For 15 bucks, you're getting a lot of game here
Just to get it out of the way... no, I never did play the original Section 8. It looked nice, like a mix of old school Tribes, Battlefield, and Unreal Tournament. But uh, just never got around to paying 60 bucks for it, considering that the community for the game would probably be small, and the fact that there was no proper singleplayer campaign. Well, now they're back with Section 8 Prejudice, a 15 dollar Xbox Live Arcade release. For 15 bucks... I'll try almost anything, you betcha.
So far, I've gone through most of the singleplayer campaign, and I've been playing Swarm with an assault rifle and machine gun loadout. Honestly, the machine gun's been a bit of a disappointment. Compared to the assault rifle, it has no zoom, worse accuracy, higher recoil, and takes longer to break down shields. On the other hand... it chews through armor a bit faster. Oh, and it has a higher capacity magazine, but... takes about twice as long to reload. I dunno, I've just been underwhelmed by it. It doesn't feel like a big meaty machine gun in an FPS should. In some situations, it'll be somewhat better than the assault rifle, but that isn't much of an endorsement.
The shooting feels rather flat. You're firing away at enemies with shields and armor bars with your laser bolts, and there isn't much response or recoil. It also feels hard to pin enemies down when they're strafing back and forth, and your rounds aren't knocking them back or doing much, and then they start jetpacking around and it's hard to aim. The overall shooting feels much less substantial and satisfying then one would like in an FPS.
It also took a while before I caught on that there was a limit to the turret stations you can lay down. I started out laying down minigun turrets, then figured out that you needed to back these up with Supply stations to autorepair the turrets. However, there's only a max of two offensive turrets you can lay down, so I'd go off to another corner of the map and lay down more turrets, and this would self-destruct my first turret, which baffled me for a while.
There's a limit of only two vehicles out and about at any time during the game, which means that in a four play Swarm game, two players near the end of the match are going to be sitting around with a ton of cash in the bank while watching their other two team members running around in giant Mechs having all the fun. That's not a great feeling, I'll tell ya. I also found out that supply stations can only resupply and heal with a single beam and will give priority to the Mechs, because I was running low on ammo and ran to a station only to find it healing up this enormous Mech standing in front. I had to just stand by and stare while this Mech got its giant armor bar filled out. They really should've just given the supply station multiple beams so we would have avoided this sort of situation.
There's also been some peculiar instances where it seems like my rounds will go right through bodies. This seems to be a case of bad prediction in the Unreal 3 net code, because I've had situations where some enemy will run right for the central terminal to hack, which is the primary objective in Swarm, and I'll fire away at them from a distance of about five to ten feet with my Machine Gun. Now, this is a machine gun loadout with four full bars devoted to bullet damage, which adds 16% damage. So I should be obliterating this fella. And yet, it seems to take forever to chip away this enemy's armor bar. The enemy was just a regular infantry unit too, called "Spear infantry," so it's not like this was some special high ranking enemy unit with added shields and armor. It just felt like the net code was not properly conveying my shots to the server, even though on my screen I had the enemy right dead in the center of my sights.
I don't understand their thinking on the campaign. I just got to New Madrid, near the end I think, and I had to stop and stare around at the beginning because they've made these enormous environments that look like they're almost as large as Crysis's levels, if without the visual fidelity. Just huge cavernous regions that go far off into the distance, with impressive vistas and hills. And yet, they place these boundary limits on you, just like the borders in a Battlefield 2 game, the ones with the time limit, so even though you're in this apparently humongous map, you're still forced to run along these tight linear routes. Why even make these big spaces if you're just gonna limit the player like that?
But it's definitely a lot of content for 15 bucks. You get a singleplayer campaign that's okay, a Conquest mode, and a Horde mode. And they all have side missions called DCMs. And you've got the COD-style persistent leveling up system, along with a nifty upgrade system where you can juggle different attributes like weapon damage, armor, lock-on timer, repair rate, etc. It's a great big helping of features and toys to play around with, that's for sure. I guess in the end, for 15 bucks, it's a good deal. I recommend it.
BTW, the ship designs in this game are fantastic and by far the most impressive and aesthetically-pleasing visual. The power armor all looks pretty generic and tired, but the giant battleships and carriers you see sailing through space in the cutscenes have a great style and design that really emphasizes their size. Timegate needs to put out a space sim or something, cause they've nailed the art already.