Should you play Brink or Section 8: Prejudice?

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Brink and Section 8: Prejudice are both new; they’re both team-based; they’re both very multiplayer but with excellent bots; and they’re both all about objectives and loadouts and special abilities and delicious asymmetry. So it’s six of one, half dozen of the other, right? Not quite. They provide different experiences in some very important ways. So should you play Brink or Section 8: Prejudice?

The short answer is “definitely”.

After the jump, the longer answer

* Section 8 is more American
Section 8, having been made by Americans — Texans, no less! — loves freedom. Brink, having been made by subjects of her Royal Majesty the Queen of England Helen Mirren, loves order. Brink developer Splash Damage does a great job channeling the action, but they definitely channel the action. You will beat your head against the same objective every time you play. It will always be there. Sure, you might take a detour to capture a command post or build an MG nest from time to time, but Splash Damage doesn’t trust their players to decide where to fight. They fully intend to command the experience with an iron hand. But in Section 8, you have multiple options at any given moment. Once the dynamic missions start appearing, your options increase dramatically. Unlike Brink, where every match on that map will be the same, no two matches of Section 8 are the same.

* Section 8 offers free-range shootering
Although it’s certainly got its share of wider arenas, Brink is very much a corridor shooter. It’s almost always indoors. There are no vehicles. You can’t fly. Both games give you unique ways to get around, but Section 8 gives you more room to move wherever you like, finding your own killzones, hotspots, and campgrounds. You won’t find any of those in Brink, because Splash Damage will show you them. But Section 8, which has huge open outdoor maps, has an almost RTS flavor to the way you can shape the map with deployables, and specifically the sensors that detect enemy players and the AA guns that limit where they can spawn.

* Brink’s special movement is more gratifying
Among Section 8’s greatest innovations is the way you get around with the combination of drop ship spawning, the jet pack, and the overdrive. These are easy tools to use. But the special movement in Brink is more gratifying for how it feels once you master it. Parkouring your way across the map like a monkey, shooting as you go, is unlike anything you’ve done in a shooter before. Yeah, it might remind you of Mirror’s Edge, but that was a pretty poor excuse for a shooter. There’s a reason you won’t unlock the true parkour option in Brink until you’ve played for a while, but once you’re ready for where a light body type will take you, you’re in for quite a treat.

* Brink does not use Games for Windows Live
If you don’t have first-hand experience with Games for Windows Live, allow me to assure you that everything you’ve heard is true. It’s that bad. And Section 8 on the PC is thoroughly tangled up in it. Brink isn’t.

* More stuff happens when you’re playing Brink
Partly because it’s such a directed experience, Brink offers more concentrated action. With pulp. And not just shooting. You constantly have the option of contribute to your team, whether it’s giving buffs, spotting targets, replenishing ammo, dealing with mines, or helping out with the main objective. There is virtually no down time in Brink.

* The weapons have more personality in Brink
One of the innovations Prejudice brings to Section 8 is the ability to tune your weapons, which includes some balance changes with various types of ammo. But it mostly feels mathy, with +5% here and an unspecified bonus against shields there. Brink has a similarly mathy approach with the way weapons are tuned according to a handful of stats. But Brink gives its weapons a delightful amount of personality above and beyond the numbers. You can’t fully appreciate the Ritchie Revolver’s substantial kick, the thunderous Hjammerdeim automatic shotgun’s room clearing sweep, or the clean precision of the Rokstedi assault rifle’s reach until you’ve actually fired them. If you liked the cartoony gun porn in Borderlands, you’ll have a grand time getting acquainted with Brink’s arsenal.

* In fact, Brink has more personality, period
Section 8 is entirely derivative. Whether it’s a bland space marine or just another lava level, there’s really nothing new to see here. Although you can see a lot of Team Fortress 2 in Brink, you mostly have a freshly colorful and well lit multicultural dystopia. That consists entirely of dudes, by the way. Neither game has female characters.

* Brink doesn’t fuss much with unlockables
The original Section 8 and Splash Damage’s previous game, Quake Wars, had no longer term meta-game unlockables. Everything was available in the context of a single gameplay session, whether it was Section 8 always giving you everything or Quake Wars carefully built to roll out unlockables over the course of a match. Like a sitcom, everything reset to zero between games. But now Prejudice and Brink have opted to stretch out unlockables over the longer term. Brink’s gameplay unlockables are mostly a formality. You can unlock all the weapons and weapon mods by spending about an hour playing the challenges. Beyond that, you can probably hit the level cap in a few nights of play, unlocking all the special abilities for the class of your choice. Section 8 will draw it out a bit longer, and it’ll reward you with less dramatic choices, but it’s definitely a longer term proposition. Neither game is as mercenary as, say, a Call of Duty game when it comes to unlockables.

* Brink needs more cooking time
Brink has graphics and networking problems. I’ve seen some erratic frame rates, some based on graphics, some based on bandwidth weirdness. On the Xbox 360, textures routinely melt in and out, as if Brink is more than the 360 can handle. I’ve seen weird glitches during online matches. At one point, character models weren’t loading for many of the players, which meant we were fighting invisible enemies. The online stat tracking is apparently not working yet. Section 8: Prejudice, on the other hand, is the second iteration of an already polished engine and game.