Section 8: Prejudice Review
Section 8: Prejudice explores well-worn territory, but a smart campaign and volatile competitive mode make this shooter rise above its generic aesthetic.
- Long and varied campaign
- Lots of tools, weapons, and vehicles to mess around with
- Dynamic Combat Missions make competitive play an ever-changing experience
- Swarm offers a fun chance to team up with friends.
- Touchy aiming and vehicle controls
- Sporadic difficulty spikes in single-player.
There's no line of work more stable than space marine. The ubiquitous occupation is never at a want for intergalactic battles, and their eternal struggle is realized once more in Section 8: Prejudice. But just because you've waged similar battles in your first-person shooting history doesn't mean you should turn up your nose at this high-flying entry. Prejudice builds upon the already solid foundation of Section 8 to create an expansive and intense adventure that offers a lot more content than you would expect from an Xbox Live Arcade game. A full-fledged single-player campaign is the biggest addition to the franchise, and it provides enough challenge and variety to lure even seasoned veterans into the fold. The competitive multiplayer hasn't seen as much improvement, but there's no denying the fun of gunning down a feeble trooper while you're stomping around in an oversized mech. Prejudice doesn't offer any significant additions to the genre and lacks the narrative punch to invest you in this universe, but it rises above small quibbles to offer a consistently enjoyable experience no matter which mode you play.
There is a story that revolves around the inherent prejudice space marines have to deal with, but its underdeveloped characters make it difficult to care about the high-stakes events. It's the gameplay in Prejudice that's worth caring about. On the surface, Prejudice looks like a cheap Halo knockoff. The bulky armor your fellow soldiers wear gives off a serious Master Chief vibe, and the rock-formation paths that make up most of the single- and multiplayer levels look like they could have been created in a Forge editor. But once that aesthetic familiarity wears off, you're treated to a shooter that has its own identity. You have a rocket pack with a limited fuel supply strapped to your back at all times, and smartly using this in both your offensive rushes and defensive scrambles adds a tactical layer to the run-and-gun proceedings. To counter your soaring opponents, you can lock on to them with a click of a button, but this ability can be used only periodically. Because your most powerful tools have to be used sparingly, you are forced to carefully think about your plan of action rather than rush in willy-nilly. It's a nice balance that makes it feel as if you're making strides with every hour you sink in.
Which weapons you use requires just as much thought. There are seven types available, ranging from long-range snipers to explosive rocket launchers, and you can carry only two at a time. This is a fairly standard way to distribute weapons, but Prejudice makes things a bit more interesting. You choose what types of bullets you want to use as well and equipping yourself wisely can mean the difference between life and death. For instance, crash rounds are great against vehicles whereas slugs dish out high armor damage. There are also tools you need to concern yourself with. These include a repair wrench (for vehicles, structures, and fellow soldiers), grenades, and a knife. Melee attacks aren't standard in Prejudice. If you decide to equip something other than your knife, you can't attack with a close-range swipe, so you need to make sure you plan your line of attack before you enter battle. With so many different strategies, you need to play a few hours to wrap your head around how all of your weapons work together, and you even unlock more ammo types as you get deeper into the game.
It's a shame the controls can't quite live up to the vast array of abilities you have to play around with. That's not to say that it's difficult to move or shoot, but it's not nearly as smooth as the best games in the genre. This is immediately apparent when you first try to fire at a moving enemy. Your reticle is sluggish by default, and even when you tweak the sensitivity, it still doesn't glide as smoothly as you'd like. In battle, this means the difference between killing your foe in 20 shots rather than 10, and that can be frustrating in a heated fight. The lock-on feature helps alleviate this slightly, but you can't rely on that crutch all the time. The tank and mech feel much better than they did in the first Section 8, but they often put you at a competitive disadvantage. These monstrous machines get stuck on geological formations too easily, and because the camera zooms out to a third-person perspective when you're piloting them, your perspective is sometimes obscured by buildings, enemies, and natural landmarks. On the other hand, the hovercraft is a blast to pilot and quite powerful, which instantly makes it the most formidable vehicle in your fleet.
You have plenty of time to come to grips with your vast supply of weapons and vehicles in the lengthy single-player campaign. Unlike the original Section 8, which simply reused the multiplayer maps, this is a from-scratch adventure that does a fine job of mixing up your objectives to keep things fresh. In one section, you may have to storm a battlefield occupied by an evil force. Turrets and missile launchers track your every movement, sniper riflemen keep you on your toes, and grenadiers ensure you don't stay in one spot. Surviving an encounter with entrenched enemies intent on seeing you dead is an exhilarating rush, and because there are so many different ways to attack, you're free to use whatever strategy you deem best. At another time, you may be the occupying force trying to hold back an invading army, and it's just as much fun when the roles are reversed. You plant turrets where you want and call in supply terminals so you can reequip yourself on the fly, and you can even order up a mech suit if you feel like making people quake.