For a game that could technically be considered a Battlefield clone, Section 8 does a great job of throwing that formula on its head. We recently got to perform in more than a few orbital drops in the game's multiplayer beta and check out what makes it different. Almost equal parts Battlefield and Starsiege: Tribes, Section 8 combines some of the best aspects of those games' infantry combat with a futuristic twist all its own.
Before you make your first drop, it makes sense to check out which classes are available to you. Though six preconfigured classes are ready so that you can jump into a fight and go, each one of them can be altered to fit your style. Want to carry an assault rifle and shotgun into the field alongside a sensor blocker and repair tool? So be it. To some extent, the customization of classes makes it easy to avoid pigeonholing your class into one specific and narrow role, so if you pick a sniper-based class loadout, you can also bring a shotgun or machine gun into the fray for closer encounters. Each class slot can also be configured with its own passive modules, which do things such as make you deal more damage, have more shields, give you increased jetpack time, or other boosts.
After you've tweaked a few loadouts for a few different scenarios and joined a multiplayer match, you can elect to stick with the squad you automatically joined or create a different one, alter your class slot selection, and ultimately choose where you want to "spawn." The quotation marks are needed because rather than just appear on the battlefield, you are dropped in from orbit and plummet down to the dirt in a straight line at high speed. Once a minimum distance is reached, your ability to engage the brake is activated, which you need to do to avoid becoming a wet splat on the ground. There is a bit of an art to it, though, because if you brake too late, you'll die or become stunned on impact and if you brake too early, you become a pretty easy target for enemies on the ground. Additionally, if you have dropped into an enemy anti-air zone, you will take damage for as long as you are airborne, essentially meaning that you must brake as late as possible yet still brake early enough to not damage your health any more than it already has been. After your brakes have been engaged, you can begin to adjust your trajectory, so you can choose to land behind cover or on top of an enemy soldier to instantly kill him.
Every player in the match is wearing a suit of powered armor, which has a regenerative shielding system and allows them to sprint at incredible speeds and use a jetpack to get on top of buildings or clear fences. Shields don't protect from all damage, as some gunfire will still pass through it, but against small arms fire, it is a nice buffer to save your bacon for a short while. Once your shields have been dropped, it not only takes a while for them to reactivate, but it also leaves you very vulnerable to the full effects of enemy fire. This makes combat last longer because assuming your shield is up, you can never die from a single bullet to the head, and gunfights become a frantic affair of jetpacks and weapons blasting.
At the start of a map, you always encounter the same general set of objectives: a set number of control points in strategic areas on the map and a score bar that makes it so the first team to 1,000 points wins. Holding points gradually gains points for your team, as does killing members of the other team. However, it doesn't take long before random objectives alter the scope of the battle. Randomly, either team will get a notice that it will soon need to complete a side objective, which can include tasks such as escorting a VIP to a random area on the map, driving a convoy vehicle in a similar manner, capturing enemy intel, or bombing an area of the map. These objectives appear on the right side of the screen, along with a timer that counts down when it must be completed. If one team gets a mission to escort a VIP but lets the VIP get killed, it loses the chance to get a sizable score bonus, and to add more insult to injury, the other team gets it instead.
The player will earn credits as he goes through a match, and they can be spent to request deployables via a "Buy" menu. They deployables can be requested anywhere outdoors, as they are either dropped in from orbit or dropped off from a cargo airship that flies overhead. Basic deployables range from a variety of turrets (anti-personnel, anti-armor, anti-air), supply stations and sensor modules to detect enemy units. Players can also purchase heavy armor suits, which are essentially tiny mechs, and tanks that can carry up to four players. However, given their relatively high costs, these vehicles are far from the dominant force on the battlefield. It can take the better chunk of a match to accumulate enough credits to buy a tank, and that's only possible if you've also been avoiding the purchase of other deployables.
While Section 8 take many cues from some of the games that have came before, its own take on them is pretty prevalent. The futuristic feel makes players somewhat less vulnerable than they may be used to, and it gives a heavy yet natural emphasis on teamwork. Even though you may not die immediately, you don't want a long firefight to draw other enemies' attention to you either. Vehicles make an appearance but are far from the norm, which means that most combat is very focused on infantry combat, even if it's between people who are flying through the air in powered armor as they draw beads on one another.
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