Hands On With Section 8: Prejudice

Another Section 8 game is falling from the sky, and this time it’s going to cause far more of an impact than before. Prejudice is quite the incoming object: a “5-hour” scripted single-player campaign, a 4-player co-op defence mode, and the return of the 32-player team conquest game, all for $15. Yes. That’s the starting price for this fully-fledged sci-fi combat game from a major studio. Interested? Let me tell you about it.

Section 8, in case you aren’t familiar with it, was a game about men in powered armour suits having a big fight on a far-away alien planet. The galaxy’s toughest space soldiers turned up at the scene of a space rebellion, only to find that their enemies were equally matched for space biff: the perfect scenario for team-based combat! The resulting game was a multiplayer focused thing in which traditional spawning onto the battlefield was replaced with the ability to fall out of the sky at supersonic speeds, land on your feet, and start a-killing. While some modifiers to this – such as turrets that could shoot you on the way down – limited your deployment, the game was essentially entirely dynamic in its delivery of bodies to the battlefield, which allowed for interesting disbursements of men and back-stabby tactics by determined players. Being killed by a sniper only to land next to him for revenge moments later was a unique experience. Until Prejudice arrives, of course.

There were other things that appealed about Section 8, and those find their way back here, too: the big ape-like robot suits that could clobber each other or grab and squeeze infantry to death, the variety of missions that arose spontaneously on the battlefield, the range of punchy futuristic weapons. Jetpacks! Impeccable Unreal-engine performance. And so on. Best of all were the maps themselves: hyperbolic space architecture that melded beautiful alien topologies with structural fantasies and the burning ruins of crashed spacecraft. Prejudice has all this, and a great big overhaul too. This second Section 8 has more space architecture, more guns, more possible kits for you to take into the battlefield, and more toys to call down from the sky, whether that’s in multiplayer, or the game’s sizeable single-player offering.

Ah yes, that single-player campaign. Rather than being the tutorial-skewed quasi-multiplayer of the original, Prejudice’s gentle introductory offline mode is an actual single-player shooter sequence like they made in the old days, and that apparently comes in at about five hours (although I blasted through the first couple of missions so quickly that it might be shorter than that). It’s a wholesome taster, complete with storyline, cutscenes, scripted happenings, and all the things you’d expect of a mature single player game. It’s not exactly going to set the world on fire with its story, manshooting, or scene-setting, but it seemed perfectly playable and an superb addition to the more rounded multiplayer offerings. The AI is pretty capable too, even if I’d rather be fighting human players.

And AI does substitute for human players in one of the major new offerings, which is Prejudice’s co-op mode. This sees four of you defending a central map location as waves of bots come in. The bot waves are increasingly complex and aggressive, featuring all types of possible enemy, including robot pilots and snipers. To deal with this you have to defend your base from hack in an extremely flexible way. Co-ordinating your fight, healing each other, going off to to take out enemies before they can get in close, and that all plays out into a genuine struggle. It’s a great mode for the Tribes-like, although the lack of need to move about across the map as a group perhaps threatens to make it a little staid in time. It’s doesn’t exactly offer the heart-stopping possibilities of certain other co-op games that we’ve played of late, but I think it’s a healthy development for Section 8, and one that acknowledges that some of their playerbase simply aren’t going to want to play competitive online games.

And, of course, the rather more traditional multiplayer game is back at the heart of it all. This is clearly where TimeGate’s interest actually lies. They want to make a great multiplayer shooter, and they’ve certainly made some progress in that direction. Sixteen-aside battles across a selection of maps, with much the same dynamics as before, will dominate the Prejudice experience. As in the original, locking down the capture points with assets called in from orbit (turrets, robots etc) is the order of the day, and co-ordinating tight (TIGHT) assaults on enemy positions in the counter-offensives are extremely demanding. This time, however, the loadouts of your character have even more room for customisation, because the game has an entirely new set of weapons and equipment that will have to be unlocked as you play. There’s tonnes of stuff – in a manner reminiscent of BFBC2 – that is intended to keep you playing to get to the goodies. TimeGate say that none of it should really overpower anyone or unbalance play, but I guess we’ll see about that.

