Up until a week ago, I had never heard of the Section 8 franchise, let alone the little known Texas developer TimeGate Studios, so when I stumbled across the trailer for the recently released Section 8: Prejudice on the PSN store, and saw a the fast paced Halo look-alike shooter I was pleasantly surprised. I am normally dubious about paying £9.99 for a PSN title as content and replayability is usually an issue with these games, but out of sheer boredom I set aside my doubts about the price point and plunged straight in. For that £9.99 you get a single player campaign, full access to a plethora of online services, and currently two free dlc packages; an armour and weapons pack, and a map pack, worth £2.99 and £3.99 respectively. 5 days and about countless hours of play time later, I am very pleased I made the investment.
As a veteran of the FPS genre, I had my doubts about how much a £10 PSN title could offer me that hadn’t already been given to me by the Battlefields, Halos and Call of Duties of this world, but I set aside my pre-conceptions, as anyone planning on writing a review must, and jumped straight into the single player campaign. The game opens with a cut-scene setting the tone for the game, space marines fighting against a rebel group, and we are introduced to the lead protagonist, Alex Corde, a member of the elite 8th Armoured Infantry, and highly specialised military group charged with safeguarding the interests of the USIF against the Arm of Orion, the aforementioned rebel group.
The first thing you notice is that graphically, this game is not up to par with the rest of the genre, but at times is very visually appealing. Attention to detail on non-near objects, most noticeably distant scenery is somewhat lacking, but is probably a sign of a lower budget. All the important graphical tid-bits are there.
This is perhaps the game’s biggest drawback and could potentially put off many gamers, but it is worth getting past if you are a fan of the genre and are looking for some fun and variety in your gaming on the PS3. The graphical drawbacks are certainly more noticeable in the single player campaign, where less effort seems to have been put in to the objects in the distance, but this isn’t an issue that detracts from the game. You are given a brief training mission, with firing ranges and obstacles courses, typical of the genre, that gives you chance to get a feel for the controls. Anyone with experience with shooters won’t struggle at all to get a good feel for the controls, but there are a total of 12 configuration settings to choose from if the default is not to your liking, although there isn’t an option for custom mapping.
The single player campaign is somewhat lacking. At a very brief 3-4 hours, depending on difficulty settings and experience with shooters, and extremely linear level progression, there is much to be desired. You follow the previously mentioned Alex Corde, along with several other members of the 8th Armoured Infantry on a mission to track down and kill Salvadore, the leader of the Arm of Orion group, who are hell-bent on destroying everything they can. Using a variety of weapons, jet packs, mech suits and tanks, you fight your way through several missions, nearly all involving moving from point A to point B and activating a computer console, which at times does get tedious, but the brevity of the campaign means the game ends before you get too tired of the simple formula. The enemy AI isn’t the most balanced in the world either. Simple enemy infantry often just standing there and letting you shoot them, however, the lieutenants, grenadiers and engineers make full use of their own jet packs and different weapon types, giving variety in the way you approach a given situation. Even on normal difficulty, it is not recommended you jet pack into the centre of a few higher ranking enemies, especially if they are stood near deployable minigun turrets often placed around the map, with the sole intent of making you die quickly. The short amount of time given to the campaign means it fails to fully draw you into the story, and there is little in the form of character development, something other games in the have grown very adept in doing. This does not detract from the game too much though, as I highly doubt anyone going into a £10 PSN title is going to expect a masterpiece of storytelling. Despite the faults of the single player campaign, it is still rather enjoyable. The variety in weapons, 7 in total, including a sniper rifle, pulse cannon and missile launcher, alongside the usual assault rifles and machine guns, coupled with the extras you get to choose, such as grenades, knives and repair tools, give extra life to the campaign, as you can often choose how to approach the situation, as well as needing to utilise each weapon type, depending on the enemy you are facing. Even more customisation is made available in the form of being able to choose your ammunition type for every weapon, ranging from EMP rounds to Napalm rounds, including differing types of grenades. Although you can complete the campaign with the default assault rifle or sniper rifle without caring too much about the ammo types, it is the online play where these are fully utilised.
