I’ll admit that I was skeptical when TimeGate said that their $15/1200 MS point sequel to the fully priced 2009 shooter Section 8 would have more features than the original game. The original game came with 16-player offline bot-matches, 32-player online and a campaign that was maybe two hours long, but not much else if you were unwilling to pay for the DLC. Prejudice offers a five-hour single-player campaign, offline bot matches, 32-player online, and a co-op Swarm mode.
So is this new game worth it? Find out after the jump.
The single-player campaign can feel both short and rather lacking, but compared to the glorified tutorial of the first game, it’s certainly an improvement. If you’re looking for a rich narrative filled with clever details and engrossing plot developments, you won’t find it here. Obviously no expects a five-hour shooter to Atlas Shrugged, but missions are sadly your run-of-the-mill flip-the-switch and eliminate-the-target ordeals. Your AI buddies can actually shoot the broadside of a barn, which is nice, but you’re still typically the one making most of the action happen. The gameplay is far from frustrating or poorly designed, but it’s also far from extraordinary. In fact, if I had to sum up the single-player experience in a single word, it’d be “average.” Prejudice’s campaign isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t wow me like other shooters have in the past. The gameplay is adequate, the story is passable, the sound effects and music are about as generic as you’d expect from a budget title. Visually, the game is stunning, even surpassing its disc-based predecessor.
Where Prejudice shines, like the original Section 8, is in the online multiplayer. The first tenet of multiplayer is the idea of “burning in”, where the player chooses where to spawn and then literally drops into battle from orbit. Players can either choose to go straight down or brake in mid-fall to fine tune or change the spawn point. It’s an excellent design choice that eliminates spawn camping and makes the game more dynamic, since players can spawn wherever they’re needed. Burning in also allows for the infamous “drop kill”, an elaborate, high-tech version of Mario’s Goomba Stomp. Let me assure you that as difficult as they are to pull off, drop kills are one of the most satisfying experiences available in a shooter today. Players can also call in deployable turrets, supply depots and radar arrays to help support bases and create secure points that players can spawn into. This ability can be a bit annoying because if one team is dominating, they can drop enough anti-air turrets to blanket the map, making it extremely difficult to spawn.
Like the previous Section 8, Prejudice offers a customizable loadout. Unlike its predecessor, though, Prejudice offers a plethora of weapons and upgrade options that players unlock by progressing through the single- and multiplayer. The weapons are your normal spread – shotguns, pistols, rifles, etc.– but each has several upgrades like burst fire, extended magazines, napalm rounds and EMP rounds. While the weapon customization is nice, it’s the suit upgrades that really set Prejudice apart from many shooters. The dozen or so options available can transform a player’s suit into a tank, a stealthy attacker, an engineer, a heavy assault trooper or just about any hybrid class you can think of.
Multiplayer centers around a Conquest mode, where teams vie for control of particular control points around the map. Most of the time these matches feature all 32 players in 16-on-16 action on fairly large maps. Luckily, with the sprint and overdrive (think super sprint) features, vehicles aren’t required, though they can be immensely useful if you’re looking to cover large distances while packing a big punch. Vehicles and other deployables are purchased with in-match money that players receive from kills, destructions, feats and Dynamic Combat Missions. DCMs are secondary objectives that activate during conquest mode. They range from things like defending an outpost to escorting a VIP to capture a control point. DCMs keep the matches fresh because you won’t normally encounter the exact same missions two matches in a row, and they also help Prejudice distance itself from the normal shooters. In effect, players can play Conquest as both deathmatch and as an objective gametype at the same time. It’s a nice touch, since you can hop into a game to just take some pot shots or to play some strategic objective warfare, and you’ll feel like you’re helping your team out either way.
For those of you who don’t want to be shooting other humans, there is also Swarm mode that is basically four players holding a control point versus the AI in increasing waves of difficulty for 15 minutes. This mode is quite fun if you want to get demolished fairly quickly, because the AI, even on medium difficulty, will be able to overrun the most seasoned players if they’re not careful. Swarm mode can even be played offline with three AI compatriots, though the AI does not seem to scale with the opponents. You’re always better off having three real buddies playing along side you than several AI partners trying to bumble along.
For $15, it’s hard to go wrong with Section 8 Prejudice. It has enough good things going for it to warrant the buy if you’re craving some FPS action but are tired of the offerings of Halo and Call of Duty. Heck, for the same price, you can either get a few maps for Call of Duty or you can get a whole campaign and multiplayer experience chock full of unique gameplay mechanics and great design choices. Odds are good that if you give Section 8: Prejudice a fair chance, you’ll find yourself falling for it.
Section 8: Prejudice was released on April 26th, 2011 for Xbox 360, May 4th, 2011 for PC, and will be released on July 26th, 2011 for PS3. Review is based on the Xbox 360 version.