Also available on: PC, PS3 (summer)
Developer: TimeGate Studios
Publisher: TimeGate Studios
Genre: First-Person Shooter
The ability to offer value for money is trickier than it looks for many of today's shooters. The problem is that there are so many first or third-person titles available that it's hard to distinguish one game from the next. Many successful franchises have focused on historic battles or realistic modern skirmishes, while others have adopted a more science-fiction/fantasy style, pitting human super soldiers against hordes of alien invaders. Ultimately it all comes down to the same goal of getting from A to B and killing everything along the way. With this in mind, the only way to really stand out is to offer a comprehensive set of game modes.
Unfortunately, some fall short in the multiplayer stakes, offering too few options, limited upgrades and not enough maps, while others neglect the single-player experience, failing to give it the time it deserves or inject any character or personality. In many respects, TimeGate's 2009 first-person shooter title Section 8 made the latter mistake, presenting an attractive multiplayer title with a throwaway single-player mode. So how exactly can the developers rectify this when crafting the sequel? By bunging in an increasing amount of content and hoping for the best, or by stripping out the excess baggage and greatly reducing the price? If you're a TimeGate employee, you do the latter and produce sequel Section 8: Prejudice on Xbox Live Arcade for the paltry sum of 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20 / $15), which is enormous value for money considering the amount of content that's available.
From a plot perspective it's very much a run-of-the-mill futuristic shooter. Respected troop Alex Corde begins the game by teaching a few raw recruits the ins-and-outs of soldiering, before the military base comes under attack and Corde must use his skills to save the squad and eventually mankind (yawn). Considering the price, we'll forgive the developers for the bland cast of characters and sleep-inducing plot, which in fairness doesn't detract from a well-crafted campaign mode. The campaign consists of eight fairly lengthy levels, each of which contains a wealth of things to do and utilises all of the player's moves and the game's gadgets - of which there are many. Corde can jet around levels at the push of a button, hack terminals, stealth kill with his knife, charge at opponents, as well as use a number of suits and vehicles. Each level tends to incorporate multiple different skills, which means that one second Corde will be sniping from afar, while the next minute he's in the middle of battle pumping out bullets from inside a giant mech suit. Although far removed from a sandbox titles, the levels are big enough that different strategies can often be adopted, although this is generally limited to which weapons you use or whether you jet to the goal instead of eliminating enemies first.
The game's real strength, however, lies in its multiplayer mode, which is enormous fun, whether playing the co-operative Swarm mode or the competitive, team-based Conquest. Conquest can be played by up to 32 players on sprawling maps full of peaks and troughs, bridges and bases. The game is won when one team reaches a set points total, which are awarded for kills, capturing points of interest or for completing the ever-changing Dynamic Combat Missions. The DCMs really help make the games more exciting and help to shift the balance of power quite dramatically and, more importantly, fairly. DCM missions include killing every member of the opposing team once within a time limit or escorting a commander to a base without being killed. It's remarkable how quickly strategies change when these missions are activated. One minute it feels like a capture the flag match, and the next the game is being played like a traditional deathmatch.
Earning points also allows players to unlock bonuses and upgrades, of which there are many. What's especially nice to see is that all are within reach of every player, especially those looking out for the DCMs. Simple weapon and armour upgrades are useful, while turrets and ammo terminals are also worth saving up for, but nothing beats the thrill of driving around the battle ground in a huge tank. One other nice touch which also adds a dash of strategy is the spawning system, which allows players to literally drop into battle from the sky and land on any part of the map. It's a nice risk vs. reward spawning system, which allows you to bypass certain dangers, but can leave you vulnerable to others. It also goes some way to eliminating camping with players able to target stationary targets with a well-placed drop. Players can also change where they land by braking early, although slowing down in the sky can be hazardous if an enemy erects a turret, often resulting in frustrating deaths before you've even hit the ground.
The co-operative Swarm is a little more straightforward, though still entertaining in its own right. Playing similarly to a tower defence title, teams of up to four people must defend a point from an increasing number of AI enemies. Naturally it all starts off relatively simple, but pretty soon enemies are coming in thick and fast and from all angles. Much like Conquest it's essential to utilise upgrades smartly, and from a strategic point of view things change quite drastically, especially when enemies are dropping into base after you've spent time sniping. Unfortunately, although welcome, it's hard to get too excited about Swarm once you've experienced the thrill of Conquest, but it succeeds in sharpening your skills for the main online mode and proves a worthy distraction when played with friends.
Section 8: Prejudice is a rock solid first-person shooter. It strikes a nice balance between single and multiplayer and offers enormous value for money considering that it can be downloaded for 1200 MS. Despite the ever-so-generic plot and forgettable cast of characters, the single-player mode remains entertaining thanks to the mission variety, length and the wide array of gadgets and gizmos. However, it pales in comparison to the multiplayer mode, which offers a number of rich and sizeable maps, as well as a balanced upgrade system which rewards players who go that extra mile. It will probably never be as renowned and well-known as Gears Of War, Halo or Call Of Duty, but Section 8: Prejudice can go toe-to-toe with the best of them, despite costing a fraction of the price.
> What do you think of the game? Share your views