It’s odd to have a game marketed based on its price, but that’s exactly what Timegate seemed to want to push for Section 8: Prejudice, a downloadable sequel to last year’s full retail title. The other half of that message though is that the game wasn’t going to be downsized, instead it would still be packed with plenty of content. We’ve had the game in our digital hands for almost a week now and can definitely say this isn’t your standard downloadable title, you’ve got a single player campaign, online versus for 32-40 players and of course 4 player online co-op.
The campaign of Section 8: Prejudice puts you in the role of super soldier named Alex Corde of “Alpha Squad.” The game starts simple enough with a training exercise, but quickly things turn sour as your base becomes under attack in a jail break attempt of an enemy prisoner. Soon you are off on a journey through multiple planets to track down your prisoner and find out some nefarious plot. The story isn’t anything to write home about, but it is filled with some fun voice acting (the lead general is the same voice as the narrator from Crackdown) in cut scenes and it lasts just as long as your average Call of Duty shooter.
Graphically the game looks gorgeous on both the 360 and PC. While the console doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the PC version, the variety of environments simply look great.
Its kinda hard not to get a "Halo" vibe from the game.
On the versus side of things you have one mode called Conquest, but calling it one mode isn’t quite doing it justice. This 32 to 40 player affair has players capturing specific areas of the map and earning points for the longer they hold them. What sets this apart is the game’s strategy elements - killing players and completing objectives earns you cash. Cash lets you drop in items like a machine gun turret, supply depots, or even a hover bike. These items can be used to defend or attack locations turning the tide of battle.
Alongside the main objective of capturing control points, Section 8: Prejudice has something called DCMs, or dynamic combat missions. These range from protecting a VIP to gathering a piece of intelligence and delivering it somewhere. There’s another one that charges a team with getting an airstrike beacon and delivering it to a location wiping out the entire opposing team. Completing these not only earn your team extra points, but they add a certain ebb and flow to the game. You’ll find it brings the battle on larger maps into a smaller area with really intense fighting as one team tries to stop the other from completing their objective. There’s at least 8 different maps, though they vary and scale depending on player count which on the 360, which supports up to 32 players on dedicated servers. The PC version supports up to 40 players on dedicated servers.
I was actually surprised at the depth of Section 8’s character classes - not only can you customize your weapons with different ammo types as well as customize your secondary tools like grenades with different effects, but you can actually balance out your character’s abilities with an RPG like character sheet. Players are allotted 10 points to put into things like extra shield, extra armor, better aiming, repair abilities and firepower. Each of the 8 upgrades, as they are called, have four levels of power that can be placed in them helping you created custom classes that suit your playstyle. This can be done not only in versus and single player, but also in the game’s co-op mode.
The character customization screen.
Section 8: Prejudice’s co-op mode is called Swarm and it plays like a mix of Monday Night Combat’s co-op and Gears of War’s Horde mode. Teams of four players guard an outpost from enemy attack across four different maps. Once you initiate the mission by hacking the console, enemies drop in from the sky swarming your base for 15 minutes. At 5 minute intervals the game will launch an airstrike to give you some respite, but between those it’s all out warfare as each wave of enemies becomes more numerous and more difficult. The same strategy elements of the game’s versus mode is at play here - so players will need to drop in defensive structures to bolster their position.
There are four maps to play in co-op and while they vary greatly in terms of looks, the same basic concept applies to each one. There is some variety at play though in how the main defensive structure is set up, whether its a multi-tiered tower, or a more defensive oriented style base, to a more expansive and wide open area that seems more geared towards vehicle play.
Swarm is difficult, extremely difficult - especially if teams don’t work together. There’s a fine balance of offense and defense that needs to be used to get deep into the matches so communication is key. Little tactics like dropping supply turrets near your gun and missile turrets to keep them healed go a long way - but once the mechs start rolling in you’ll want to have one or two mechs on your side as well. Even the DCMs require coordination like one that involves collecting wreckage in a set time period.
Dropping into battle never gets old.
Beyond these three modes there's a fourth mode called Assault which will unlock for free when both the PC and 360 version hit 10 million collective kills. Even without it, there’s a ton of content here for $15. With all the character and weapon customization comes a deep unlock system similar to what many other shooters are doing. You’ll earn XP across all game modes that unlocks different weapon abilities and your stats will be tracked and viewable online. There's AI bot support in every mode for offline play - and the bots can fill in empty spots as well for all multiplayer modes. The game also features built in support for clans via its website. Its little touches like the ability to tweak friendly fire in co-op to only damage shields that go a long way and let you know Timegate paid a lot of attention to community feedback.
Section 8: Prejudice set out to change what it means to be a $15 downloadable title and they succeeded with flying colors. Each of the game’s three modes (soon to be four) offers a solid amount of content and when combined into a full package Section 8: Prejudice is a real deal. The co-op mode is fun and fairly replayable, but its definitely not the meat of the game. If Section 8: Prejudice is successful, we can only hope more developers follow Timegate’s example for downloadable titles.