Exploding 5-tonne Gorillas: Section 8 Beta Thinks

By Jim Rossignol on August 17th, 2009 at 10:37 am.


The Section 8 open beta got into full swing over the weekend, and I spent a lot more time messing around with it. We also had a bit of an RPS community romp on Saturday, although I missed most of it by being late to the party. The overflow played on a secondary server, and still got some good fights in. Some more thoughts on the game follow.

Firstly, it’s a shame that the beta is so limited. Of course beta is a testing phase, so it’s clear that TimeGate want to gets lots of metrics from this to tweak and retouch the final game, but I’m also desperate to see the full range of tools available, and more importantly, the full range of maps. I understand there are eighteen in the final game, and I’m eager to explore them. These two are acceptable, but I wonder if they’ll end up being the core favourites of players in the game proper.

One of the things I realised over the weekend is that Section 8 is going to reward specialisation, and, of course, team-play. I don’t think this is going to be a particularly rewarding game for drop-in deathmatch play, but it’s probably going to be rewarding and engaging at an organised clan level. On Saturday night I spent some time playing purely defensive roles, and waiting inside buildings for enemies to arrive. I configured myself for close combat, and did deadly things to the ones and twos that came inside. Of course I’d have been minced at medium or long range, or by the mechs that regularly stomped by, but they couldn’t get inside to my position, and so we held that particular capture point for most of the game.

The ability to customise the basic loadouts does seem to make a big difference when you’re taking on a specific role. As a “defender” I was playing a similar role to the flag-goalie I used to be in Quake III, only with Section 8′s ability to customise I could drop in ready to hit that position immediately. There are clearly going to be a bunch of accepted “optimal” setups once the game is in full-swing, but it’ll be interesting to see just what those builds are, and how people end up using them. I suspect, like my hiding in the bunker, we’ll see specific squads set up to assault or defend, with players able to swap between the best fit for the job as they respawn.

Outside, and away from pure infantry bashing, I began to get on with the mechs. I love hunting down other mechs and forcing a melee. The mechs bash each other to death with two handed swipes, like exploding 5-tonne gorillas. The fights are always close, especially if there are infantry around, and you are often forced to make a rapid retreat once your enemy goes down. In fact, I’d say that mech-thumping is about the best thing I’ve found in the game so far.

If there are major problems, then there’s the superfluous “lock on” feature, which can actually be relatively useful, but nevertheless should not have been included. And the there’s the lack of situational awareness. With the drop-in allowing people to come down anywhere outside the effective range of AA guns, it’s hard to have a “front line”, or know where to engage enemies to hold them off. You end up having to stick close to the capture points, and nail enemies as they approach. It’s not a game breaker, but it demands much more of your spatial processing.

Anyway, no matter how a game is designed, it’s difficult to filter for morons. I can’t wait to be able to play this on a moderated server, and kick the likes of the idiots I ended up playing with on Saturday, for whom a continuous steam of homophobic abuse seemed a good idea after someone made a mild comment about smacktalk.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people.

That said, you guys seem okay, so I’m definitely up for risking more Section 8 RPSing. Wednesday night might be less moronic. Shall we say 7pm UK time?

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78 Comments »

  1. Psychopomp says:

    You brits, and your being six hours ahead of me!

  2. Professor says:

    7 PM GMT it is.
    Also, I think that the game needs a good lag compensation fix. Whenever I’m strafing and using a gun, it feels like I’m using the pyro’s flamethrower from TF2, and this is because I have 100 or so ping. It’s really frustrating.

  3. Howard says:

    I missed the weekend match too and would definitely be up for a play on Wednesday. It does seem fun but, as you say, is so reliant on team play that being landed with a bunch of either clueless or deliberately antagonistic players can completely thwart even your most valiant attempts to play a good game.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    Lag has been okay for me, except when I was accidentally running fraps, and then wondering why the framerate had dropped. Sigh.

  5. Freudian Trip says:

    Grrrrr, still not back from Switzerland by the time this beta will have ended :(

    Is this beta basically a demo? (I’m assuming it’s mainly multiplayer)

    Seems like it’ll be one to miss out on. Oh well, still got Fallout 3, HL2+Eps and Bioshock to go back to. I can stand missing out on one game.

