Released in late summer of 2009, the original Section 8 was a fairly pedestrian first-person shooter with some bright ideas. It was nice that you could drop onto the battlefield from the atmosphere for every respawn, and there was a steady stream of side objectives in multiplayer, but the game was wrapped in a technically average package and saddled with a short, forgettable single-player campaign. It didn't gain much of an audience when it debuted at its initial $60 price tag, and while there seemed to be some interest once the price dropped, it wasn't enough to foster a strong community like the publisher and developer had hoped. It was still enough, though, that the developer pressed forward with a sequel, and rather than go the retail route, it decided to go with a cheaper digital-only release. Section 8: Prejudice represents an experiment of sorts for Timegate Studios, and the experiment has turned out to be quite successful.
The story for the original game wasn't exactly the most memorable, and almost the same thing could be said of Section 8: Prejudice, which takes place immediately after the events of the first game. You play the role of Commander Alex Corde, a member of an elite federation army known as the 8th Armored Infantry. For some time, they've been interrogating a captured leader of the Arm of Orion, a group that's trying to break free of the main government forces. No sooner do they start interrogations, though, does the Arm of Orion stages a breakout and rescues him from captivity. Your mission is to re-capture the prisoner and find out who is pulling the strings for the Arm of Orion.
The gameplay is standard first-person shooter fare. You can only carry two weapon types and two secondary items, whether they're repair devices, knives or grenades. You also have a shield and a regenerative health system, which kicks in once you stop taking fire. For those who are new to the series, the game adds a few things in single-player mode to make it stand out in the crowded genre. Your suit gives you the ability to use a jetpack to fly to higher places and you can use a speed boost to either run over an enemy or traverse long distances in a short time. Combining those two abilities means that you can make flying leaps over great chasms. There's also an automatic lock-on system that you can trigger, but it has a significant cool-down period to prevent you from relying on it. Finally, as you progress, you can unlock more ammo types, guns, and the ability to use different types of ammo for your guns.
In a few ways, the campaign mode feels similar to the original Section 8. For one thing, it's a short experience. Initially, the five-hour length seems like it isn't much, but when you compare it to other shooters on the market today, the length is fine. You also have AI companions all the time, and their intelligence is at an average level, just like it was in the prior game. Enemies are quite strong since they all have shields just like you, and while they aren't strong to the point that you need to unload a full ammo clip to take one down, you'll still need two sniper headshots to take one down. One improvement is the use of original levels for the campaign as well as artificial borders to keep you in the action but overall, the single-player mode is serviceable and not something players are likely to go through more than once.
Multiplayer is still the heart of the game, and it's the mechanics that make it appealing to those who enjoy blasting away at other opponents. It features a leveling system similar to other modern games on the market. The higher your level, the more weapons and ammo types you can access. You also have the ability to put out custom loadouts, which not only have the exact weapon configurations you want but also the armor layouts. There are a few things unique to Prejudice, though. Players no longer spawn back into battle but fall from the sky. This gives you the ability to choose where you want to go, and you'll even have the ability to land on top of an enemy. Anything done on the battlefield like killing opponents, handing out assists, or taking over bases also gives you cash to call down equipment from the sky, such as ammo recharge stations, tanks or mech suits. Finally, secondary objectives are randomly doled out during the game, giving you a bonus opportunity to earn more cash and experience. The tasks vary from escorting a VIP from one base to another, setting up intel stations, or retrieving broken equipment. Their inclusion helps make each match more interesting.
Thanks to the help of the community, multiplayer now has three modes. Conquest is the main focus of multiplayer, and it plays similarly to games like Battlefield 1942. Up to 32 players are split into two teams and charged with racing to get to 1000 points as soon as possible. Players can accomplish this by simply killing enemies, taking over bases, or completing the secondary objectives that pop up. Taking over bases proves to be strategically sound — since that also gets you access to antiair guns to take out incoming soldiers or enemy equipment — it doesn't always mean that you'll instantly win because anything and everything can give you points. It proves to be a frantic affair, and with the multitude of strategies as well as a selection of close to 10 maps, it also proves to be a mode with plenty of replay value.
Swarm is this game's version of the now-popular Horde mode from Gears of War 2. Here, a team of four has to protect a base from being taken over from wave after wave of enemy forces. At its core, it's still an enjoyable mode for those who like pure co-op play against CPU opponents but, like Conquest, this mode is enjoyable because of the ability to call down equipment from the sky and the presence of the secondary objectives. The maps are also somewhat different from the maps featured in Conquest, and even though they take place in the same environments, they don't feel like little slices of bigger maps. It's a fun mode if you need a break from constant multiplayer combat.
Finally, there's Assault, the mode recently unlocked due to the body count amassed by early players of Prejudice. In this mode, one set of players tries to capture four control points in the fastest possible time. Once completed, that same team must try and defend its points from being taken over by enemy forces who have to do so in a similar amount of time. The mode is quite frantic, especially with the time limit as dictated by the opposing team, and while it isn't as robust as the other modes because it has no ancillary objectives to complete, it is a nice bonus for those playing the game.
As with all PC games, the graphical quality in regards to frame rate and textures will vary, but what you see overall is fine. Mountainous plains, frozen tundras and volcanic lands are all represented here and look just as good as you'd expect from an Unreal Engine 3 game. The characters also look good and the animation is well done, but some may not necessarily like the scaled-down anime look of everyone's armor, and the animation is well done. There are still some instances where the graphics falter, such as some textures disappearing for a second and the usual pop-in of higher resolution textures, but overall, the game looks good.
The sound has seen marked improvements in some areas while remaining the same in others. The musical score has always been about bringing a sci-fi, epic feel to the game, and that is accomplished here. It isn't a very memorable score, but it hits the right notes at the right times; it does a good job of building excitement in very tense situations and calming things down when less activity happens on-screen. The effects have been improved, with some sound bugs being ironed out. Guns sound more realistic, with explosions and gunfire gaining more strength than in the previous title. Footsteps, however, seem to play more often even though you haven't covered much distance; it helps with the illusion that you're moving slower in comparison to other first-person shooters. The voice work remains the same, though, so expect to hear the same mix of bland and cheesy delivery that was experienced in the first game. All in all, it's still a nice sound package.
It isn't often that the issue of price comes into play when determining how good a game is, but in this case, it becomes a plus for Section 8: Prejudice. For $15, you get a campaign that's on par with retail games in terms of length and quality. You also get a solid multiplayer title with a good amount of maps and modes. All of this comes together with a solid technical package that combines some fresh elements with tried-and-true gameplay. If you're finally growing tired of your go-to multiplayer game, give this one a shot. Not only is it not afraid to try something new, but it also does it well.
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