So a couple of years ago a little-known developer named TimeGate Studios released Section 8, to wild... well no, it wasn’t given much fanfare. In fact, it was largely ignored, both critically and commercially. Reception was lukewarm at best, and most figured that would be the last we would hear of it. Enter Section 8: Prejudice, a downloadable sequel to the first game with an incredible amount of content and a number of fixes. Depending on what your problems were with the original, however, you may still want to be cautious about jumping in.
Section 8: Prejudice starts right where the first game left off, but with an actual campaign to play through this time! That first game had a campaign, but it was really just multiplayer matches with bots. Prejudice features a much more standard shooter campaign, featuring standard linear missions. The story itself is pretty forgettable, as a group of former soldiers defect and begin a civil war. It’s still nice to have the effort made.
If you played the first Section 8, none of the staple gameplay elements have changed. Players still “drop in” to battle, flying down from 15,000 feet anywhere on the battlefield. In combat you have the basic use of a variety of superhuman abilities, including a temporary auto-lock on your opponents, jetpacks for temporary flight, and a dash to move quickly across the world. These combine to give you a nice set of powers and abilities, although sometimes the function of them can feel a bit clunky. In particular, the dash can do more harm than good when used at the wrong moment, as there’s a delay between using it and being able to attack again.
Other than these unique features, Section 8 employs a number of first person shooter staples. You can carry two weapons at a time, using any combination of a set of standard weapons including pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and snipers. These can be combined with a number of different types of ammunition with different strengths and weaknesses, although the assault rifle ends up dominating, and the weapons end up feeling disappointingly generic. You also can carry two pieces of secondary equipment, including grenades, mortars, knives and repair tools.
In addition to the above customizations, you can tweak stats to give yourself higher shields, better damage, or better stealth. Although there are theoretically a huge amount of ways to customize your play between different load-outs and stat modifications, I really didn’t notice any major improvements when shifting stats into a specific area, and as I mentioned above the assault rifle dominates almost any situation. Still, you can have a lot of fun playing around with different load-outs, it’s just too bad that it doesn’t seem to have a larger effect. As you play you’ll also unlock more armor and equipment.
Multiplayer is really the highlight of the game, and the customization extends to the multiplayer matches themselves. As you kill you earn cash, which can be spent on a number of bonuses. Turrets and supply points can be called down, as well as bikes, mechs, and tanks. Turrets add some strategy to defense in the game, and the vehicles are powerful. Mechs are especially useful, and can really turn the tide of a battle. Bikes and tanks are great as well, although I found the controls a little iffy on both.
There are three game modes in Prejudice. Two of which were in the game at launch. Swarm is the standard 'co-op versus waves of enemies' mode, and Conquest is a massive 32 player team battle, in which you must capture and hold control points around an enormous map for points. Assault, which was unlocked a couple weeks after launch, is a capture and defend game, with one team guarding control points while the other team seeks to capture them. The highlight of the three is definitely Conquest, which is absolutely insanely fast-paced, and almost worth owning the game for on its own.
Unfortunately the game takes a real hit on one point, and it’s kind of a big one. It just doesn’t control all that well. It’s not that it’s particularly bad, it’s just not very fluid or tight, and it certainly doesn’t stand out among other futuristic shooters. If you can get used to it, you’ll enjoy it, but it doesn’t match the fluidity of Halo or Crysis.
Graphically, Section 8: Prejudice can be measured against two things. One is its predecessor, the original Section 8, which looked poor for a full retail game. The other is other downloadable games. It looks exactly like its predecessor, so it’s not going to be blowing away the visual standard for first person shooters anytime soon, but against other downloadable games it looks pretty great. Unfortunately, the game’s overall presentation is still hurt by generic background music and less-than-stellar art direction and story.
If all this sounds like a crazy amount of content for a $15 game, it is. Prejudice is simply unmatched in content for a downloadable title of its price range. An incredible amount of time can be spent in multiplayer, and the singleplayer campaign is serviceable enough as a short distraction. In fact, the game in many ways is more fleshed out than the $60 original was.
You would think a downloadable game this full of content would be a complete no-brainer, and it certainly stands up well against its predecessor and sets a new barometer for amount of content in a downloadable title. What really holds it back is the fairly generic gameplay, and the lack of smooth controls. In a genre like shooters where excellence is so common, not having particularly enjoyable gameplay makes for a tough sell, even for a game this cheap. Still, if you do find you enjoy the basic gameplay well enough, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Section 8: Prejudice, and there’s not a lot of risk in diving in at this low a price.