  6. Professor says:

    Also, I find the fact that you can land anywhere a bit too much for the game to be genuinely fun. The game starts being hectic at a certain point because you realize that the enemy can be ANYWHERE and if you don’t get out of range of a kill fast enough he’ll just come back to kill you. The chaotic nature of the game makes me feel like there’s nothing I can really do to prepare.
    Also, shotgun needs a huge buff compared to the machinegun. It’s stupid that a point blank shotgun hit is less effective than spraying the machinegun.

    And autoaim needs to be bloody removed from the game. It’s just blatantly stupid.

  7. Acidburns says:

    I see some lucky RPS member is getting taken from behind by Mr Rossignol in that 2nd screenshotty.

    I’d say the best thing after frantic mechbashing is probably falling from orbit only to find your landing cushioned by an unfortunate foe.

  8. Howard says:

    @professor
    The ability to land anywhere did seem very overpowered initially I grant, but once you get a solid game with players that are willing to take their roles seriously it changes quite quickly. As long as you have players dedicating their time to defending the bases and keeping the turrets repaired you can severely limit where enemy players can drop in. Add the player-deployed turrets to that as well and you can set up very effective defences that take an equally committed team of players to penetrate.

    And yes, I agree 100% about the auto-aim…

  9. roBurky says:

    Looking at the locked deployables, I wonder if the game might be more interesting and tactical once they’re available.

    Anti-air guns that you can deploy anywhere to deny areas as drop-in targets for the enemy team might do something to prevent the endless melee problem that you get whenever a fight breaks out away from a base. You could also potentially drop anti-air guns on all the back corners of a base, so you can prepare for enemies to be mostly assaulting from the one direction you left open.

  10. Howard says:

    @roBurky
    Yeah, exactly. Having deployable AA guns will drastically change how any battle plays out. As well as massively fortifying captured bases you will be able to defend convoys and VIPs much more effectively by getting to them quickly when they spawn and dropping an AA turret.

  11. James Allen says:

    Lock-on can be very easily countered by (a) cover or (b) sensor blocker.
    Mechs become much less dominant in the full game when mortars, det packs, and deployable rocket turrets are available.

  12. roBurky says:

    I think considering how important, cheap, and easy to use the deployables can be, they really need to be introduced to the player properly. Something that important shouldn’t be left to discover when reading forums about the game.

  13. Howard says:

    Yeah. I only found them by accidentally pressing “5″ to see what it did and then stood there baffled for a moment wondering what the hell the little scrolling menu I had conjured up was for.

  14. MrBejeebus says:

    I really don’t like the whole lock on thing, it makes the pistols even more overpowered, this is all from the NA beta though

    Is there still mouse acceleration? That could be a game breaker for me.

  15. Alex McLarty says:

    Team games: the best and worst of the internet all rolled into one. Either “hey, that was pretty good squad” or “STFU FAGBALLS!”.

  16. Anon says:

    Unforunately for me, since there are no asian servers I’m forced to use lock-on as the only way I could possibly hit anyone.

  17. Jim Rossignol says:

    Anon: There are Australian servers, are those any better for you?

  18. xtinctionevent says:

    I’d be up for another RPS session on Wednesday night. We were lucky in terms of the other players on our server on Saturday – no smacktalk at all, and I’d guess there were about twenty [RPS] players in total.

  19. Alex Hopkinson says:

    I played this loads at the weekend and loved. Unlike you chaps, I felt the lock-on was an excellent component of the game – very useful when you had it available (and it’s good that it’s quite short and takes aaaages to recharge), especially when you’re engaged in a fast and frentic jump-filled firefight. It led to some awesome feel-good takedowns involving jumping over heads and raining death down upon them.

  20. Ian says:

    I don’t think this is going to be a particularly rewarding game for drop-in deathmatch play, but it’s probably going to be rewarding and engaging at an organised clan level.

    Oh well, that’ll be me counting myself out if you’re right.

  21. Senethro says:

    Some lovely chaps were on the ventrilo server as well. Would it be possible to get an Arm and an S8 channel there and fill it more next time?

    Also, if you’re having trouble with mouse acceleration then go to gameinput.ini and set bviewacceleration to FALSE. And turn off mouse smoothing.

  22. Prankstar says:

    Although Lock-on does seem more a console feature, it can be countered by using certain passive mods, just like the AA guns.
    It is nice to hear that the game ships with 18maps, which has been one piece of info i’ve been searching for. But i’d be surpised if the 16/32 player variations of the same map were not being counted double. Though 9 actual different maps is still plenty to be getting on with.

  23. np says:

    You can equip a sensor blocker that negates the lock on ability (for a limited time), as well as the passive stealth booster which gives you lock-on resistance.

