Video Game Review: Section 8: Prejudice
A video game review of Section 8: Prejudice
By: Lawrence Napoli
Being a lifelong Sony PS-er, I haven’t the full spectrum of appreciation that the Halo franchise has delivered to the individual gamer. I am well aware of its contributions to the growth of online gaming and its ever increasing competitive nature in addition to its role in solidifying the FPS as the dominant video game genre of today. But I’ve never been an FPS kind of guy. I enjoy that type of game, but more often than not find that my twitch reflexes are not on par with the bevy of teeny-boppers that flood every FPS these days, so unless the game had a really good story to it, I wouldn’t be bothered with it. Fortunately, the dry summer months of new releases in the gaming industry caused me to take a strong look at Timegate Studios’ Section 8: Prejudice for two reasons: 1) I was severely withdrawing from my Uncharted 3 Beta multiplayer glee and 2) The price was right – only $14.99 for a full game that any other major software publisher would easily have charged $59.99 for.
Section 8: Prejudice is a sci-fi, first person shooter that places a heavy emphasis on the multiplayer experience through various formats such as conquest; assault and swarm (think COD zombies). This game also has a single player campaign, but the story amounts to a hefty pile of BLEH as it is merely a drawn out tutorial that trains the player to become comfortable with the controls. What separates Section 8 from Halo, Battlefield or even Call of Duty is its incorporation of atypical genre mechanics in order to have game play conform to the player’s personal style and not vice versa.
Strong RPG elements of skill point allocation are available right away which provide statistical boosts to various ammunition types, movement speed, weapon proficiency, special behavioral perks and armor rating. Want to be a stealthy knife specialist? Beef up your armor and knife damage and you can make it work for instant kills. Want to be a camping sniper? Boost your jet pack to get to inaccessible heights and radar stealth to stay out of sight to cap opponents from long distance. Do you prefer to take you anger out on enemy bases? Boost your rocket launcher and explosives for maximum effect. Do you just have terrible aim in general? Boost the auto lock-on ability and even Mr. Magoo could take out the Road Runner from medium range.
There’s also a strong tower defense presence in Section 8 that functions as an in-match reward system that isn’t quite as “cheap” as kill streak perks in other shooters. Enemy kills, team accomplishments, base destructions and base defenses all reward the player with dollars that can be used to deploy gun and missile turrets, radar systems, anti-aircraft batteries and supply depots to solidify friendly bases. The player can also opt for a more offensive strategy by using money to purchase assault vehicles like hover-bikes, mechs and mammoth tanks which boosts the individual’s destructive force, but severely reduces stealth and maneuverability while drawing a ton of enemy attention on the battlefield.
Aiming and shooting in Section 8 simply does not have the polish of this genre’s gold standard, so FPS aficionados may be instantly turned off by the occasionally frame rate glitch that throws off a target-leading shot. This is a game that rewards bullet volume over pure accuracy because only the sniper rifle is capable of downing a target with no less than 2 shots from distance. Therefore, assault rifles and machine guns are the most popular weapons that feature rapid fire and incredibly large clip sizes. This allows for even the least experienced of noobs to contribute in a positive fashion. Every now and then I run into a player trying to channel the Halo strategy of jet-packing + rocket launcher from height, but splash damage with the launcher is so small that one actually has to be more accurate to register hits before falling prey to auto lock-on, another feature FPS veterans may turn their noses up at. It’s a small price to pay for balancing out game play between noobs and vets.
Normal movement is split amongst running, over-drive (sprinting) and flying (via jet pack). There is no jump mechanic unless the player has drained the charge on the jet pack, in which case the repeated pressing of the button will allow for a series of small hops. Over-drive is a hyper sprint that every player’s suit engages after a few seconds of normal sprinting. This allows players to get from one side of the map to the other quickly without the aid of vehicles. It can even be used as a weapon if one charges into an opponent, but isn’t a viable threat unless skill points are dedicated to this ability. The jet pack is a disappointment. It provides the only means of evasion on the battlefield which can only be engaged once within the time it takes to play out an average 1-on-1 firefight. It can also be completely nullified by an automatic weapon that has been auto-locked from distance. So aside from it being a convenient personal elevator, the jet pack is useless.
