A broken toy that I can't help but love.
Every kid has a favorite toy. It might be a truck, it might be an action figure; mine was a teddy bear. It's that kind of toy that you still love and hold close to you no matter what happens to it. That truck can lose a wheel, that action figure can be headless, that teddy bear can lose an arm, and it'll still be as dear to you as it was when it was brand new. Timegate forsook the arguably failed attempt at a full retail release in the original Section 8, opting for a downloadable title through Section 8: Prejudice. The result is a clunky, tattered, sometimes broken toy, but it's a teddy bear that I can't help but love.
The game, available for 1200 Microsoft Points on XBLA as well as on PC and PS3, comes out at 1.7 gigabytes with three included modes: single-player Campaign, competitive multiplayer Conquest, and Horde-esque Swarm. The class customization carries between Conquest and Horde mode, which is an excellent thing considering the sheer amount of diversity in the class options. 6 Class slots are automatically filled with the defaults, but allow you to fully customize them from the get-go. Your two weapon slots can be filled with any of the seven weapons in the game, and you can further change them up by picking out mods for the guns (incendiary ammo, burst fire mods, etc). Two secondary slots can be filled with your knife, detpacks, grenades, or even a repair tool to help fix up the purchasable turrets and vehicles in the game. After that, you get 10 points to distribute among nine "upgrade" perk, to varying degrees: you might choose to put all your points into armor or stealth, or spread them out more and have a more "jack of all trades" feel. The upgrades and customization is probably the most well-developed aspect of this game; things unlock via level-up and achievements, but nothing you ever unlock is a straight upgrade. Everything seems more like a side-grade, so lower level competitors aren't at an extreme disadvantage in game, and forcing you to consciously acknowledge the pros and cons of every upgrade you choose before diving into multiplayer.
That multiplayer is Prejudice's main attraction, a fact that's even clearer when you play campaign. The campaign itself is fairly straightforward: you are a soldier, other dudes are invading against you, and you should shoot those dudes while you go for objectives. Don't walk into the single-player expecting anything more than that, or you're going to be disappointed. The voice acting is mediocre at it's best, and not helped along by the fact that the NPC's are all static when they're talking to you in-game; you can run around or behind them, and they behave as if you're sitting directly in front of them. Furthermore, the NPC's have a tendency to randomly stop working as intended in the campaign missions, causing you to have to reload your previous checkpoint. The game has enough single-player to keep you entertained for a few hours, but other than a harder difficulty level, there's no reason to make a return trip.
Conquest and Swarm, Prejudice's two multiplayer modes, are where the true meat of the gameplay lies. You can host a game on your own, or you have the option to connect to PC-style dedicated servers that allow for 16-on-16 multiplayer matches. The Conquest maps are well designed for the amount of people running around on them, especially given the game's unique spawning system. Rather than spawning at designated points, you decide pre-spawn where you are going to drop, and drop in from the sky to the ground. Your trajectory is unshakable for a certain period of time, until you get to the point where you can brake: depending on when you brake, you perform a soft or hard landing, and if you brake early for the soft landing, you can drastically change where you're landing. This allows you to spawn and quickly get to whatever the current DCM (dynamic combat mission) is. It's not as easy as it sounds, though; one of the purchasable turrets is anti-air, and will quickly shoot you down if you try to drop in it's effective radius. The dynamic combat missions are the one of the coolest aspects of the multiplayer: 9 random objectives that you either need to complete or prevent from occurring, each providing a boost to your team's score and bringing you closer to victory. The spawning and dynamic objectives are cool, but are offset by a myriad of problems. The look acceleration screws with your aiming until you find the perfect sensitivity (you'll find yourself turning too slowly and then too quickly in rapid succession), and the game has a particularly troublesome bug that causes your entire system to hardlock.
If it's not clear from this review, then let me reiterate one last time: Section 8: Prejudice has a good portion of things that are just ok. It has a few things that are buggy, or janky, or downright broken (I neglected to mention that their stat tracking via website is bugged as hell, so to save some time: it's bugged as hell). Despite all this, however, Prejudice does enough things cleverly and differently that it manages to make me smile and want to play more. It's not perfect; far from it. But the unique spawning, interesting structure-placing mechanics, and near-perfect class customization makes it a tattered-but-cuddly teddy bear.