target for several seconds at a time. With so many different customisation options available, it seems every battle will feature a varied mix of soldier configurations.

In addition to beefing up your own arsenal, you can call in extra support in the way of tanks, mechs, and structures. Communications relays, for instance, extend your radar so you can spot enemies that are father away, while supply depots can be used to heal soldiers, replenish ammo, and change your loadout. Defensive structures, including minigun turrets, rocket launchers, and AA guns, can also be placed virtually anywhere on the map. One caveat, however, is that while deployed defences can be destroyed, base defences can't, thanks to AI robots that continually repair them. We tried out both the tanks and mechs, and both are formidable in battle. Tanks have four positions, including the main driver/gunner, missile launcher, and machine gunner, and are best suited to a group of people. Mechs are a solo affair, and while they're slow, they have a machine gun, a jetpack for short jumps, and a devastating melee attack that crushes enemies after a jump.

Mechs might be slow, but they pack a hell of a punch.
Mechs might be slow, but they pack a hell of a punch.

Section 8 uses the Unreal Engine, and there are some nice effects during burning in, where your vision is blurred and flames appear around the edges of your view. Some of the levels are huge and certainly feel ambitious in scope, but it's not all good--characters and structures still look rough around the edges. However, we hope this will be refined in the months before release.

Section 8 is crash-landing on the Xbox 360 and PC on September 4. For more on the game, check out our video preview and stay tuned for more information leading up to release.

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