Deploying explosives via grenades and detonation packs is duplicated fairly well in comparison to other shooters complete with holographic arcs to aim properly. Unfortunately these are only effective against stationary targets or in a defensive posture because longevity in Section 8 is only achieved through constant vertical or lateral movement. Oh yes, strafing will become your best friend here and if a player can learn to master strafing in the opposite direction from one’s opponent (as opposed to running parallel with them) you’ll be capable of racking up an impressive kill/death ratio. It’s a small price to pay to discourage camping.
Vehicles have infinite ammo, but require some time to cool down between machine gun bursts or cannon/missile launches. They also feature some of the worst vehicle movement I’ve experienced in combat games. The hover-bike handles like a bumper cart fueled by NOS. The mech cannot traverse obstructions taller than its kneecap even by jumping. The tank moves like a brick without wheels and can be destroyed within seconds if not being driven in a wide open field. It’s a small price to pay to prevent invincibility.
Spawning is the most unique aspect of Section 8’s mechanics as the player is allowed to choose where to drop on the field from orbit provided it’s not in range of anti-aircraft batteries. It’s a game mechanic that puts a little more emphasis on strategy as opposed to random fortune because only base status and vehicle movement can be tracked from the respawn map so you may drop in behind an enemy tank, but you might also drop in front of 2-3 foot soldiers bringing up the rear. However, one isn’t strictly committed to that precise drop point as the player can hit the brakes mid-drop, assume a parachuting posture and float to a part of the battlefield that may have better cover away from opposition.
I already mentioned how customization is already a featured strength in regards to building the player’s avatar, but one is not committed to the load out selected at the outset of the match. Again, the game offers increased adaptability as the player can alter skill points, weapons and tools before respawning in order to address different situations that may be occurring in battle. Did you just get owned by an enemy tank? Load out with the missile launcher as your primary and rip it to shreds. Getting frustrated with your machine gun? Change up to a shotgun. Of course, the match is still going on while the player tweaks his or her load out, so familiarity with menu navigation can get the player back in the game in the least amount of time. This kind of tweaking can be done without being killed at a friendly supply depot which also refills ammo automatically as no one “drops” weapons or ammo when they are murdered on the field. Of course, the player is totally exposed in this state, so unless you’re quick (or there’s no one around) you’ll probably be killed in the process anyway.
Section 8 is not the most attractive looking shooter out there. There are some maps that feature a level of graphic detail that is on par with the original Halo. The only dynamic character animations involve the initial orbital drops and melee executions with knives or mechs. The color palates are vibrant, but are not very diverse within individual maps. Sure, this game uses the Unreal Engine, but somehow finds a way to underuse it. For this generation of video game, PS2 and Xbox graphics are simply not acceptable.
The same holds true for the equally uninspired sound effects and soundtrack. The background music for menu and spawn screens is so monotone and generic that it seems like it was ripped from an open source library of media. Vehicles do not sound as imposing as their visual scale on the battlefield with the exception of the tank’s primary cannon which features enough “oomph” to make it sound like something capable of one shot kills. The hover-bike sounds like Elroy’s space scooter from The Jetsons and the mech sounds like a kid walking around on elevated shoes made of metal lunch boxes. Each firearm does sound different, but they all sound like they’ve been muffled, like watching regular definition TV shows on a hi-def flat screen.
Every character looks like Master Chief’s nephew. For a game that features so much game play customization, offering nothing in regards to visual customization seems like the kind of glaring inconsistency that comes from a game that was rushed to be released.
With all of Section 8’s faults, it still is quite an entertaining game and if your need for multiplayer mayhem has been as unquenched as mine these summer months, give this game a shot. This is not a perfect game by any means, but it also makes no attempt to do so. It takes the basic FPS formula, spices it up with some unconventional options, and allows the glory of 16 vs. 16 objective based death matches to take its course.
In game action is fast and furious as one can rack up a kill streak as quickly as they can be eliminated 5 times in a row; even when accounting for the orbital drop animation in the process. With so many players on the map at once, the temptation to behave like a lone wolf is great, but winning teams work together as there’s virtually no way to survive a 2-on-1 confrontation.
Dollar for dollar, there is no greater video game value on the market right now than Section 8: Prejudice. No, this isn’t Modern Warfare 3, but it definitely fills the void until it arrives. Besides, man cannot live on Black Ops Zombies alone!