Section 8: Prejudice was developed and published by TimeGate Studios. It was released April 20, 2011 for 1200MSP. A copy of the game was provided by the developer/publisher for review purposes.

It’s a rare thing when a game can be recommended before even going into a review. It has to be top-notch; not just any old game could set such a standard. Enter Section 8: Prejudice, a game so amazing that it may very well be to Xbox Live Arcade what Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were to the Nintendo 64. TimeGate Studios has a never-to-be-forgotten hit on their hands, one that everyone will cherish for years to come.

The game is set in a future where Earth’s resources have been used up and mankind has colonized other planets. It centers around two factions, Section 8 and the Arm of Orion. The Arm seeks to wreak havoc and terror on humanity, seeking payback for wrongs committed in days past. It features a solid campaign as well as two strong multiplayer modes.

Here’s what we liked:

Stunning presentationPrejudice is nothing if not stunning. Powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 it has a AAA look and feel to it; characters, weapons, vehicles and environments are incredibly detailed and lifelike. Animations are fluid and seamless as well. The voice acting is also strong; characters have different accents that drive a feel of a diverse people working together. Beautiful orchestral music sets the tone, providing the epic sense of urgency, danger, and heroic action one would expect from a blockbuster movie.

Create-A-Class – The game throws away the convention that characters can magically hide ten weapons on their person. Instead it takes the class-based mechanic, breaks it down, then rebuilds it in an innovative way. Players choose two primary weapons, two pieces of equipment and can assign 10 points to various attributes of their armor. Additionally each weapon and piece of equipment has multiple variants, allowing players to further refine their role in the overall scheme of a game.

Skydive stomp – Nothing is more satisfying than the thrill of being shot out of a dropship at 10,000 feet as you plummet towards the battlefield. Nothing, perhaps, except splattering some poor soul who happens to be right were you land. It’s exhilarating and a great way to eliminate the boring respawn timer found in many other shooters.

A dash of tower defense – During gameplay credits can be earned by performing acts such as melee kills, repairs, and control point captures. These credits can then be used to purchase things such as turrets, recharge stations, vehicles, and other deployables. Each deployable has distinct features that will attract a variety of player tactics. They can be placed virtually anywhere on the map and provide an interesting twist on a shooter that already defies conventional mechanics. It’s a welcome addition that’s will appeal to various types of players.

Finally, a campaign – XBLA shooters often ship without any single player element, and if any exists it’s typically a how-to-play tutorial level. Prejudice provides the player with a full campaign which lasts four to six hours. It’s a great look into the people and tech of the Section 8 universe. Not only is the gameplay reminiscent of a AAA retail title, the cutscenes are also convincing. Best of all the campaign is paced properly. At no point does it feel as though things go too fast or that it’s being artificially drug out to lengthen gameplay. It’s action packed from beginning to end and provides a sense of accomplishment when completed.

Multiplayer focused – While the campaign provides a great experience Prejudice is clearly multiplayer focused. The two shipped multiplayer modes, Swarm and Conquest, each have a refinement and precision to them we haven’t seen in other XBLA shooters. Swarm is the game’s Horde or Firefight mode — it centers around protecting one central area while enemies attack from all directions. Conquest is Swarm’s big brother. Featuring 32 player gameplay the objective is to capture and hold the four control points on the map while eliminating enemy numbers. Both modes feature randomly generated side quests which range from escort to capture-and-defend missions. Completing these objectives provides a score boost in both modes. This is hands down the best multiplayer on XBLA. With customizable character loadouts and the tower defense-esque addition of deployables it appeals to both the casual and hardcore gamer, and each can feel as though they’re contributing equally.

Multiplayer support – Not only is the game’s multiplayer amazing, it comes with a wealth of support as well.  A massive stat tracking website comes with the game which rivals Bungie’s Halo stats site. Everything anyone would want to know about their stats can be found here, and a bite-sized version can be found in-game as well. Prejudice also has extensive clan support, including tools for recruitment via the website. Finally the game is powered by dedicated servers, and players will be able to run their own servers for reasons of privacy or for clan-based matches.

Bots – Hallelujah! For once a developer remembered that people still like the option of playing with bots! Yessir, they’re a big part of the game. When playing Swarm or Conquest bots will fill in any remaining slots on either team. For those who don’t have a gold account bots provide the ability to have the online experience without Xbox Live. But these just aren’t any bots, they’re convincing ones. In the games we played the bots used a variety of tactics and weapons that would have convinced us they were human had we not known otherwise. The AI does much more than simply follow a pre-defined path to an objective; they’ll strafe, use their jetpack and hide behind cover just like a human would. They can be configured and removed as desired, and will dynamically fill any holes in a team ensuring gameplay is never one-sided.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

No co-op campaign – Something that’s becoming more popular in the single player portion of a shooter is, ironically enough, multiplayer. It’s more common today to have a game where a second, third, or even fourth player can join in on the campaign either locally or online. Sadly Predujice doesn’t have that feature. It’s a shame as this is one campaign that friends would want to play together over and over.

No splitscreen – Maybe it’s because of framerate issues, maybe there just wasn’t time to implement it, but those hoping for a little couch gaming are out of luck. It’s disappointing because word of mouth sells games long after the advertising campaign dies out. And when it comes to word of mouth there’s no better way then to have two friends play through the game together. The one who hasn’t bought it yet inevitably makes their decision on their own experience and not that of simply watching their friend play.

There’s simply no way to recommend this game enough to our readers. Despite two disappointing omissions from the game it brings so much to the table that people would expect it to be a retail title. And with TimeGate’s focus on supporting the game for the foreseeable future coop and splitscreen may not be entirely out of the question. Section 8: Prejudice is one game nobody should miss out on. Broke? Look under the couch cushions for change, recycle some aluminum cans, trade in some old games, or mow a lawn. There’s no excuse to miss this one.

Score: Buy It!!!