Were you to look at my Steam Profile, and look at how long I’ve played my games, you’d notice a couple of things. One, I tend to jump very sporadically across games, with most of my 200+ games not having been played for over 5 hours. You might also notice that, in that top echelon of games I have sunk dozens of hours into, there is an oddity. The top of the list is Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, which I have already professed my love for. After that is PC mainstay Team Fortress 2, and then, beating Left 4 Dead 2, Garry’s Mod, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, is a oft-forgotten game called Section 8: Prejudice.
Let me preface this post by saying it’s less of a review and more of an obituary. Section 8: Prejudice has been doubly-killed, both by the shutdown of Games for Windows – Live, and developer Timegate getting sued into oblivion. Section 8: Prejudice has a single-player mode, but it sucks, and the game still needs a GFWL account to play, so unless you already have an account and really like bot matches, there’s no point trying to get this game.
But, man, that’s a shame. Section 8 was often called a mix between Halo and Battlefield, which is a fair comparison. Dudes in big suits of power armor shoot at each other with future guns, while also attempting to complete objectives and capture bases on a large and relatively free-form map. To simplify Section 8 down to those two components, though, ignores some of the game’s more interesting features.
For starters, there’s the simplicity of the spawning mechanic. In Section 8, you don’t spawn in, you drop in at high velocity from orbit. You pick a point on the map and drop, choosing when you want to pump the brakes. The earlier you brake out of freefall, the longer you have movement control, meaning you can actually drift away from your original landing zone and drop somewhere else. Meanwhile, if you brake at the last possible second, you’re harder to hit for the duration of your fall, and have a chance to crush someone to death with your landing.
These falling techniques are important, too, because every map has AA turrets specially placed to shoot players out of the sky while they fall. Every base has an AA turret standard, meaning that they’re safe from enemies jumping into them. However, players can mount strikes to destroy the AA turret, thus allowing them to constantly bombard a base with soldiers. Players can also simply specialize in tanking shots, allowing them to dive straight into AA fire and live.
Speaking of which, this game, like Battlefield, allows for loadout customization, but the degree to which you can play with your build is far more granular.
You can your 10 points into any configuration of the thirteen upgrade paths, modifying everything from your bullet or explosive damage to your shields and health to your speed and run meter.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. Section 8 solves the “I’m here, but all the cool stuff is on the other side of the map” issue that Battlefield has by giving every character a jetpack and a supersonic run, allowing everyone to cross the map in record time.
On top of this, players can also use money that they earn mid-game through kills and objectives to buy one of two vehicles: as close to a Ghost from Halo as copyright lawyers would allow, and a big, dumb mechsuit. However, these funds can also be used to drop in machine gun, rocket, or AA turrets, meaning you can take a more defensive route by building and maintaining defenses for your base, or setting up FOBs in the middle of your battlefield to try and secure objectives. On the flip side, all of this stuff drops in, so you need to make sure your supply drops aren’t going to take enemy AA fire.
The objectives system, by the way, is really cool. There’s capturing and holding bases in order to secure a stream of Victory Points, in true Battlefield fashion, but on top of that these Dynamic Combat Missions, or DCMs, will trigger throughout the match randomly. There are 9 types of these, and they range from trying to place a marker for an airstrike in an enemy base, to surviving an hit put out against your entire team, to one of your teammates basically becoming a Predator. They’re varied, awesome, and always change the flow of battle whenever they appear.
Now, Section 8: Prejudice isn’t perfect. Dudes take a lot of bullets in this game, especially if they’ve spec’d for armor (meant to emphasize juggling between your anti-infantry and anti-armor loadouts), but as a result gunfights can be kind of tedious. The game’s presentation isn’t exceptionally polished, and as previously mentioned, the campaign is just butts.
However, Section 8: Prejudice gives players a lot to do, and a lot of ways in which every match can be different. They key takeaway, however, is that Section 8 always lets players do what they want. Players can assume one of multiple team roles through their loadout, far more varied than in a Battlefield or Halo. Anyone can drop down big mech suits or speeder bikes if they want, instead of having to squabble over the few vehicles on the map. Players can spawn wherever they want, and get to anywhere on the map fast, meaning downtime is extremely minimal.
The lesson, then, is that making a game which singularly focuses on a single multiplayer gametype is possible. Perhaps what is key is making sure that as little time in a match as possible is wasted waiting to do cool stuff, and as much time as possible is spent doing cool stuff.
Actually, that’s probably a good mantra for game design in general.