    A lot of PC players have been having an issue with it and I suspect the only reason TimeGate implemented this feature is so console and pad users get to feel just as special as PC gamers when it comes to aim and reaction time.

    You can find out more from the beta manual here: http://forums.timegate.com/showthread.php?t=14404

    A good game but I have played the Enemy Territories, the Battlefields, the Tribes and the PlanetSides to near death so I don’t think I will be getting this game. It is just a new variation of all of them, with a smidge of Halo about it too.

  24. StalinsGhost says:

    7pm Wednesday sounds just right to me :D

    I actually don’t mind the lock on. The more you get used to it being there, the more it becomes a tactical option in the midst of multiple enemies, and careful application of it can give you the edge you need to get the best of them. Generally it’s not more complex than picking off the one who spotted you dropping in behind them as opposed to those looking away, but it certain adds a little more tactithinkings to proceedings. It’s nice to take down 3-4 people while coming out on top thanks to the timely use of Lock-on anyway. It’s just a different skill requirement, even if it does arguably take away from standard FPS pixel perfect head shot abilities.

  25. Gnoupi says:

    I agree with StalinsGhost, to me the lockon is a tactical option, it goes with their logic of the “burn in” spawn. It’s the one who will catch the other, from good placement, who will have the advantage.

    Thanks to that, it also prevents some “crazy shooter” guys from thinking they’re the best and no one can kill them. Any guy falling next to (or on :P) them can kill them if they don’t pay attention, if they play lone gunner. It forces people to play in groups, and place themselves in safe places. Or it forces them to rage quit under the “noob console autoaim” reason. Which is finally a good thing too :)

  26. toni says:

    i find the game midly entertaining. the features are all dumbed down, the autolock is especially retarded. why a jetpack when you can’t use it (depletes too soon, uses ages to reload). movement is bad and very slow, the maps are very big. the ueber-run can’t be controlled properly (not to speak of the 3rd person view) and the guns are all the same with different textures. Nah, this won’t hold. not against W:ET or Quake which are both somehow similar but far better and FREE.
    those half-assed attempts at good MP won’t bring them anywhere. also capture/hold gameplay == no good pubs.

  27. Ansob. says:

    The UK is on GMT +1, by the way (you know, it being DST right now), so 7pm British time != 7pm GMT (it won’t matter to most people because everyone else should be on DST too!).

  28. Kamakaze says:

    I found the jetpack to be a bit pointless aswell since it ran out so quickly (I am used to Tribes jet packs), it was basically just the equivalent of everyone being able to jump a bit higher. This of course lets you get into the buildings via the roof which is mysteriously left open =)

    It seemed like fun, but it didn’t seem that deep as it was just a matter of dropping as near to your target as you could and waltzing up to it and doing the objective, though I guess if everyone was as new as me then they would have no idea what they were doing either.

    I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do better to win a fire fight though, just seemed like whoever shot first or had the most people won the fight.

  29. mpk says:

    I want the achievement for landing on someones head.

  30. x25killa says:

    You can count me in. I did play on the closed beta during i37.

    There were loads of stuff that was unlocked; more maps, more weapons, more items to deploy, etc. but the skill points stayed the same number.

    I agree, if you are with a decent team who know how to help each other out, you can pretty much destroy everything and everyone.

    The Lock-on? That has to be removed. The reason it exists because this game is also out for the xbox 360 console so it can “benefit” controller users.

    And apparently it will contain Games For Windows Live. :| Nonetheless, still a great game.

  31. abhishek says:

    I had fun playing on the crowded RPS server on Saturday. I think I was one of the last who managed to sneak in :)

    The game is definitely better off when players are co-ordinated. Even with the lack of ingame voice or even chat commands, I often found myself sprinting at full speed alongside 3 other players who were all heading towards the same objective. 4 people attacking an objective at one will necessitate some sort of defence from the opposing team. That’s where the game shines.

    I do have a few issues with the game though. The default move speed is really, really slow and I don’t see what purpose this serves. Getting around a little bit faster on the map when you cannot sprint wouldn’t be a bad thing. The recharging abilities could use some work as well I think. You can sprint very fast and jump very high but when they run out, it’s like you’re stuck in a tar pit. Bumping into someone or some minor terrain deformation will end the sprint. Without the jetpack, you cannot jump over even the smallest of obstacles (this happens a lot on the map with the big circle in the centre). The flow of the game is negatively affected.

