TimeGate Studios' Section 8 isn't as crazy as it sounds. In fact, the Southpeak-published PC and Xbox 360 first-person shooter is pretty level-headed, as the game's developers are looking to correct long-standing game convention quirks.

We got a chance to preview and play Section 8 at GDC, seeing what TimeGate — developers of multiple F.E.A.R. expansions, Axis & Allies and the Kohan series — bringing to the shooter genre.

What It Is
Section 8 is a futuristic sci-fi first-person shooter, one that will likely draw visual comparisons to Halo and gameplay conventions to both DICE's Battlefield series and Tribes. One of the game's unique twists is it "burn-in spawn" method that abolishes the boredom of standard multiplayer game respawning, in which the majority of your time is spent watching a countdown clock. Instead, you'll immediately drop in from 15,000 feet after choosing your landing location. Players can also call in deployable vehicles and weapons from the skies.

What We Saw
TimeGate reps walked us through a demo of the game's features on the Windows version, later showing off the game's visuals on the Xbox 360. We took party in a brief multiplayer session following that (one that unfortunately ended early due to a server connection problem).

How Far Along Is it?
Section 8 is still in alpha, in need of a good deal of polishing and finalizing. The game isn't due to launch until Q3 of this year. It was pretty clear that the game's bot AI and stability was in need of some work.


What Needs Improvement?
Bots: While there's still plenty of time to tweak enemy and friendly bot AI, fighting the legions of armored foes who ran face-first into corners or waited patiently for me to shoot lasers at their face took some of the fun out of it. It's clearly a known issue and will hopefully be fixed with realistic bot AI.

The Heads Up Display: One of Section 8's better attributes is its custom loadout system, allowing for a broad range of weapons, gear and upgrades. The only issue is the information provided by the loadout menu, which could use a little work to make things more clear. The same is true for bringing down deployed items from orbit, as the menu system could use a few informative tweaks.

Michael Bay's Master Chief: The game's visual design feels far too familiar. The game's armored troops look like the uninspired spawn of Halo's Spartans and Michael Bay's take on Megatron. It's doubtful this can be improved at this stage of the game, but it's visually unexciting stuff.


What Needs to Stay the Same?
Deadly Burn-In Spawn Drops: The concept of dropping in from thousands of feet above, then being able to land on top of some unsuspecting enemy makes combat (even the dying parts) fun.

Just Dropping In: The ability to bring down anti-personal and anti-aircraft turrets, as well as tanks and mech suits, adds an exciting layer of strategy and variety. The system works well, providing an alternate way to spice up combat. It also makes securing vehicles less of a headache, provided you've got the funds.

Overdrive: The run and gun play gets a little more run than normal, with an accelerating speed boost that makes traversing the game's extra-large maps so much easier. Combine that with the short burst jetpacks and we have bouncy violent fun to look forward to.


Final Thoughts
Section 8, despite its rather derivative appearance and clear nods to games like Battlefield and Tribes, looks like it could be a hell of a lot of fun. The game addresses some oft-overlooked gameplay conventions that can sap the fun out of multiplayer games. We look forward to going hands-on with a more complete build, with more time, in the future.