Atmospheric drop-in manoeuvres are by far the most intense part of Section 8: Prejudice. Watching the ground move closer and closer, dropping in behind enemy lines, taking down enemies before running out using an Overdrive boost. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, yet when you rinse and repeat the formula with an insubstantial story, derivative gameplay and a general lack of anything revolutionary you find yourself playing just another first-person shooter. Section 8: Prejudice, developed by TimeGate Studios, is a Tribes-like, sci-fi man-shoot that, while being a lot nicer looking than its predecessor, brings only a few new enhancements to gamers. It’s a download only title, so can expect the game to be a little leaner than its forebear.
The story goes like this: A long time ago the United States rose to power, and as the world’s population grew, some sought interplanetary travel as a means to escape. The United States Empire – yes, in the future the United States is now an empire – gave them the means do leave Earth and to colonize the galaxy. However, the ARM of Orion, a group of genetically enhanced soldiers sent ahead to planets to destroy any hostile life forms, with extreme Prejudice, turned on the Unites States. They formed their own military, destroyed colonies and took some revenge on their creators. These events lead to the bloody Outer Rim War. As part of Section 8, Alexander William Corde was sent to investigate the colonies that became suddenly disconnected. In Prejudice, you play as Corde as he uncovers a vast military conspiracy and an old band of soldiers who equal Section 8’s military prowess.
In the first game, Corde’s character felt slightly disturbed. I first saw him in one of the game’s debut trailers entitled “Finish”. According to his inner dialogue, the in-flight stimulants given to enhance his situational awareness have had an unintended effect giving him flashbacks to his childhood. He’s apart of the United States Empire’s military in a 8th Armored Infantry Division, otherwise known as Section 8. It’s been noted that Section 8 refers to a once standing category of discharge in the United States military. It was used for soldiers who were deemed mentally unfit for service. I guess it’s rather fitting that Corde, with his disturbed past, volunteered for the group. It also came in part of his father once being the squad leader of the group. Now Corde is the captain of the 1st Regiment of the 8th Armored Infantry. We don’t really see any depth in his character’s development, nor do we see him regress in his role as a soldier. The kind of depth seen in science fiction like Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein – or any novel written by contemporary authors like John Scalzi isn’t seen here.
The developer, TimeGate, has cited a few works – Aliens and Bladerunner – as inspirations for their story, so it’s not all too uninformed. Section 8’s story feels underfed. The colonial regret many science fiction writers explore in this tradition is missed out on. There is an overall theme of what human tampering in our genome is going to do, how it will effect humankind and what the consequences of something like that would be is explored, but not to any kind of depth. Read some John Scalzi if you want to see more stuff like that or play some Mass Effect. While expansive, Section 8’s story comes off as secondary to the gameplay. The run and gun formula is adhered to strictly throughout the campaign while some vehicle sections help give it some variety. A lot of what you do in the campaign mode transfer over to the multiplayer aspect of the game, and it works pretty well is a lot more exciting when played with other players rather than a mediocre story.
There are two multiplayer modes: Conquest and Swarm. In conquest, the world map is divided into the embedded player and the attacking player. You begin on either side and try to take over the enemy’s base. While it’s exciting to do an orbital drop right into the enemy’s backyard, you’ll easily find yourself overwhelmed. It’s always fun to play games like Section 8 before the release and while the metagame is still in a primordial state. There were a number of players online, probably reviewers, who would just amble along the outskirts of the map looking around. I watched a few, sniped a few, and tried to play nicely with the more aggressive players. The one thing Section 8’s multiplayer really lacks is cohesion. Unlike games like ARMA 2, which is heavily squad based, having 16 players on your side while the other team has only a fraction doesn’t equal a victory. The use of squad mechanics really boils down to what kind of orbital drop you take at the load screen. You have two choices: free spawn and squad drop. With the squad drop option you’re sent to help back up the largest squad on the map. It helps, but overall you feel so distant from your team mates. This is where the Swarm mode comes in.
The Section 8: Prejudice servers are able to handle games with up to 32 players. Conquest is fun as hell and you can play for hours dropping in on enemies and finding vantage points to snipe from. But if you’re feeling the need for more cooperation, Swarm mode is far better. In Swarm, you are a soldier in a group of four players. You hold a single vantage point while you scramble to perform deployment drops, stop enemy hacks and defend your base. It can get pretty hectic when you’re defending one side with two marauding mechs and another side with disruptive engineers killing your shields. The same multiplayer mechanics apply in Swarm as they do in Conquest, but there’s a sense of cohesion to be found in a smaller group. On a few occasions, I played games where two players would go off to hunt infantry while the other two stayed behind, sniped and built up the base. There was a better sense of teamwork to be found, and it’s something you appreciate after getting backstabbed in the Conquest mode.
Luckily there are more multiplayer modes to come. Overall, this is the main attraction of Section 8. While I was player, my brother couldn’t help but mention the game’s link to Tribes 2. It’s an old game from 1999 and it was and still is an immensely popular online game. Tribes built up a community of players who eventually formed clans through the game’s message board functionality. It’s the one great advantage a game like Tribes has over a game like Section 8. Conquest and Swarm are fun, but in terms of depth in play modes, player interaction and just how fresh they remain the two can be a little insubstantial.
Section 8: Prejudice is a nice looking update to the original game. TimeGate really pushed the graphical limitation of their game development and they made a fun and engaging multiplayer experience. I’m a single player kind of gamer though and I enjoy a good story. Needless to say, there is a story here. It’s a good one too, but it needs some more meat and little more depth. At half the price of a triple A title, Section 8: Prejudice provides a worthwhile experience if you’re looking to go a little less deep into the enemy lines like a Section 8 soldier in an orbital drop.