There are some issues that I suspect will be a continued hangover for Prejudice: the mild “every shooter” characterless of the action and the characters remains the same. In some ways the art direction of Section 8 is fantastic – it’s environmentally awesome – but it is just space marines, and not particularly memorable ones. The depth of the game seems somehow unevolved, too, despite all the new toys. While the original game had all kinds of fun elements, there was something missing from making it a really vital team-vs-team combat game, like Battlefield, or Halo. Perhaps it was that great key feature – your fall from space – that somehow removes the vitality of rushing from one base to fight toward another. The other problem I found with Section 8 was that the fundamental physics of the world didn’t feel robust or weighty enough to demand that I mastered it. It seems that people agreed with me, too, because Section 8’s server populations remained low throughout its life. All these things threaten to make life difficult for Prejudice.

And all these things suggest that the $15 price tag and general digital distribution is intended to produce one effect: to get more people on servers. TimeGate clearly want there to be people playing this time around, enough people for the critical mass of community that keeps a game alive. That they’re already planning expansions and map-pack type add ons for this game (unmentioned for the previous title), suggests that they believe this tactic will work. It might.

Watch out for my interview with Timegate’s CEO and lead designer a bit later this week, when I talk to them about this, and more.


  1. mondomau says:

    Is it still GFWL? If so, no deal – I *cannot* get the first one to work.

    Shame, because I like the look, if nothing else. Very Halo-y.

    • Hunam says:

      The website lists GFWL at the bottom. So that’s me not bothering then.

    • Xytal says:

      If you read the announcement about the game on the website, they mention they will release it to several different digital distribution services… though it probably still means it will use GFWL on the back-end and just launch through Steam… but one can dream!

  2. Miker says:

    I played the beta of the original Section 8, and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it didn’t make me want for the full game at all. The combat also did lack weight, as Jim said — the low damage and damage scaling on distance mechanics meant that numbers won out over aim more or less all of the time.

  3. Zyrxil says:

    After the original Section 8, I really can’t see how continuing the franchise could be profitable for them.

    • trjp says:

      I think you need to study economics and maths a bit then – because a poor first showing seldom dooms a franchise…

      Take Assassins Creed – for example – the first game was nothing more than a tech demo, it took a year for them to release an actual game using that tech… :)

    • Grot_Punter says:

      Well obviously the next logical course of action for Timegate then is to continue with the Kohan franchise. I played both (though for the life of me cant remember anything from the first) and bloody loved them. It was my first introduction to the “strategy-game-with-mans-in-squads” concept, along with hero units that felt powerful, but not overly invasive, and I still love booting up #2 from time to time.

    • RagingLion says:

      I think we’re talking financially here, so the at least 6 million copies that the first AC sold can’t be seen as a poor showing.

    • Hunam says:

      Actually, AC1 was over 8 million within the first year or so, basically saving Ubisoft single handedly.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Those sales did include second hand ones though, which Ubi don’t see a penny from. But they saw those sales as potential sales for the sequel and it paid of wonderfully.

  4. Linfosoma says:

    When is this game being released?

  5. Jad says:

    …because the game has an entirely new set of weapons and equipment that will have to be unlocked as you play. There’s tonnes of stuff – in a manner reminiscent of BFBC2 …

    Oh goddammit. I was with you in excitement until this. Does every game have to have this insulting carrot-on-a-stick COD bullshit nowadays? I tried out BFBC2 and could not believe that you actually had to unlock the basic class abilities of the medic, etc., in that game. Terrible design choice.

    Anyway, the price point is interesting, and I do like the futuristic look of the game, relatively few of those on the PC now that Halo no longer comes our way.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Battlefield 2 had unlocks, 2142 had even more unlocks. It’s only a logical continuation of the ideas already present since BF2, it wasn’t added because of CODs unlocks, if anything you may be able to argue it the other way round.

    • Hatsworth says:

      @DrGonzo Where it originated is largely unimportant. It’s a terrible idea and it needs to stop.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I think it is relevant to his comment. He was suggesting it was a curse brought upon games by the COD series. Well it isn’t.

      I don’t think it is bad anyway. I don’t think it’s always a good idea, but it can add longevity to a game. I think Section 8 is probably a game that it suits.

    • CareerKnight says:

      It is not a terrible idea but some games do mess up the implementation. Having certain roles require unlocks or having the unlocked weapons being hands down superior to the stock weapons are fine examples of how not to do it in a competitive shooter.

    • Biscuitry says:

      I propose we protest this by simply not playing the offending game(s).

    • Jad says:

      I in no way meant to say that COD started this particular gameplay mechanic, but it is definitely why it is in every multiplayer FPS nowadays, including Section 8. Even if Battlefield 2 did not have unlocks, BFBC2 would have had them because COD-playing console gamers would have demanded it.

