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Section 8: Prejudice hands-on preview

Section 8 was an intriguing, multiplayer-focused sci-fi shooter that seemed to have fluttered under the radar of many gamers – but it must have landed enough sales to be profitable, because now the sequel, subtitled Prejudice, is on its way with a laundry list of improvements based on player feedback. Section 8’s main hook is its tactically-focused power suits, which allow players to run at super speeds, make jet-enhanced leaps, and best off all, perform “burn in” respawns, where players can launchfrom the upper atmosphere for a dramatic pinpoint landing anywhere on the map. It shakes up multiplayer matches a bit when your opponents can come screaming down out of the sky at any time.


For those needing a little catch-up on the Section 8 universe, the title refers to super soldiers engineered to withstand harsh environments, but the modifications also tended to make them a little insane, hence the old saying, “He went section 8.” However, does being crazy mean you shouldn’t be respected? Certainly not! And so the sequel refers to the prejudice that the soldiers face. So far, this story has been fairly bare-bones, since the original game featured a measly two-hour single-player campaign. In Prejudice we’ll learn a whole lot more because the campaign has been expanded to five hours, which isn’t exactly huge, but compared to the last game it’s significant, and more importantly, will seem like a deal when you find out how much the game is going to cost.

As for overall game improvements, the big new thing is the Swarm mode, which is another variation on the now ubiquitous Horde mode, although with Section 8’s deployables, it becomes almost like a version of Tower Defense (more on that below). All of the original weapons from the first game have been rebalanced, with many of them being made more powerful, which leads to a faster-paced game. In particular, the team tracked metrics from the first game and found that after a while almost everyone used the machine gun, missile launcher and repair tool combo, so they altered balance specifically to make the other options just as viable. The graphics have gotten an overhaul, with more detailed textures, effects, and spruced-up environments. The signature burn-in sequence where you skydive into the battlefield has shifted to a third-person camera, which makes it look cooler when you can actually see your guy roaring through the atmosphere, adding to the sensation of speed.

Above: The art style is still a bit generic, but itlooks impressive regardless, with nice attention to detail

During our play session with Prejudice, we started off with the new Swarm mode, where we defended a platform on an icy planet. In this mode, four players work together to keep the AI from taking over the defense point, which is standard stuff for these kinds of modes, but Section 8 has a slew of goodies to purchase that really mix up how a defensive strategy can be played. As you earn kills, you earn money, which you can spend by simply bringing up the purchase menu wherever you are. With medical stations and turrets available, it’s possible to set up fall back stations and choke points to funnel enemies into. At first we set up some turrets and focused on keeping them topped up with our repair tool (the game handily lets you know if something nearby needs repairing through voice-over). We really wanted the hover bike, though, so we saved up our money and called one in. The hover bike is a joy to drive, tearing across the map at a speed that helps provide territorial control, responding to incoming waves of enemies before they even get close to the base.

Another player purchaseda mech, which we got to drive a bit as well, and it was hilarious to bash AI foot soldiers with the nasty melee attacks of the hulking robot. We could tell that with all of the options available to purchase and deploy, the Swarm mode could get really complex, especially at higher difficulty levels. The jump-jets didn’t hurt either, providing a nifty way to get up high and ambush AI as they streamed in. For extra dramatic effect, at the end of each wave a huge ship comes flying overhead and carpet bombs the AI, giving you a realistic explanation for the lull between waves.

Above: You really can't go wrong with hoverbikes

Our experience with the Conquest mode, the game’s main competitive mode, highlighted a lot of the diversity now available in this sequel. Consider that the original game had about sixteen pieces of kit you could use, whereas Prejudice sports sixty. We liked using a plasma cannon during the Conquest battle, where we launched into the air with our jump jets to make it easier to land the splash damage-dependent shots. We also managed to save up enough money to purchase a tank, but didn’t get to try out the new VTOL rockets designed to get tanks out of tough spots like getting wedged between rocks. The big draw for the Conquest mode, though, is the Dynamic Combat Missions (DMCs). Alongside the standard capture points spread around the map, these missions randomly generate, creating new objectives to make every match different. So for instance a VIP might need assassinating, or a heavy transport might need to be escorted through the battle. There are now four new DMCs to bring the total to nine.

Above: We didn't notice how pretty this map was because we were too busy tearing ass across the landscape in Overdrive mode

And so we come to the real kicker of this package. Consider the five-hour campaign, the multiple multiplayer modes, the tweaks and additions to weaponry and equipment, and importantly in this age of non-dedicated servers: full dedicated server support for all three platforms (PS3, 360, and PC). The original game was forty bucks at release. Section 8: Prejudice is a much bigger and more polished game, and it’s going to be made available digitally on XBLA, PSN, Steam, etc. for FIFTEEN BUCKS. Yes, you heard that right. MSRP of $14.99 or 1200 MS points for what is really a complete FPS retail experience. We played it, and it was definitely fun and feels like a polished big-budget game and not some skimpy download, so it’s going to be hard to argue with the price when the game releases in Q1 of next year.

Dec 15, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.