Section 8 was a flawed gem. A diamond in the rough relegated mostly to bargain bins, the original Section 8 pushed new ideas into the first person shooter genre. It overcame minor bugs, mixed reviews and the stigma of being a full priced multiplayer only game, developing a small cult following along the way. Section 8 is back and ready to do an orbital drop again, but this time TimeGate Studios is rewriting the rules.
With the freedom that self publishing gives them, TimeGate Studios is pushing the boundaries of what has been traditionally accepted as normal. Section 8 Prejudice is a fully fledged sequel to Section 8; however, it will be released on Xbox Live Arcade in early 2011 for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15), nearly a fraction of the cost of the original. The transition from a $60 retail product to an Xbox Live Arcade sequel is a new one in this industry. We had some trepidation that the production values would suffer or that the game might feel too much like a rehash of the first, but that was all alleviated when we went hands on with Prejudice this past week.
Prejudice offers a 5 hour single player campaign; however, we have been promised it has been expanded beyond what was offered in the first title. Players will take on the role of Alex Corde and the 8th Armed infantry as they fight for humanities survival uncovering a series of betrayals along the way.
But as with the first title, multiplayer is still the focus. Players will be able to play in multiplayer matches of up to 32 people. Players can customize loadouts and equipment to suit their play style and as they advance in skill and rank, new weapons and upgrades will become available. This is where the traditional shooter gameplay ends and the franchise really begins to shine.
Players are able to strategically drop spawn anywhere on to the battlefield in real time. Beyond being incredibly cool looking, this adds a nice strategic element where players can assist allies and ambush enemies quickly. Mobility in general is huge for the game, as players can activate overdrive when sprinting. This quickly cedes the player into a third person view, where they can travel across the map at subsonic, superhuman speeds. Players also have a jetpack at their disposal adding another level of verticality to the combat. All three elements work together to add unique elements of strategy and enjoyment that set Section 8 apart from the rest of the genre.
Conquest mode is back. The staple of Section 8, conquest mode faces two teams off against each other as they compete to control territories and defeat the enemy team. Throughout the game, players earn money for completing tasks and killing the enemy and can requisition support drops in real time. Support boxes, turrets and vehicles as just some of the items at player’s disposal. During my playtime, I quickly found a personal favorite in the form of the mech. Dynamic Combat Missions are back, and will offer extra points to the teams willing and able to complete them in the middle of the match. These include missions such as protecting a convoy or assassinating and enemy VIP.
New to the series is Swarm Mode. It’s a wave spawn mission where players working in a team of up to 4 people must protect a base. Due to the games ability to call for support, it creates that hybrid of tower defense and FPS gaming. It’s an addicting mode that is just absolutely enjoyable.
All in all, it was hard not to be impressed by the level of polish to this game. Most of the bugs I noticed in the original did not appear to be back, and the team at TimeGate has expanded the game to add a wealth of new content, including more weapons and various ammo types for those weapons. When this game drops onto Xbox Live Arcade, we have a feeling it will shatter your expectations for what an Xbox Live Arcade Game can be.