Section 8 failed to resonate with players who only had eyes for the host of other, more well-established shooters, but now TimeGate is back with Section 8: Prejudice, a more polished offering – and a much lower price point – to fill your online playtime with.
- $60 worth of content in a $15 package
- Complex character customization for online play
- Original, fun to play with multiplayer mechanics
- Swarm Mode
- Improved, but still underwhelming, solo campaign
- Halo lite
- Laughable A.I.
- Total absence of eye candy
Section 8: Prejudice Review:
TimeGate Studios inserted some original ideas into its online multiplayer-focused 2009 release, Section 8. For everything that didn’t work about the game – the single-player campaign-as-multiplayer tutorial, the sometimes wonky controls, the horrendous vehicle handling – it still managed to offer an online experience that distinguished itself from other shooters on the market. Unfortunately, when multiplayer is at the heart of your game and it doesn’t attract an audience quickly, that’s pretty much it. Section 8 failed to resonate with players who only had eyes for the host of other, more well-established shooters, but now TimeGate is back with Section 8: Prejudice, a more polished offering – and a much lower price point – to fill your online playtime with.
More For Less!
Prejudice is only available as a digital download, on Xbox Live exclusively for now. PC and PlayStation 3 releases are coming as well, on May 4 and "summer 2011," respectively. You get an all-new single-player campaign, one which feels much less like a tutorial for your multiplayer toys – even though that’s really what it is – a new co-op mode called Swarm in which increasingly tougher enemies rush a single control point in waves, and the return of Conquest, in which two teams of 16 players apiece vie for ownership of bases scattered around the map.
It’s a wise move on TimeGate’s part, setting the price so low for this release. The Section 8 name may be more established now, seeing as this is a sequel, but fans of stuff like Call of Duty are going to need more incentive to try on an all new unlocks-driven multiplayer experience. So how does this one measure up?
Tell Me A Story. . .
The original game’s campaign was really a poorly disguised and overly lengthy online play tutorial. You’re still learning how to use the game’s full set of tools in Prejudice’s story mode, but TimeGate does a much better job of hiding the true intent this time around. It’s not exactly Oscar-worthy writing, but it gets the job done as a perfectly serviceable Halo-alike. There are even a couple of bosses.
Enemy A.I. often veers toward the bafflingly stupid – sometimes, guys will simply stand in one place while you mercilessly gun them down like a good little space marine – but the campaign at least does a decent job of keeping the pace moving at a steady clip, regularly feeding you new weapon and support item unlocks as the story unfolds. More than that, supply depots are encountered frequently, so your loadout can be changed often. Checkpoints tend to be spaced a little too far apart, but none of the campaign’s challenges are insurmountable.
Earning Your Stripes
In the end, online is where the real action is in Section 8: Prejudice. The game adopts the same sort of persistent character progression we see in franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company: the higher you rise through the ranks, the more toys you get to play with.
There is actually an impressive amount of depth to the character customization. All weapons use multiple ammo types, resulting in a range of effects: slug rounds excel at dealing close range damage, EMP rounds chip away at shields quicker and so on. The same is true of your various secondary items, which range from multiple types of grenades and mortars to a simple repair tool. Basic versions of each are unlocked at the outset, but variants open up – along with new suits of armor, which bring their own added benefits – as you rise through the levels.
And still there’s more. Each soldier can be further customized in an upgrades menu. You get 10 points to allocate across a dozen or so categories, each of which can be notched up as many as four levels. Do you want bigger bullet damage? Stronger shields? A longer lock-on time for the game’s limited-use auto-lock mechanic, activated by click the right stick when your crosshairs hover over an enemy? The boosts don’t amount to a huge gain, but they go a long way toward helping to tailor each player’s unique experience.
As you wage war online in a given match, a number of things happen to spice up the game’s variety. You spawn from 15,000 feet up in the air, just like the last game, rocketing down to the surface at any point on the map that you choose. Care must be taken though, as enemy controlled areas are covered by anti-air defenses. Dynamic Combat Missions, or DCMs, are also back; these randomly occurring events add team-specific missions to each match, such as attack/defend a particular location or kill/protect a VIP.
All of these actions, along with the general combat, earn you points which can be spent during a match to requisition new items on the battlefield, everything from turrets and supply depots to vehicles (a tank, a speeder bike or a mech). How about those vehicles? All you really need to know is that the handling is much improved over the last game. It’s not perfect, but it’s improved enough that you’ll at least want to use them.
Can You Stand Up To The Swarm?
Swarm is perhaps the best addition to Prejudice. The rules are the same as they would be in Conquest: you can level up, you earn in-match currency to spend on a variety of airdrops and you go after any DCMs that pop up. The map spreads out over a much smaller area, though that’s because your only objective in this mode is to protect a single base.
In Swarm, up to four players face off against wave after wave of A.I.-controlled enemies, working to keep them from planting and detonating a bomb at the center of your base. The idea is to hold off enemy forces for 15 minutes, though the onslaught occasionally abates thanks to enemy-clearing airstrikes which come in every five minutes. Having access to your full range of tools makes this mode quite enjoyable, since the four-player limit is easily bulked up with the addition of a couple minigun and rocket turrets. Be sure to get a supply depot too; you’ll need to keep that stuff repaired if you want it to be helpful for the full 15 minutes.
The Nuts & Bolts
While the scope of the content on offer is considerable even for a $60 game, let alone a $15 one, there are some notable shortfalls. The A.I., as was already mentioned, tends to do everything that a trained soldier would never, ever do. Not so much an issue in Conquest, but Swarm depends on its A.I. to keep the challenge up.
More noticeable are the visuals. Section 8: Prejudice is not a pretty game. It tries, but you can see where corners were cut to keep this puppy affordable. The environmental textures are lacking in detail, the character models are clunky and awkward, and the game world as a whole feels like a cheap Halo knockoff. It’s a perfectly acceptable drawback, given what you’re getting in the bargain, but it’s something to be aware of going in, for sure.
The War Is Over
When all is said and done, Prejudice is rough-edged gem that manages to not disappoint as long as you’re not expecting too much. Whether or not it will ultimately catch on is another question entirely; cheap tends to not be the answer with online shooters. Players like great ideas, and Prejudice is full of them. But they like polish and balance even more, and this just can’t hold up against competitors over the course of long-term play.
TimeGate intends to support the release with future DLC modes – there’s a “Coming Soon” option listed on the main menu – but they’d be better off finding themselves a publisher willing to fork over a AAA budget. There is great talent at this studio, and serious potential for a truly memorable multiplayer experience. Section 8: Prejudice isn’t it, but it makes the strongest case it possibly can.