    I also think the mech could use some tweaking. Again, it is slow as hell and with only one jump before a recharge, it is not at all maneuverable. Sure it can take a beating but what’s the point if you’re a sitting duck inside it, which is usually the case when a mech is called in (for assaulting a control point).

    In the end, I’m not sure if I would buy this game. It does seem like fun but in pub matches, a large part of that experience is lost. Maybe the single player will be amazing but who knows….

  32. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i had a fun time people seemed nice, and i was dominating the servers i played on.

    wtf is with the knife though, you have to be so close you can see their tonsils and you just give them a nasty scratch should be insta kill i reckon.

    it would make the sneaky play style a whole lot more interesting, not that that’s my preference.

  33. The Sombrero Kid says:

    agreed the jetpack should refill rapidy when you’re on the ground or something, that was the main problem, i liked that the run took a while to kick in and bumping into stuff is only a problem because you can’t jump over it cause you’ve used your jetpack up.

  34. Lucas says:

    I think more players will appreciate the lock-on when they really get the hang of S8′s positional strategic play. It’s really a just finisher (or a sniper’s called shot). I would like to know when it’s used for kills, but that’s not essential. It also works with the equipment configuration nicely: do you ignore it, leverage it, or defend against it? When I reconfigured my kits without it, I missed having it available frequently enough, or for sufficient duration. I should probably throw a couple points back in it.

  35. toni says:

    every mp game plays better if their players are coordinated. that should not be mentioned specifically and I never take pubs/newbies into account when judging a game. having said that, this game has serious mouse lag issues (try lower sense – you have a deadzone of about 30% until mouse responds), skill aint rewarded, meaning whoever shoots first or has the most players wins. there are no headshots or a damage model, therefore sniper doesn’t “snipe” only damage over distance. many implants let you use -80% damage from AA guns (e.g.) making it too easy to drop down directly into a building.
    - this is halo light weight MP for kids and newbies, certainly not for anybody that ever played a true MP game.

  36. Jim Rossignol says:

    “every mp game plays better if their players are coordinated”

    Nevertheless it’s true that some games do offer better experiences for “drop-in” players than others.

    “certainly not for anybody that ever played a true MP game”

    Elitist nonsense.

  37. Post Maker says:

    I’d imagine a true multiplayer game is one that supports multiple players.

  38. Die Happy says:

    i also played a lot this weekend, first with he predestined loadouts and later i did my own and tweaked them until i was satisfied in the role they are supposed to play.

    it takes a while to find a fitting config and figuring out how the missions are done and what they do how they are triggered. but once thats done you have a very nice FPS that excels at teamplay with viocecommunication over TS/vent with people you know.

  39. Collic says:

    I’ve been playing section 8 for a few days now, and having lots of fun.
    Which server are you guys mostly on? I’ve recognised a few nicks and people tagging up with [RPS] in-game already, but it’d be cool to play with some of you more.

    Oh yeah, the best thing about section 8? Dropping in from orbit behind the person who just sniped you from across the map, and knifing him in the back. Glorious :D

  40. NukeLord says:

    Enjoyed playing this a lot over the weekend, once i got the hang of things.

    Took me a while to figure out you could actually buy stuff, what with the first option coming up saying “not available in beta”. Then when I did finally figure out how to drop in a mech it landed a couple of feet off from the hologram, crushing me.

  41. postmanX3 says:

    I don’t even know what this is, but I say the words “mech” and “melee” in one sentence, so I went and signed up for the beta. It’s downloading now, but it’s taking foreverrrrrrr.

  42. Darthy says:

    As a Planetside-vet I’m enjoying the game immensely, but aside from balancing the lock-on (which isn’t as big an issue as some claim), I think the biggest problem is the flow of the gameplay.

    Currently the AA turrets are not effective, as even without deflector plates you can drop at the edge of their range and use the breaking thrusters to ‘drift’ right under their field of fire to the capture point without taking much damage.

    The other problem is that once your shields go down (and they can take a while to recharge), death is rather abrupt. That makes it very hard to protect team mates, and there is no way to revive each other. Combined with the quick respawn this creates a pace of gameplay which is a little too fast for the games own good.

    It is very difficult to survive for extended periods of time in a fight as once damaged you can’t easily disengage, and taking cover will only get you shot from a different angle by an opponent who wasn’t there two seconds ago. The more open areas of the map are rather suicidal to cross.

    As Jim said, this destroys any sense of permanence to the games front-line. Although the combat itself should be fast-paced and down to reaction times, the gameplay shouldn’t be so fast-paced as to nullify tactical thinking.