      What adds longevity to a game is making a good game, not artificially locking out parts of the game until you put in enough hours to be able to compete with others who got the game before you. I put literally thousands of hours into Quake 3 and UT and TFC and DoD in the late 90’s/early 2000’s without unlocking a single weapon or ability. Then I take some time off from multiplayer FPSes and when I come back they’re all wannabe RPGs suddenly.

      Incidentally, the first or second time I booted up MW2 multiplayer I stumbled onto a hacked server that apparently unlocked every weapon and every perk for me. I played a number of hours having no idea why I was getting all these useless experience points and not understanding the whole “unlocking” conversation. It was fun for a bunch of hours, even if it was horribly unbalanced (killstreaks are still bullshit, I tried to play on the “Barebones” playlists that disable them as much as possible). Then I picked up BFBC2 because it was supposedly so “superior” to MW2 and only then did I learn to my horror that basic functions of the classes were locked out because I had the temerity of being a new player. That left such a bad taste in my mouth that even when I unlocked the abilities and new weapons I never was certain if I was winning or losing engagements because of skill or unlocks.

      Now I’ve stopped playing both and am looking for a new FPS that doesn’t have this bullshit. I was thinking that Section 8 Prejudice might be that one, but it’s not to be.

    • hexapodium says:

      I’ve found post-Vietnam BFBC2 to be enjoyable again – everyone playing vanilla BC2 has most or all of the unlocks (or, like me, never bothers with one of the classes and so hasn’t got anything from that tree) and it’s become a balanced game again, and most new players are playing ‘Nam and levelling up their vanilla characters at the same time to the point where they can jump into a game and not be outclassed by enemy [M416|M60|other overpowered guns]-wielders.
      Still, I’d have preferred it if they’d had, say, three out of five guns and perks for each class unlocked from the start, and then the unlocks be ones that filled in the gaps with a slightly inferior but wider-utility gun. Or do away with them entirely, but then the WOW-esque “ooh, shiny” lure (which is admittedly a cheap trick, but it keeps people feeling engaged even on crummy, losing teams), of course.

    • Network Crayon says:

      In absolute Agreement.

  6. Davie says:

    It sounds pretty fun, but I did give the original a miss because it looked so utterly generic. However, I haven’t played a space-themed manshoot in the last few years, so maybe I’ll take a look for variety’s sake.

    • trjp says:

      There was absolutely nothing generic about the original at all – as a multiplayer experience it was even innovative (in it’s time).

      The biggest problem with Section 8 was that it’s a multiplayer-only title with a single-player tutorial. This put a lot of people’s backs-up (esp as it was a full-price release) and as the community dwindled, this left people with little to do.

    • DrGonzo says:

      You are both right. The way it played was interesting and quite original. But the aesthetics are completely generic and bland, I think that put a lot of people off.

  7. Maykael says:

    I am totally getting this. I love the beta for the first one, but other games got in the way of the purchase. This time around, for 15 euro, I have no excuse.

    Hope the shooting is a bit better.

  8. Javier-de-Ass says:

    really looking forward to this. loved the first one, but there just weren’t enough active players. same situation as shattered horizon really. like the sound of a proper single player campaign.

    • trjp says:

      A ‘5 hour’ single player campaign is a set-up from the original’s extended tutorial but it’s still not a robust single-player game really is it??

  9. Zombat says:

    The only thing I’m concerned about is if it still has that horrible lock on mechanic.
    Having someone jet over your head your lock tracking them perfectly just ruined any sense of challenge the game had

    • CareerKnight says:

      You had to sacrifice slots to improve it that could have been spent on damage/armor/shields. It was simply a way to level the playing field initially but ultimately due to reason above and the fact it went for body shots not head shots meant that a skilled player would win consistently over someone who relied on it.
      World of Tanks has a similar feature and while it is useful when learning the game eventually people abandon it once you learn where to shoot for maximum damage and how to lead a target.

  10. pupsikaso says:

    Is there still that auto-aim “skill” that you can fit as part of your kit? That’s the single element that stopped me from buying Section 8 when I tried it in beta. If it’s still there in Prejudice… well, then I guess some developers will just never learn.

  11. Senethro says:

    I didn’t buy for one dumb reason:

    You couldn’t adjust the sensitivity so that you could turn at the same speed scoped than unscoped. Whatever setting I adjusted one to, it made the other mode absolutely useless.

