Section 8: Prejudice
Captain Corde knows how to make an entrance. Pushing off from a ship that lingers in the sky, thousands of feet separate him from the underlying battlefields, where an all-out war has broken out over territorial control. An encampment of enemy Anti-Air turrets rattle off a procession of flak rounds clinking up against Corde’s heavy armor. Instinctively, he rolls out of his face-first suicide dive and sprawls out like so many flying squirrels, shifting his momentum away from the range of the turrets. Although his enhanced armor softens most of the blow, his landing on an enemy soldier takes care of the rest.
This is Section 8: Prejudice at its best. More than providing an exhilarating way to enter the frontlines, these drop-ins are an extension of those found in the original. This time theyíre shown from the third person, providing more clarity concerning your characterís positioning in relation to his surroundings and accenting the speed. It essentially serves the same purpose as before, eliminating long wait screens and the annoyance of spawn kills in one fell swoop. It’s one of the aspects of Prejudice that’s found simple improvements and makes more sense for the direction of the series.
The shift in scope from retail to digital distribution is mostly beneficial for the Section 8 franchise, with this second entry reeling in its map sizes, which are far more effective for whatís ultimately a tactical shooter. Thereís also additional polish in the menus and the general presentation values backing the game. Itís all better organized and simpler. Nonetheless, thereís still the scattershot execution that comes as a side effect of trying to do too many things at once. Prejudice is in many ways an accumulation of all the decent concepts the first-person shooter genre has to offer. This inconsistency results in a pervasive lack of direction that still needs to be more focused to be competitive against any of the things itís derived from.
The single-player is more substantial than that of its predecessor, with a more rigid Ė albeit incoherent Ė narrative that follows through with the story of Captain Corde. The first couple of levels are a bit disheartening. Thereís a tutorial that takes place on a firing range, where Corde is asked to show new recruits the ropes, but it doesn’t feel particularly effective or well-designed. For instance, one segment has Corde jumping out of a plane. Itís explained heís been doing this his whole life. The recruits should watch closely and learn from this experienced man. But after he’s jumped from the plane, all the recruits are already sky-diving ahead of him.
Thereís also this weird sense of linearity funneling you through each mission. Itís a race from checkpoint-to-checkpoint that serves its purpose as a primer for multiplayer but accomplishes little else. Step out of the invisible barriers and the screen flashes red, with a short countdown to your death if you donít get back on track. The bigger problem is that the path is redefined after every checkpoint and punishes backtracking - if you ever decide to go change your weapon loadout at a supply depot, or anything, the game’s not into that. Thereís only forward movement. Yet all around you, there are areas that look like theyíd be worth exploring.
On the third level, objectives are scattered about in several locations and the map more-or-less opens up and a plane supplies an agile attack bike for jetting from place to place and evading the groups of enemies. This is exactly what Prejudice needs more of and even this turns into a bit of a letdown as youíre forced off the bike and have to jetpack into a claustrophobic cave afterwards. Thatís sort of the way the whole campaign goes; youíre funneled from tutorial after tutorial and only do most things once or twice. Even then, the bike sequence is the most enjoyable piece of the campaign and most closely resembles the constant need for multi-tasking in the multiplayer. Following that, the missions all proceed along a predictable path, like a four hour tutorial supplemented with a vague sci-fi storyline.
Things fare better in multiplayer, with familiar modes and concepts filling things out. Thereís a bit of replay value in the Conquest mode alone, which divides up to 32 players into two teams with a focus on capturing each map’s control points. The contentís more varied than that though, as youíre being rewarded for everything you do (whether it is side missions, kills, or taking an enemyís base) and accumulate funds that can go towards defensive drops, as well as vehicles. Apart from some more technical changes to weapons and some of the other gameplay aspects, itís still the Section 8 you know and have reserved feelings about. If Prejudice enjoys a more vital community than the original, this could become a lot of fun, but itís dependent on the community and for now, seems to crash whenever a good group is beginning to form. Of course, those spots could be filled in with bots, but thatís just not the same.
Prejudice also features a highly addictive Swarm mode, a survival-based game type that focuses on effective teamwork and resourcefulness with funds as it plays out increasingly tough rounds that relay the developerís track record of great real-time strategy games. Building up systems of towers and holding off wave after wave of enemies can be a lot of fun and provides the kind of focused experience that would be good to see in any future modes. The main menu leaves a spot open for an unannounced upcoming mode, so here’s hoping for more of that, or something similar.
Prejudice benefits from its transition into the digital marketplace, offering up a more focused and fully fleshed out experience than its retail predecessor. Thereís some decent replay value across all the modes and with the suggestion of a fourth mode, this could become something worth sinking some time into. While it may not be a triumph of great game design, Prejudice can be pretty enticing at times, especially during the later waves of the Swarm mode and when you can get enough players, the Conquest mode. If thereís an audience out there to keep Prejudice afloat, thatíll be reason enough to check it out. Itís only too bad this series canít get out of its own way at times, because there are moments when itís pure fun and others that feel at odds with the rest of the package. As a whole, itís a slightly above-average shooter occupying itself with too many worthwhile ideas for its own good.
Six out of ten