Two years ago, TimeGate Studios released an interesting retail game known as Section 8. Despite unique gameplay mechanics such as the ability to drop into (or ‘burn into’) any position on the battlefield from above during a multiplayer match, it didn’t end up selling very well. Though the studio never gave up on the property and have now released a much more affordable downloadable sequel on XBOX Live Arcade. It’s called Section 8: Prejudice. It takes place after the first game and employs many of the same mechanics. The emphasis is once again on the creation of an interesting and unique multiplayer mode, with the campaign taking second stage. So put on your battle suit and get ready to deploy from the sky as we take a look at the battleground and all of its intricacies.
Despite the focus on multiplayer, the campaign in Prejudice is quite lengthy and has some decent variety. Following the USIF as they fight back against an evil group known as the Sphere, who have once again come out of hiding to take the offensive against the Americans, it spans out over close to ten missions.
Players take control of a commander who must fight against many different enemies as he helps the members of his team fight back against the opposing menace. Travel across several different planets as you follow the evil Commander Thorne, who has been freed from a USIF base prison by explosive force. Discover who he is working with and what they are planning by using all the force that you can muster. After all, the existence of the USIF, the citizens it protects and the worlds in which it inhabits, is all on your shoulders.
Mission types see you protecting satellites, infiltrating an oil pump line base and escorting a tank as it makes its way from one point to another, among other things. However, despite the variety, the single player does feel like an after thought, and is not memorable at all. Even with the changes in mission types, a lot of the missions feel repetitive after a while since the gameplay never evolves.
Most of the time you’re just shooting tons of bullets into different enemies until their shields and health expire. Though, for being the secondary attraction of a multiplayer focused game, it’s not bad at all. There isn’t much of an incentive to play through the campaign more than once, unfortunately. There are some unlockable badges and a few different difficulty options, but those are things which will only appeal to a small group of people. The multiplayer will keep the attention of most people who try it, though.
Most of the missions take a bit of time, making the campaign last several hours. Though it all depends on what difficulty you choose and how well you perform each objective. Factoring heavily into every player’s play style is the loadout they choose, which can be customized through the main menu as well as equipment pods that drop from the sky at certain points, in both single player and multiplayer.
These pods allow you to choose from one of several different weapons, such as two types of machine guns, a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and pulse cannon – each with different types of unlockable ammo with different effects. The choice of two different types of secondary weapons (grenades, a knife, or a repair kit) as well as an upgrade menu, round this option out. It’s great that character customization is available in the campaign and multiplayer in the same manner, though it’s quite odd that you have to use a secondary weapon slot in order to be able to perform melee combat kills via a few different types of knives. Being so used to melee combat being a large part of most other shooters, it was tough to get used to not having that ability at hand at all times.
What makes Section 8: Prejudice so different from every other first-person shooter out there is the aforementioned burn-in ability, plus its emphasis on the use of aerial combat and a powerful rush attack. Each member of the USIF is equipped with a very powerful suit that allows them to take on large groups of foes, complete with a jetpack. As they fight their way through both the campaign and multiplayer, gamers will develop their own individual play style, with some preferring to take the combat airborne and others deciding to use the jetpack to get out of hairy situations quickly.
Although it’s somewhat uncomfortable having to press LB to use the jetpack or jump, these suit abilities are very helpful and important in multiplayer as well as the single player campaign. Though, the burn-in ability doesn’t factor heavily into the single player portion of the game. That makes complete sense though, considering it’s only available when you first enter an online battle and each time you respawn. You’re only allotted one life in single player, so use it wisely and make sure to take cover to recharge your shields. Especially if you play on hard because some situations can get quite intense.
Later on in the game, they try to throw everything and the kitchen sink at you, which includes infantry, mechs, turrets and well-shielded engineers who can heal their allies. Luckily, mech suits and the use of a hovering bike vehicle will help you out a lot at certain points. Even though the bike doesn’t control very well, much like the vehicles in Halo, which it is inspired by. Though there are some really interesting game mechanics at play in Section 8: Prejudice, the game is guilty of borrowing from Microsoft’s juggernaut first-person shooter series, Halo.
Multiplayer is available through two well-designed game modes: Swarm and Conquest, though the main menu states that more modes will be coming via downloadable content. Swam mode is heavily influenced by the Horde mode in Gears of War 2, pitting four players against tons of oncoming enemies as they try to protect a console with a fifteen minute survival time limit. Teamwork is essential in order to try to protect your base from the evil onslaught. Communicating with your allies on who should watch which point and how to set-up choke points is just as important as shooting every enemy you come across. It’s quite fun and makes for a good secondary mode, though Conquest mode is the game type that most people will focus their time into.
Conquest mode pits two teams of sixteen players against each other on a very large battlefield. The objective is to earn points by controlling the most base computers. This means that there is a constant battle for control of each base, as each team tries to hack the other team’s controlled points. The ability to drop into any part of the battle from above factors in heavily into each team’s strategy, though different types of mechanical aids (air turrets) can be purchased to prevent the other team from dropping into a certain area.