    • pupsikaso says:

      That’s not a dumb reason, that’s a very good reason. It was the same with vehicles. You couldn’t turn in them with the mouse sens that you were using to aim, you had to set it like 10 times higher and no lies. That’s how bad it was.

  12. bit_crusherrr says:

    You drop in in third person… thats my major gripe with the game. I fucking loved the drop in on the first so much, third person ruins it.

  13. suibhne says:

    Folks here are pointing out a passel of problems with the first one, and they all added up to an overall “meh” for me: the auto-aim, the distance-based damage, the mouse sens issues… The spawn-in system was fantastic, but too much of the game felt based on team numbers advantage and not on skill. Maybe Prejudice will offer a less frustrating overall package, but I’m skeptical.

  14. Paravel says:

    Why are they showing screenshots for the new Halo game in this review?

  15. Lord_Mordja says:

    I think I’ll get it this time. I enjoyed the beta for the first game, but it was pretty obviously lacking in content and I knew the MP would end up deserted. But for $15 I can see it becoming the next killing floor; the price point is small enough and there’s enough content that people will probably actually buy it to scratch that manshoot urge. If nothing else, it’s different enough from the sea of modern warfare (the genre, not the series) brown-fests that it’s worth a shot.

  16. Collic says:

    I really enjoyed the beta, and came close to buying it. In the end, the main reason myself and my friends stopped playing was down to one hacker Timegate for some reason refused to kick out of the beta. Now, you can make the argument that they let him run around unchecked to see how he was exploiting the code, but the fact is they had no anti-cheat in place at all, so these were surely known and long-standing holes in the unreal engine.

    So, in the end I stopped playing as did my other friends, and we had forgotten about the game by the time the open beta was over. Had they removed this guy we would likely have kept playing and stayed hooked. Shame, really.

    It was a great game nonetheless, and had enormous potential to get even better from what I played of it. The price-point was also a barrier, and with what they are now asking I think they will enjoy far more success.

  17. Creeping Death says:

    Played the first… well, played it against bots. It seemed like fun but I never spent much time with it as MP seemed dead :/

    I thought I heard a while back that Prejudice was going to be f2p. Did I hear wrong, or did they change their minds along the way?

  18. JuJuCam says:

    I’ll buy it if only to support a developer making steps towards a unique and interesting take on the multi-manshoot genre, no matter how small those steps are. I’m not at all interested in shooting other humans in the virtual face but I enjoyed the beta of the original and this sounds promising. Most likely I’ll fire it up once and never again. But I would like to see more innovative things like this.

  19. Mashakosha says:

    I can’t say that I’ve played Prejudice yet, but if I had (and I haven’t) I would be telling you that the shooting is a hell of a lot better than the original’s. But I can’t say that because I haven’t played it.
    I would also say that it feels a lot more balanced. In the early stages, there were a few things that blew it all out of proportion. A really early unlock just annihilated everything it came into contact with. But TG listened to the community and now the balance is pretty solid.
    Of course, all this is guesswork. I haven’t played the beta. No sir.

  20. DOLBYdigital says:

    I actually enjoyed the first one so I’m interested in this one too. It was nothing amazing but was a solid experience that did many things well. Here’s to hoping this one has more players since that was a major lacking point for the first.

  21. msarge says:

    For some reason, I thought that Section 8 was the video game adaptation of the movie District 9.

  22. alilsneaky says:

    It’s better than the original but there are still many problems with it.

    Servers are awfully laggy in the original and still are for prejudice, the ridiculous lock on system is still there…., turrets are more powerful which completely unbalances the game , especially in situations where you don’t have at least 3-4 people who know how to deal with it. (aka all pubs)
    The first team to get a turret farm up and doesn’t have it destroyed before they can save for a few vehicles (aka 2 minutes) will stomp the other team time and time again.

    Damage is way higher than previously, esplosive and fire type accesories and ammo turn it into more of a rock paper scissors deal of who picked what weapon and armor type.
    There are weapon combinations that allow you to blow people up in 1 seconds every time.

    The right sniper loadout will 2 shot anyone, every time, which will probably force everyone to get the same type of loadout down the road to deal with the cookie cutter sniper build when people catch on to it.

    All in all it’s still a better game than bad company 2 (which isn’t a hard thing to accomplish :p) and for 15 bucks it’s a steal.

    Just don’t expect the quality from a game like tribes (lock on, ultra slow movement speed and high damage + aoe explosive damage make aiming rank low on the list of importance) or ut 2004 here.