The single player campaign, while enjoyable, is essentially a 4 hour training session for the multiplayer, which is where the game really comes into its own. Section 8: Prejudice boasts 32 player online play, and 4 game modes to keep you entertained. Assault mode where teams of 16 fight to defend of attack bases around the map, hold out as long as possible in you’re defending, or take down the enemy as fast as possible if you’re attacking. Swarm mode, where you are 3 other players face waves of enemy bots with increasing frequency and difficulty, to see if you can survive until the end. Even on medium difficulty, team work and good use of deployable minigun and missile turrets is needed to survive the later waves. By far the best game mode is Conquest. Very similar to Battelfield’s online play, teams much race to capture up to four bases, bases yield points and the first team to 1000 points wins, however, this is not everything. While you and your 15 team mates are fighting for control of the four bases, there are random missions that appear throughout the map, such as convoy escort or outpost control. These Direct Control Missions, which depending on the team you are on, you must complete or stop the opposition completing, add an extra element to the multiplayer. The 9 different DCM’s that are available, combined with the added ability to call down mech suits, tanks and other deployables means there is always action and you are never far from an intense firefight. The final multiplayer mode, Skirmish, is the same concept as Conquest, but without the base capture. It is the closest thing to normal Team Death Match available, but is still incredibly fun. With dedicated servers the connections are very stable and finding a game isn’t hard, however occasional disconnects do occur; though it is unclear whether that is a problem stemming from the server end or my own connection, this is a rarity though.
At the start of each round, and after every death, you must deploy into the game. Deploying is Section 8’s way of handling spawn delay, and it is very good. You choose your spawn point on the map and launch from 5km up down towards the ground, choosing to slow down early, allowing you to move immediately on landing, or brake late, slamming into the ground with enough force to kill an enemy if you hit them directly, but rendering you immobile for a few seconds in the act. This in its self becomes tactical, as the enemy can place AA turrets around the map which will shoot you down before you even land, if you get too close. While this is very fun at first, it does get a little tedious if you die a lot, as it takes around 6 seconds from launch to land, even longer if you brake early.
One of the best features of the online system is the Section 8: Prejudice website (www.warisprejudice.com). After creating an account and linking it to your PSN account there are loads of features available. As well as full clan support, there are details stats of everything you’ve done in the game, weapon use, kills, game time, everything someone who’s planning on putting hours into this game would love to see, as well as being able to show off to your friends. A less comprehensive version of these stats are available in game.
It is hard to find too many problems with the online play, but the biggest issue would be the lack of maps. If you pick up the map pack, which is currently included in the initial £9.99 price, you do get 4 maps, which at times does get very repetitive after 4 straight hours of playing, but each map is different enough to keep you interested from map to map. I doubt this is a game for those who require more effort to master the weaponry. Although the Sniper rifles and Pulse Cannon weapons are significantly harder to grasp than the machine guns and assault rifles, the latter are so much more efficient at killing than the former, meaning you are hard pressed to find a reason not to use them. At times when you are on the losing side of the battle, the game does get very frustrating, but at the same time you can easily accept you are losing for a good reason. Team work is essential and full use of all the online mechanics is a must if you want to dominate the field. Simple out aiming your enemy isn’t enough to win the game, it requires proper use of turrets and AA guns, as well as resupply stations and the DCM’s. Simply having more kills than your enemy isn’t going to cut it due to the amount of points gained from winning the DCM’s.
Overall, this game is the surprise of the summer, a highly enjoyable shooter than any fan of the genre must play, especially on PS3 where the serious gun-nut style games of Battlefield, Call of Duty and Killzone dominate, and there is a lack of the Halo style game. You’d be hard pressed to find more bang for your buck on the PSN store right now.