Controlling the air is very important because you never know when someone may kill you by dropping on top of you, or when someone will just appear beside you with a rocket launcher. Other types of machines are available for purchase, ranging from standard machine gun and rocket turrets to large mechanical suits and tanks. Though you’ll have to do quite well to buy the most expensive things. In-game currency earnings are based on your performance, with each positive move denoted with a certain amount of money. It takes a while to earn enough to buy a tank or mech suit, but they’re incredibly helpful and rewarding once they drop from the sky.
In addition to the main objective of controlling the base computers, Section 8: Prejudice also allows its players to activate additional quests during battle. Referred to as DCMs (or Dynamic Combat Missions), these tasks activate quite often throughout each battle and reward teams for either completing their assigned task or preventing the other team from doing so. It’s a great idea that keeps every game fresh and exciting, as it adds to the unpredictable factor of the core gameplay mechanics.
Different types of DCMs include tasks like picking up debris, protecting drop boxes and escorting a general to one of your bases.
There are many of them and each one is quite different, meaning that they’ll change the flow of a game in different ways. Usually there is a lengthy time limit to work with, but the opposition will be quick to go to the spot that you need for your mission. What it essentially turns into is a secondary battle within the main battle, which is great. The elimination DCM is easily the best as it marks all members of the opposing team and gives you a time limit to completely eradicate them. Try to survive that one and an achievement will unlock upon successful completion. Favourites DCMs can be selected from a list, making them pop up more often than others. You never know what the other team may try to alter the battle, so it keeps you on your toes and looking to the sky.
Each of the game’s four maps feature different variations, so there are quite a few maps of varying sizes to choose from. The different locations include planets that resemble the arctic, a desert, the inside of a volcano and a grassy area with hills. Size limitations come into play with some, as only a certain amount of players can duke it out on the smaller battles. Though, as mentioned previously, the game supports up to thirty-two players a lot of the time.
Each map features a different design that must be taken into account by every player in the game and it adds to the round’s strategies. Teams must be strategical about where they place their air turrets, so as to stop the enemy from burning into popular areas that are close to controlled bases. The point is to keep the other team on the far outskirts of the map, so the placement of these defenses is very important. Communication can help a lot here.
One great thing about the design of this game is the fact that it features bots with different difficulty sections. Those who do not have access to online multiplayer can play both game modes either with or against computer controlled bots. Also, if a game launches without its required players, bots are used to fill in the gaps. This is a great design choice because it allows for consistently full games and means that players will never have issues finding chaotic games.
No boring games with just a few players battling on a map that is way too large for that low amount of contestants. The bots can be quite tough and will give you a run for your money, so it’s not like the game will differ a lot with them in instead of human opponents. Their artificial intelligence is well-done, making it feel like you’re playing against a human, though they’re more predictable at times.
Each of the game’s multiplayer modes are not the most original but they’re executed well. The inclusion of bots makes a ton of difference in comparison to most other shooters on the market. Though the gameplay can become a bit repetitive at times if you play in long bursts, due to a lack of more game modes.
Hopefully TimeGate will release a new mode in the near future. It would also be nice to see them make melee combat and takeouts a basic attack that doesn’t need to be equipped because there are many times where you will wish it was there, especially in multiplayer. If you come upon someone’s backside and want to take them out quickly with a swift stab, you’re only going to be able to do it if you have the knife equipped. Perhaps they did it for strategic reasons, but it feels very strange. For more offensive presets, the different types of grenades, deployables and mortar attacks tend to take precedence, however.
The game’s visuals are dated and don’t feature the wow factor of a game like Call of Duty or Crysis 2, but it looks decent. Then again, it must be taken into account that a lot is going on throughout each mode, so it’s understandable that the visuals aren’t top notch. However, some people may be put off by the more simple look of the game. For the most part though, Section 8: Prejudice works very well, which is the most important thing.
Multiplayer ran extremely well and the single player portion of the game did as well, for the most part. During later levels, the odd framerate freeze was encountered, though it wasn’t game breaking by any means. It froze once, however. The game’s sound didn’t have any glitches or issues and featured some nice quality. The game’s original score is pulse-pounding and does a great job of setting up the oncoming battles and events. Though its voice acting and writing leave a lot to be desired and it was noticed that the dialogue was recorded at a lower volume than any of the other auditory features.
Overall, Section 8: Prejudice is a pretty impressive downloadable release. Though it has some small issues, a small amount of game modes and a dated/basic campaign, there’s still a lot to enjoy. With more content planned for a later release, it shows that TimeGate are devoted to keeping the game fresh and updated, so hopefully they will follow through with it. Fans of games like Halo and Tribes will really enjoy this since it plays a lot like a mixture of the two, with some new features. It will also appeal to hardcore multiplayer fanatics who like to try new types of experiences that are different from your traditional military shooter.
A decent amount of unlockable badges, weapons and upgrades will keep them playing for a while to come. For fifteen dollars, it’s a good buy. Just make sure to buy it for the multiplayer, with the mindset that the campaign is an added bonus. Most of all, make sure to watch out for the skies because you never know when someone may try to flatten you from above. Burn-in, soldier!
Interesting gameplay mechanics and competitive multiplayer with quite a few maps make this one a worthy purchase.