  43. Theo says:

    I dont get how this is “Halo Light weight”? halo is hardly the ultimate in complexity for online gaming.

    Back on topic tho, frankly i am really liking this; Unfortunatly i have been plagued by teams that really dont play together; personally, this is the first team shooter in a long time that i thought was genuinly cool looking (yes yes grfx whore) and had great game play in it.

    I wanted to like quakewars, i didnt. i wanted to like battlefield XX, i didnt (gotta love unloading clips in to people at point blank and it doing exactly f all) – i wanted to like TF2 – but as a CTF fanatic i was utterly disgusted at A) the lack of good CTF and B) valves mini expansions that caused everyone on the server to play the same class once every few months.

    The game seems lots of fun for me, i at first was very dubios of the hotdrop stuff; the lack of a organised spawns seems to limit the tactical options for me (as a winning side); after a short while though i did get used to that , and i think the large issue is defending all the bases properly.

    i still have plenty to be learn, frankly dont mind the auto aim thing, it is counterable and i am not sure its that overpowered given the cool down.

    this game certainly has some novalty will be interesting to see how it goes.

  44. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Enjoyed the game and like I said on the other thread: I firmly believe that the Comms were off precisely because of raging internet fuckwits like the ones who spammed the server on Saturday.
    This is a game for which I would certainly consider contributing towards a dedicated server (as I do currently for my beloved Day Of Defeat) and doing the odd spot of admin work as I like to game in an Utter-Twat Free environment.
    I’m certainly going to give the full game a go and if I get into it look for a clan I can get into. Or maybe get one going with some of my fellow RPS folk?

  45. one f jef says:

    Halo 4. Tribes 3. New concepts? 0.

  46. Howard says:

    That’s tosh. Partly because there is (technically) a Halo 4 and (actually) a Tribes 3 but mostly because it does have some new concepts and innovation in there and it uses old ideas to new effects. One line dismissals of games say more about you than the game, mate.

  47. Premium User Badge Bozzley says:

    Sprinting is awesome. Jetpacks are awesome. The feeling that you can go anywhere and be cheeky as hell to the opposing side is awesome.

    Wish there was a better way of showing that you’re actually hitting your target than have the crosshair change; seeing chunks fall off the armour would be nice. I’ve played it for a couple of hours now, and on the whole, I like it.

  48. Arca says:

    Wednesday it is. Be there, or be square.

    Also, I hereby redub RPS to RPS8. Rock, Paper, Section 8!

  49. Guhndahb says:

    I actually found the people on the couple of servers upon which I played on Friday quite civil. We were even joking around a bit with each other. No one was rude at all, it was pretty nice. Well at least on text chat. I exhibited the no-sound-at-all bug, although I have an Audigy 2 and not Realtek. Having no sound may have impacted my enjoyment quite a lot, it’s hard to tell without reference.

    As for the game, I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t help feeling I was playing a single game-play mode in UT without any other option, or a really nice mod.

    Additionally, while I usually hold my own in online FPSes, I found my skill at aiming in S8 to be laughingly pathetic. I really needed the “superfluous ‘lock on’ feature”, I’m sorry to say. Fortunately, it seemed others were in the same boat and I usually had a good score. There was only one opponent that I played that had near perfect aim throughout every melee. Of course, I died every time I met him. :)

  50. CoarseSand says:

    Oh, hey. That’s me getting trashed from behind in the second screenie. Hi me! I deserve it for the gloating I did after my last game on the overflow server. Mmmm, end score of over three hundred.

    That said, I did have a bunch of fun with the RPS folks, and it was well worth my time to actually register on the forums after following RPS for over a year. I’ll definitely be making an effort to be there on Wednesday (coincidentally also my day off). 7pm GMT should be about 2pm for me. I look forward to repeatedly blasting Harlander with the assault rifle once more.

    Regarding lag issues, I had absolutely none playing Section 8 on the overflow server, where I had a ping of 125. Playing on a UK server from Ottawa didn’t seem to cause any major issues for me.

    Picking the game up at release is looking like a definite thing for me now, but playing with an organized group is a must from the other pub server play I’ve had since. When a base is being hacked by a single enemy and the other fifteen people on the team are oblivious to it until three seconds before the capture finishes, and then decide to drop in and try to recover it, the game becomes frustrating very quickly. S8 requires squad coordination and lone wolf-ism accomplishes nothing.