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GDC09: Hands-on with sci-fi shooter Section 8

Justin McElroy

Getting killed isn't really a treat in any multiplayer experience. Sure, it gives you a little time to hastily make a sandwich, but that's not really why you're playing the game in the first place, is it? Developer TimeGate (you know, the one behind the F.E.A.R. expansions) has figured out a clever way to circumvent that in its FPS Section 8. After death, you literally dive back onto the battlefield from 15,000 feet in a location of your choice and woe to anything or anyone that's in the way.

It's a clever way to make even death enjoyable, and it's just one of the smart tweaks TimeGate has made to the eternal battle between gun-toting guys in space armor and -- well, other gun-toting guys in space armor.

Gallery: Section 8 (Xbox 360, PC) | 21 Photos

The game we spent time with at GDC could probably best be described as being halfway between Tribes and Battlefield. Two forces of armored warriors vie for control points that they must hold longer than the opposition to win. It's a pretty standard structure and one you should be familiar with. The mode we saw wasn't really a structural revelation, but it was the small things that really set it apart.

For instance, there are some added perks to having a control point. Weapons are activated to defend your newly capped point, making it harder for the enemy to take it back. Less practically, there's also a cool visual cue to mark a capture -- like massive missiles being launched into the sky.

It's a sci-fi world, but one with a touch of realism. From the rocket launcher to the machine gun, the weapons we played with all felt very substantial. The more realistic approach to sci-fi is also evident when you call in support in the form of tanks or armored suits, which drop from the sky on your command, landing with a satisfying thud. Details like that really help to ground the world and make experiences fun that would be rote in other games.

Though there are vehicles, they're not the quickest way to get around. TimeGate allows you to quickly sprint from location to location, and though you can't do it while attacking, it's really useful for cutting down traveling time and quickly getting you back into the action.

The acid test, of course, will be how the experience flows when it's you and a bunch of buddies battling it out online. But at the moment, Section 8 is saying "triple-A" a lot more clearly than anything SouthPeak has released in years past.

Also, there are jet packs.

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