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The online shooter space has become seriously crowded in recent years, with developers rushing to fill the gaps between Modern Warfare and Battlefield. The end result of all this scrapping for your online dollar is a whole lot of garbage and a few select gems. Section 8: Prejudice is, for the most part, one of the gems. It may not revolutionize the shooter as we know it, but it’s got enough solid hooks and interesting tweaks to be a refreshing alternative to some of the tried and tested behemoths. Here’s the kicker: it’s as big as a full-on retail release, but it costs fifteen bucks.
Technically there’s a campaign mode, though it’s really just an hors d’oeuvre for the main course of the game, the multiplayer. The campaign’s story features some bad guys, intent on doing terrible things, whom you’re required to shoot in the face/body. While it does a fair job of introducing the game’s mechanics and vast array of near-future weaponry, it feels really tacked on. The voice acting is awful, the writing is bland, and even the most hectic flashpoints are sabotaged by poor AI and unfortunate timing. While it may have been mildly entertaining to plow through with a buddy in a co-op, that option doesn’t exist, and as a single-player experience it’s very underwhelming.
The real star of the show is Conquest, an online mode where two teams battle for four control points littered across the map. Though the premise doesn’t innovate, the experience is chaotic and entertaining. Players select spawn points from areas that aren’t protected by hostile anti-air, and then rocket into play from dizzying altitudes (with a cool visual effect where you watch your soldier in third-person as he screams down from the sky). The back and forth of destroying enemy AA turrets to open up the map and deploying your own to deny access to your opponents adds another strategic layer to the constant brawling around control points.
Above: "Come on, Ted, you know we hate having our picture taken"
Aside from holding CPs, teams can earn victory points by completing mid-match missions ranging from convoy escort to calling down massive airstrikes. These sub-missions inside the larger context of a match add some diversity and individuality to each game, and though they’re completely optional, smart teams will take advantage of these opportunities to ring up big chunks of points. Toss in mechs, jet-bikes and siege tanks, as well as deployable turrets and a host of other purchasable goodies, and the action reaches a delightful fever pitch of chaos and carnage.
Performing well in a match not only earns requisition cash for summoning vehicles and turrets but also accrues experience towards leveling your in-game avatar. As you level up you’ll unlock new weapon variants and ammo types, as well as upgrade options to customize your soldier’s performance. Though gaining experience to unlock character perks is a well-trod mechanic at this point, the breadth and depth of options in Prejudice are enough to keep you invested between matches.
Above: More proof Craigslist personals are a bad idea
The other multiplayer mode on offer is Swarm mode, where players defend a single control point against waves of AI enemies. Again, not breaking new ground here, but Prejudice’s array of defensive options makes beating back the horde a welcome distraction from the frenetic action of Conquest.
The game is fueled by the Unreal engine, which is starting to show its age. Though graphically competent, Prejudice’s steel bunkers and massive power armor look a little too familiar. The lackluster visuals get a slight boost from some gritty, suitably epic sound design, but Prejudice certainly isn’t the prettiest girl at the dance. That said, our online experience was almost universally lag-free, and the wait time between matches never felt excessive, nor was it difficult to find a game. If there aren’t enough human players to populate a match, Prejudice offers the option of filling out the ranks with bots which, while prone to typically stupid bot behavior at times, can also be surprisingly deadly. In fact, if you don’t like playing human opponents or just want some practice, you can populate the Conquest and Swam modes entirely with bots to extend your single-player experience.
Above: This planet is gorgeous! Can’t wait to see what it looks like on fire!
Prejudice won’t completely reshape the way you think about online shooters or alter the multiplayer landscape forever, but it doesn’t intend to. What it does do is deliver a feature-heavy, high energy experience that’ll satisfy shooter fans craving a new addiction. All for a measly 1200 points.
Apr 26, 2011