Section 8: Prejudice is an underdog story – a small developer (in this case, Timegate Studios) trying to fulfill the promise of its original idea while making the transition from retail to budget downloadable title. It has a cool hook in its "soldiers fired from a space cannon" premise. It brings a retail title's worth of modes and content to a budget title. The pieces are all there. But Section 8: Prejudice can't seem to fit them together into something more than sort-of interesting.
Watch our Section 8 Video Review.
Section 8: Prejudice is the sequel to 2009's Section 8, which introduced, uh, Section 8: a group of cybernetic crazy people fired from orbit into battle wearing nothing but their armor.
I said it was a great hook.
At its heart, Section 8 was a multiplayer-focused affair, with 32-player objective-based matches. It was an FPS that married elements of the Battlefield series with the ardently-worshipped Tribes games - players jetpacked over vehicles and mechs while securing control points and performing other tasks randomly assigned over the course of a match.
Section 8: Prejudice seems poised to correct the original game's main failings, like a mostly non-existent single player element and a certain generic lack of identity outside of the dude-bombardment mechanic. Prejudice promises a lot. Timegate have added a new wave-based survival mode for four players called Swarm. There's also a "full" single-player campaign in Prejudice, with more of a story to it than the tutorial-in-everything-but-name from the first game.
At least, I think there was supposed to be a story to it. While Section 8: Prejudice starts with an interesting idea – the original military hard-men used to tame colonial space were forcefully decommissioned by Section 8's precursors, and now they're back and pissed about it – it barrels headfirst into cliché territory and doesn't look back. Playing through Prejudice's uninspired level design, I can see why they'd want to get through it as quickly as possible.
Section 8: Prejudice's campaign feels like it was tacked onto the multiplayer as an afterthought. It swings from one worst-case-scenario to the other. There's the totally mindless point A to point B trek requiring you to slaughter AI bots thrown in with little thought to placement or encounter design. Then there are the clear "this is training for multiplayer situations" scenarios requiring you to hack terminals or repair vehicles for no discernable reason. While you'll be given different tasks, every mission feels similar.
Section 8: Prejudice shifts over time from repetitive but easy, to repetitive but frustrating. Neither is an especially good thing, but one is easier to overlook than the other. Prejudice doesn't challenge you by clever use of established rules and play. Instead, it contradicts previously demonstrated convention, spamming missile turrets that do much greater damage, and producing enemies whose accuracy is close enough to perfect so as to be indistinguishable from it (and who can take more punishment than the combined forces you've murdered to meet them).
The mobility options provided by your suit's jetpack and dash ability start as overkill for vastly outmatched enemies. They end as insufficient allies in the face of armored gods that look an awful lot like those guys you killed without thought an hour or two before. This is also exacerbated by controls that feel stiff and slow to respond in comparison to other shooters out there, even when you've used your special lock-on ability to nail your focus to a particular enemy for a limited amount of time.
If Section 8: Prejudice's shooting had the oomph of a better game, this would be less of a problem, but there's a "putt-putt-putt" to most of the weapons. There are tons of weapons, with multiple ammo types for each, but shy of their relative strengths against vehicles, shields, or armor, most of them blur together.
This carries over into Conquest, the returning objective-based versus mode in Section 8: Prejudice. Gunfights in Prejudice feel anti-climactic, regardless of the subject of climax. The point system is a plus, at least. Completing objectives and killing enemy players will earn currency you can use to call in supply points, turrets, and vehicles midgame, which all drop in appropriately given the setting – vehicles arrive via dropship, turrets and support stations are fired from orbit into the combat theater.
The pieces are there, but Conquest never really gels. Even while I was riding around in a mech that I called down, plucking members of the enemy team from their bikes and beating them to death with said conveyances, I was bored more often than not. Picking a spawn point from orbit seems like a great deal of freedom at first, but after a few minutes, as control points have been taken, most of every map is covered by anti-air fire that will destroy you without fail should you decide to chance it. This results in too much time spent sprinting from a safe spawn point to where something is actually happening, where you will in all likelihood be swarmed by bots before you can make a meaningful contribution to the cause.
If there's one bright spot remaining in Section 8: Prejudice's fading star, it's the wave-based team survival mode, Swarm. In Swarm, the so-so controls and ho-hum shooting are minimized somewhat by the few-against-many thrill that this game type inspires so effectively. All the elements of Conquest are there, but with a clear focus and narrowed battlefield, it's much more fun. Less can be more.