Many people think that shooters are the most lucrative genre in the gaming industry. Annual Call of Dutys vie for commercial dominance and every publishing company seemingly uses shooters as tentpole games to shore up profits. The truth is that unless your shooter has "duty" or "gears" in the title, it is probably going to be lost in the shuffle. Section 8: Prejudice stands out from the crowd by offering everything those shooters do and more, at a quarter of the price. The Xbox Live Arcade shooter is easily worth more than your average full-priced AAA game.
None of that is to say the game is perfect, far from it, but it delivers a deliciously fun package, without all the annoying packaging. The campaign does not skimp on content, and the story is entertaining if not enlightening. You play as Captain Corde, a decorated member of the 8th Armored Division of the military, which you are told in the opening voiceover is a special unit designed to keep the peace on the planets colonized by humans. The events of Section 8 (2009) dealt with an uprising called the Arm of Orion, but in Prejudice everyone soon realizes a greater force is manipulating the rebels. There follows a planet-spanning story that pits Corde and his 8th Armored cohorts against fiercer and better equipped opponents than they might be accustomed to fighting. The plot isn't spectacular, but it's a lot better than the dreck on which most shooters hang their unimaginative set pieces. The characters, while still the usual military tough guys, are at least well-formed and the dialogue doesn't feel forced or unnatural. Shit, the frank banter even made me chuckle a few times.
Mechanics-wise, Section 8 is just dang fun. Like every sci-fi shooter since Halo, you have an armored suit with a shield, but so does each opponent. The suit has "exo-muscles" which gives you a minute of "overdrive" that lets you quickly close distance and even damage enemies if you collide with them. You also have a jetpack with a limited burn which is pretty useful to jump up onto high platforms, leap over obstacles or avoid fire. The last little spice added into the shooter stew is the ability to lock onto a target for a short time. Before you start dismissing this as proof of the relative skill of console gamers, the lock-on has a long cooldown - around 30 secs - and only lasts for a brief moment. It's long enough to finish off a moving target, but not to take down an opponent at full health.
The missions of the single player campaign in Section 8: Prejudice are refreshingly well-designed. The objectives are spelled out simply - take out these guys, defend this area, hack that terminal - and it's up to you to figure out the best way to accomplish those tasks. You usually have to consider the situation tactically to find the best way to proceed, which I found a welcome departure from just being able to run forward with my best gun blazing away. The larger battles to end each mission don't usually feel like overwrought boss battles. My favorite had me and my team prepping a bunker for an aerial assault with waves of defenders dropping in. I had to shoot the pesky guys jetpacking around, in between hacking consoles and blowing up defensive turrets before I was finally able to bring down the shield.