May 14, 2011

Review – Section 8: Prejudice

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 9:00 am

Section 8 Prejudice
Section 8: Prejudice straddles an interesting zone between downloadable budget title and full-fledged retail release. Though it isn’t quite comparable to similar on-disc titles, it provides a comprehensive multiplayer mode and a campaign of near-retail length, providing decidedly more value than the standard downloadable experience.

Prejudice is, however, chiefly a multiplayer product. The competitive mode is where players will spend most of their time and contains the most replay value. The strength of it comes from Section 8’s intriguing core combat mechanic, which may appear deceptively simple, but employs a number of unique features to change the face of the battle.

Section 8 Prejudice
Players spawn from orbital drop shits which fire them—quite literally—into the battlefield. During their accelerated fall players can land forcefully—potentially killing enemies—or deploy air brakes for a more controlled descent that can place them closer to enemy objectives.

Drops are made more complicated by the anti-air cannons installed near control points. Additionally, deployable AA turrets can be called down on the fly, anywhere on the battlefield. Because the ability to deploy troops quickly to specific areas is critical to victory, the battle for control of the air-space becomes a constant tug of war, with AA turrets being deployed, destroyed, and repaired constantly as the battle rages on.

Through kills, captures, the completion of objectives and other tasks, players earn cash that can be spent on AA guns and a suite of other deployable items. This is akin to a killstreak reward system, with a few critical differences; because cash persists after death and is awarded for almost every task on the field, risk-taking and teamwork are constantly encouraged, leading even lone-wolf players to support their comrades.

Deployables include turrets, auto-repairing supply depots (from which loadouts can be changed), and on the more expensive end, devastating vehicles. This feature creates a constantly shifting battlefield, where strategy can be just as important as twitch, and even someone who doesn’t excel at shooters can thrive.

Section 8 Prejudice
Prejudice also incorporates an interesting platforming element by being one of the few games to employ jetpacks in a useful way. Jetpacks can be used to tactically reposition, to quickly advance on points, and to gain the edge in combat—and because weapons also feature a brief lock on feature, it’s possible to gun down an opponent while launching into the air (or, conversely, shoot down a quickly flying enemy).

The set up is bolstered by an elaborate customization system that, you may be shocked to discover, is not a direct copy of Call of Duty (yes, apparently developers are still allowed to think for themselves). While there are the standard unlockable weapons, customizing loadouts also involves a slew of weapon mods with unique and interesting effects. Weapons can be equipped to pierce enemy armor, down enemy shields, destroy structures, or even for riot control—allowing a preposterous amount of customization and specialization.

Additionally, players have a limited number of points that can be distributed to boost their core stats—such as movement speed and bullet damage—giving loadouts a bit of a role-playing flair.

Section 8 Prejudice
The core multiplayer mode is Conquest—as you might recall from a Battlefield game—with a Section 8 twist. In addition to warring to claim control points, teams can also achieve victory through the completion of dynamic combat missions (DCMs), which reward the crucial victory points that must be collected.

DCMs activate periodically and provide a wide range of objectives and gameplay opportunities. Some involve defending or capturing critical equipment that has been dropped from orbit, while others may require a VIP to be protected or special gear to be used in the capture of enemy control points. While the nature of these missions may initially be confusing or seem irrelevant, it quickly becomes apparent the DCMs are fun, accessible ways to quickly change the tide of a battle.

Altogether, these features create an interesting and addictive gameplay mechanic that can be played in a variety of styles.

Meanwhile, if a break is needed from multiplayer warfare, the single-player campaign, surprisingly, is not worthless. Though the production values are somewhat crude—music and voice acting, while inoffensive, are at the bare minimum of acceptability, and the story is a mess—the experience feeds on the inherently exciting combat mechanic, creating a fast paced and fun series of missions.

Section 8 Prejudice
Along the way there are some vehicle sequences, and these nicely break up the core action—though the game doesn’t do anything particularly special with its design in these sequences. The vehicles, at their core, are designed as multiplayer power-ups, and still feel that way in the single-player campaign, rather than being used to create interesting set-pieces.

It’s also worth noting that the campaign does not fully exploit all the elements of the game. For example, the ability to call down structures and equipment is entirely wasted; the player is only allowed to do so at specific points, and never has the option of choosing which equipment to summon.

This feature is so integral to the multiplayer that the near-absence of it from the campaign resulted in the experience feeling diminished. Equally, potential was certainly wasted, as being able to create on-the-fly strategies could have significantly strengthened (and distinguished) the single-player.

Also included is the co-operative Swarm mode—and if you thought “Hey, that sounds a lot like Horde mode,” well, you got it. Swarm, however, plays out much more like a game of tower defense, with a four man team fortifying and defending a single control point against waves of increasing deadly enemy forces. This mode is where the potential of the deployable items is fully realized; players earn money by defeating AI enemies that can be spent to call down turrets, supplies, and vehicles to aid in fending off the enemy advance.

Section 8 Prejudice
Similarly, in the competitive Assault mode a defending team must protect four control points from the opposing assault team. Deployables are once again vital, as automated defenses can provide the critical seconds the defending team needs to converge on a control point in jeopardy.

Assault is perhaps the most potentially frustrating of the game modes, as captured points cannot be reclaimed—making any failure permanent. The performance of team mates in this mode is crucial, as nothing can be accomplished alone, meaning that poor or imbalanced teams can completely break a game. When all the players are on their toes, however, assault remains one of more interesting and satisfying gametypes.

Section 8: Prejudice may be easy to dismiss at first glance. The graphics are dated, it carries the brand of a game that probably didn’t rock many worlds, and the shift to a downloadable title may at first seem like a lack of confidence in the product—but, somewhat incredibly, Section 8 manages to provide one of the best values on the downloadable market, which may prove to be the niche the franchise is looking for. Akin to Monday Night Combat before it, it provides a unique and well-crafted multiplayer experience at an unbeatable price, while expanding on that with a 5-hour campaign and supplementary multiplayer modes.

Timegate Studios

Timegate Studios

Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade), PC (Digital Download), PlayStation 3 (PSN) (PC Reviewed)

Singleplayer, Co-Op, Multiplayer

Release Date
April 20, 2011 (XBLA), May 4, 2011 (PC), TBA (PSN)

1200 Microsoft Points, $14.99

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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