I’m generally not a fan of XBLA shooters. I’m generally even less a fan of XBLA shooters that poorly attempt to emulate the gameplay or design of full price retail release shooters. With those particular prejudices (hurr-hurr, see what I did there?) already in place, it would seem that I would be an odd fit to review Section 8: Prejudice, a first-person shooter based on a full price retail release shooter but released as an XBLA shooter. Fortunately, Section 8: Prejudice doesn’t fall into the category of a “poor attempt.” It is, in fact, an excellent example of a great XBLA game.
First, I want to go over the few complaints I have about this game. Primarily, there is no option for multiplayer in the campaign (neither local nor online co-operative play) and there is no option for split-screen multiplayer in the online multiplayer game modes. It’s a complaint I have in general about games, but it’s something I don’t expect to have to complain about in a shooter. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by games like the Halo series, but I want to be able to play games locally and online with my wife, call me nuts. Next is the way certain vehicles control. The hover-bike is generally fairly easy to control, unless you get into a somewhat tight area. At that point, you can easily find yourself bouncing off the walls just trying to do a three-point turn. Mechs are the best controlling vehicle in the game, and I generally don’t have any problems with them. The tank is the worst. There are a few different control modes when driving a tank. You can drive without the ability to fire (left joystick moves while right joystick chooses direction to move in), you can only man the mini-gun (no motion of the tank), you can only man the mortar (no motion of the tank), or you can drive the tank while controlling the main tank cannon (move in all directions with the left joystick, aim and fire with the right joystick). When in the advanced driving mode (driving while controlling the tank cannon), controlling where your tank is going becomes a hassle. It doesn’t move intuitively, and ends up getting you into trouble. Of course, maybe I just really suck at controlling tanks. My third complaint is the final boss. Compared to certain parts of the game, defeating him is disproportionately easy. It’s a four-stage process; you shoot him until he’s stunned, then run up to him and rip one of the generators off of his suit. Rinse and repeat until he has one generator left, at which point a cut-scene takes over and finishes the game. There are no spawning waves of enemies to distract you or increase the final difficulty; just you and him in a donut shaped room with a giant reactor in the middle.
All that being said, they are relatively small complaints when compared to the experience of the game overall. The single player campaign follows a fairly generic sci-fi style story, but to be fair, stories like that become generic for a reason: they’re easy to drop characters in and out of and they illustrate a basic conflict between good and evil. There isn’t a great deal of depth to the story, but there doesn’t really need to be. There’s enough story to keep you interested in what’s going on in the game, and the story never drags. Everything is really well paced, so you never feel like you’re playing through a filler portion. As an added bonus, characters are written with different personalities, and the voice acting is done well enough to emphasize those personalities.
The multiplayer modes don’t really have much of a story; it’s not a multiplayer campaign, just multiplayer matches. The first mode, Conquest, is by far my favorite. Conquest supports up to 32 players on a single map. The goal of each team is to secure and defend as many of the map’s four control points as possible, with various sub-missions appearing throughout the overall match (such as keeping at least one team member alive at all times for a certain period of time, or capturing/defending various other points within the map). Swarm is your basic firefight mode where you defend a control point against waves of swarming enemies that get progressively more difficult. Swarm is a four player co-op mode. In both Conquest and Swarm mode, you earn money for kills and hitting certain benchmarks. You can use this money to build turrets, supply depots, order vehicles, and more. On top of that, Section 8: Prejudice will make sure you’re never playing alone. AI bots fill in empty slots in both modes to make sure your fight is as balanced and fair as possible. Normally, AI bots aren’t the greatest (cough-L4D-cough), but in Section 8: Prejudice they’re actually fairly useful.
The game uses a flexible class system for character loadouts and customization. There are pre-set classes you can choose from that come with pre-set weapon/armor/accessory loadouts, but you can always modify any loadout into a custom one simply by swapping pieces out. There are multiple weapons (with multiple ammunition types), grenades, mortars, knives, and more to choose from when customizing your character. I found myself generally using the Assault Rifle with burst fire as my primary weapon and a sniper rifle as my secondary weapon, with a decent amount of success. Lastly, you have ten attribute points to re-assign whenever you want, however you want, among a handful of character statistics, giving you even more customization for how you play.
The above-mentioned money-for-kills system for multiplayer does not exist in quite the same way for single player. The HUD is there, but shows a constant $0 unless the story provides you with the funds necessary to purchase a specific item needed to progress. Otherwise, gameplay is fairly similar. Sprinting, jumping, switching out weapons, crouching, etc., is all handled very well. Sprinting for a few seconds results in entering a mode called Overdrive which drastically increases your speed until a dedicated status bar runs out. Holding the jump button results in activation of a jet pack which continues to run until a dedicated status bar runs out. An auto-lock function for moving targets keeps your reticle automatically locked on whatever target you specify until a dedicated status icon runs out. My favorite part of gameplay, however, is the zoom feature included with every main weapon. If your reticle is near an enemy, pressing the zoom button will cause your reticle to auto-target the nearest enemy. Now, if the enemy moves, the reticle doesn’t move with them automatically, but if you’re a fast draw, you can usually get some good shots off with the auto-target. As a person who takes WAY too long aiming sniper rifles to ever get good use out of them, I was incredibly pleased with this feature, because it made the sniper rifle a viable choice for me.
Graphically, Section 8: Prejudice goes above and beyond what one would expect out of this kind of game on XBLA. Taking advantage of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, Section 8: Prejudice creates large and crisp environments, smooth and detailed character models, and excellent in-game and cut-scene animation. While it may not stand up to the graphics of a game like Vanquish or Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, it definitely wouldn’t be out of place in a mid- to full-price retail release. The background noises, game noises, and soundtrack all accentuate the graphics and the gameplay very well, creating an excellent experience.
Section 8: Prejudice gives you the gameplay and graphics you would expect to see out of a mid- to full-priced retail release game. With a 5+ hour single player campaign, two multiplayer modes (Conquest and Swarm), intelligent AI bots to fill in multiplayer matches, an excellent class-based character customization system, good writing, good voice acting, and more, Section 8: Prejudice is an absolute steal at only $15. You can get Section 8: Prejudice on XBL for 1200MSP. It will be available on PC through multiple digital download services (Steam, Direct2Drive, and more) for $14.99 on May 4, 2011, and will be available on PSN for $14.99 sometime this summer. Buy this game.
|Great value for the price|
Great bot AI for multiplayer
|Select vehicle controls|
Disproportionately easy final boss
No local multiplayer/split-screen