Starsiege: Tribes spawned a new breed of multiplayer shooter back in 1998. Instead of focusing on weapon pickups and personal glory, it was a class-based, team-focused affair that had you jet-packing your way across open terrain to disable the bases of the opposing side. The action was always frenetic, and everyone had to constantly focus on the well-being of their team if they wanted to come out on top. TimeGate Studios’ Section 8 is a branch off of the same tree. This class-based sci-fi shooter is just as team-focused as Tribes, and contains a number of new and exciting features to breathe some fresh air into this tired genre.
The differences from Tribes become apparent as you begin a match. Instead of randomly appearing on the battlefield, your soldier will drop from the sky onto any position that is not currently controlled by the other team. This adds a lot of unpredictability to the action, as you never know when another player is about to pop into the fight. The classes are completely customizable, so you will be able to choose exactly what your player is carrying to fit each situation. You can also purchase a number of auxiliary items—like turrets and health regenerators—which allow you to play specific roles in the battle. No matter what class you choose, you will always have a massive jetpack strapped to your back so you can soar over the terrain in short rechargeable bursts. There is also a ton of vehicles around, many of which are built to hold multiple players.
In action, the game plays very similarly to its inspiration, with the sci-fi weapons and jetpacking infantry bringing back fond memories from my hours spent with Tribes. The shooting looks solid and varied, as the developer kept switching class options on the fly to show me all of the differences. I didn’t get to see many of the vehicles, though I did watch an intense mech battle that was going on in the background.
One of the coolest innovations that Section 8 has to offer is the presence of mini-objectives, which gives players a different way to gain points other than traditional base capturing. The one that I got to see had a VIP dropping onto the landscape for my team to kill. If the other team defended him, they would nab the points. It was cool to see this meta-battle happening while the overall war was continuing, as it gives players multiple objectives to juggle and many ways to win.
From what I have seen of Section 8, it looks like it will be a solid multiplayer shooter that offers enough large-scale combat and customization to warrant a play. The game was running with 16 players at E3, but the developers hope to push that total to 24 before the game ships.
Section 8 will drop onto PC and Xbox 360 on August 28th, 2009.