I don’t really know how to approach Section 8. Up until the multiplayer kicks in, it was an absolutely average space-marine-in-a-dustbin shooter, with little about it, bar the fact that it’s a £10 download, to set it apart from anything else. Indeed, I was fully preparing to question its place on earth, especially given that it’s a follow up to a title that didn’t really receive much interest from the gaming community as a whole.
So where does this u-turn come from? Well, it certainly wasn’t from the single player campaign. Amazingly, despite the fact that there is no-one on the server at time of writing, and I’ve been playing against bots the whole time, it marked a complete change in my perception of the game. This is one of the most complete, and immediately enjoyable online shooters I’ve ever played. It’s rammed full of innovation, and quality realisation of some excellent concepts. To be honest, I’m almost struck dumb with how good it is. The real downer is, though, that I suspect this won’t see the acclaim, or sales, it deserves, because of the likes of CoD, Battlefield, and Halo soaking up so many online hours.
Starting with the weakest part of the game, namely the single player, it’s exactly what you would expect. A glorified training mission to educate you in the rudimentary battlefield tactics and weapons to get you started in multiplayer. It’s quite ridiculous, and sees you, as Section 8 commander Corde, running to and fro, shooting stuff and blowing stuff up in a very specific fashion in tiny maps with your boss regularly interjecting some storyline nonsense into your ear. While I get the feeling that a good deal more effort has gone into this than the previous single player title, it’s still pretty watery, and at points unnecessary. In many ways, I would have preferred a more compact story, but some of the set pieces are worth a little bit of waiting for. In all though, you get 10 quids’ worth of gameplay out of it, but not much more.
No, it’s the multiplayer that really deserves attention here, as it sits outside the regular frame of reference for the FPS genre. It’s much closer to titles like Unreal Tournament and Halo than Battlefield, Homefront and CoD. It’s like it’s scooped up the good bits of every other shooter, added a few neat little touches and blended it all together. The result is a brilliant game that is very likely to get overlooked by a vast majority of gamers, despite the fact that it heavily features jump packs.
Straight from the off you’re given not just one multiplayer mode, but two. Those two being Swarm and Conquest, with Swarm being a four-player co-operative effort – where you attempt to repel an every increasing swarm of enemies – and Conquest being the competitive 32-player affair.
One of the most impressive concepts is that Prejudice gives it all to you. You’re not restricted in any sense, either during the battles or while selecting loadouts. Rather than limiting you to a set balance of weapons and abilities, like every other shooter out there, you have access to it all. If you can organise yourself well enough and earn enough cash during a battle, you can pretty much do what you want, whenever you want. For example, if you find yourself being outgunned and left alone to defend a point, as long as you have the cash, you can call down a veritable wall of automated defence towers and ensure that no-one can get past you without a really concerted effort.
Similarly, in the loadout menus, you’re given default setups, but it’s easy to swap out your gear for practically anything you want. This includes abilities such as enhanced shields and more powerful weapons. While the removal of standard limitations may sound like a simple affair, it gives you an unprecedented level of investment in your character, and allows you to specialise far more than any other game. On the other hand, you can just as easily create a utility loadout that covers all the bases.
On the battlefield, there are three distinct changes to the standard FPS you might expect. Firstly, spawning doesn’t just dump you in the field, but allows you to determine exactly where you spawn. Given that you spawn in a dropship, several hundred metres above the battle, you’re given the flight down to decide exactly where you’d like to land. However, there are a number of obstacles to this, the main issue being automated AA turrets. Spawn in an enemy area, and you’re more than likely going to be toast by the time you land. Get your team mates to destroy said turrets, and you can land with relative impunity.
Secondly, the ability to buy vehicles and turrets on the fly is delivered with such ease that you wonder why it’s never been done properly before. Take Homefront, for example. It’s a very recent title, but has nowhere near the range and strategic variation that Prejudice offers.
Similarly, the dynamic missions are integrated perfectly into the game. You can select your favourites from the in-game menu, which will increase the probability of you getting a mission you like, and are widely varied. It’s almost like the dev team have just thrown as many ideas at the game, and let you select which ones you like. Missions like protecting your team mates, or taking a particular base are just thrown in arbitrarily and left to you to do the rest. They don’t fit in with much else, they’re more like random side-quests to help you increase the size of your wallet. This kind of freedom is a truly refreshing thing, and shows quite clearly that you don’t need to wrap everything in backstory for it to be enjoyable.
It’s elements like this that give the game a truly unique feel. Being self-published – something that definitely offers a sense of purity to Section 8: Prejudice – makes me inclined to believe that it simply won’t get the attention it deserves; unless all your friends are playing it, you’re unlikely to be drawn in. It’s a sad fact that this won’t beat the likes of Halo and CoD, despite the genuinely unique feel to most of the game. The single player isn’t worth the asking price alone, but combined with a co-op and competitive multiplayer, it becomes an excellent purchase. If you’re on the fence about what game to keep you going until the next Battlefield, Halo or CoD, try this out, you just might love it.
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