In the film industry it’s almost an unspoken secret that sequels will generally not live up to the standard set by the original movie. This is quite the contrary for the game industry, as sequels can generally be a chance to take what was originally a good idea and have the opportunity to perfect it with what is basically a second chance.
Section 8: Prejudice
is no exception. Although there were many complaints of the original title
, TimeGate Studios took the opportunity for criticism to perfect the ideas of gameplay and the sci-fi storyline in the upcoming sequel set for release early next year.
One such complaint was that the single player campaign seemed more like a rushed afterthought than a well-executed plan, and this is not far from the truth. Producer Robert Siwiak explained that given the budget that was allotted for the original Section 8 title, the team decided to spend more of it on the multiplayer component to allow for a greater shelf life of the game and thereby giving gamers incentive to pick it up. He also explained that upon completion of the game, many questions were left unanswered, which provided ample footing for storyline for the sequel.
The single player campaign picks up where the original Section 8 title left off. Section 8 is a utopian colony whose creation was helped by a power-armored military force. These soldiers were experimented on to become stronger and more apt at the expense of their humanity. After the colonization was complete, however, prejudice barred them from normal society. An uprising of the current military force presence in Section 8 is soon found to be led by the hands of the original commanding force in Section 8 that established the colony.
Within the five-hour long campaign players will discover the secrets of Section 8 as they battle the vengeful efforts of the preceding military force now shunned from the colony. My demonstration of the campaign starts three missions in after the protagonist and his squad mates have just sabotaged a facility of the enemy force. Upon following an escaped prisoner - who was commander of said military - into their hideout, an amassing army was discovered. Meanwhile, your fleet waits for you to disrupt their anti-air units so that they can rendezvous with you.
I am told that each campaign is roughly 25-30 minutes in length offering a variety of environments and planets of different nature ranging from the arctics to volcanic areas to desserts. The single player maps are wholly unique from their multiplayer components, which is an appreciated change from the first game whose multiplayer maps were taken directly from the single player campaign.There are currently two multiplayer modes in Section 8: Prejudice. One mode - Conquest, which was available in the first game - is the basic team-versus-team based around four control points that allows up to 32 players, or 40 on the PC. The maps are fitting for this kind of large-scale combat. They expand throughout a large distance, giving ample room for players to seek and destroy one another.
The second mode, and the one that was in my demonstration, was Swarm. It was likened to horde mode where 4 players defend cooperatively against waves of enemies. This mode was perfect to show off the kind of unique gameplay featured in Section 8. Although the map is large, the armored suit is able to go into overdrive mode to boost quickly across the landscape, or use its jet packs to jump over buildings.
Section 8 also features drop spawning, which means that your spawn locations aren’t random, but rather you will drop from the sky and be allowed to choose where you land for more strategic placement. Fatality moves can also be performed on enemies once their health is low enough. If you are fitted in a mech suit, these can be particularly interesting such as ripping another mech’s arm off before killing him.
Although Section 8 has been accused of similarities to the Halo franchise - particularly now with the jet pack addition - the gameplay is certainly distinct in the sequel. If I had to make a comparison, Halo would certainly seem to be an inspiration, but the multiplayer allows you to introduce new artillery as players gain Requisition Points. As the match progresses, therefore, new feats will have to be overcome as players gain access to mechs, turrets and extra weaponry.
By using Requisition Points, players can purchase turrets (including anti-air turrets), supply depots, and vehicles that also drop spawn. Although these points are earned within the round, leveling up will allow you access to certain unlocks that carry out from game to game. These unlocks give you more customization options as to the kind of weaponry and equipment you want to keep in your load out. For instance, for designer Mark Yetter, the burst assault rifle would make his list. The semi-automatic burst of three shots makes the assault rifle more of a precision weapon. Producer Robert Siwiak, on the other hand, prefers to customize his character with napalm mortars. Typically mortars fly across the field and explode, but unlocking the napalm mortar will have the explosion set both the ground and nearby enemies on fire.
The best thing about the weaponry in Section 8 is how diverse they are. Elemental weapons are some of my most favorite things. In a sense, Section 8: Prejudice provides just that sort of weapon experience. EMP blasts have the interesting effect of distorting an enemy’s display and HUD while simultaneously piercing through their shields. C4 explosives can be turned into landmines awaiting enemies to cross their path. The best thing about creative weapons such as these is that they can be combined for even more epic results, thereby adding to the strategy (and fun) involved. Requisition Points can also be used to purchase repair tools that can help defend your base, or even steal an enemy’s armor to replenish your own. Or perhaps you want to call in vehicles once you’ve gained enough points. Unlocks give you access to customizing your suit for purely aesthetic purposes, or for more useful ones like extra jet pack fuel, more armor and shields, etc.
Ultimately, this level of customization provides for a dynamic gameplay completely dependent on the players in the game. As opposed to redundant spawn points and set defense locations, Section 8: Prejudice allows you to make the decisions, thereby making no two rounds the same gameplay experience as players are constantly determining the round’s conditions.
Multiplayer rounds are based in dedicated persistent servers, meaning players can join sessions in progress and all games are fully bot supported. Any mode can be played with strictly bot players if you preferred to do so. In addition, TimeGate has intentions to put out downloadable content after the game’s release that will add new maps, modes, and put out special events like a double jet pack weekend or double experience weekend.
The weaponry and constantly escalating combat in multiplayer will certainly be the game’s strong points when it releases next year. Although the storyline promises to answer many of the gaps in the storyline of the first game, I cannot say from a personal account whether this theory holds water. I can, however, say that it seems that TimeGate has put thought into what was lacking from their first game to redeem it with their second one.
Lastly, amongst the many questions I asked the two TimeGate developers, this one did not make the context of my coverage but was too interesting to let go. So here it is, interview style:
Were there any features that were too over powered, or simply not fitting that you decided against?
Producer Robert Siwiak
: There were a number of features that didn’t see the light of day, and some that came through and shined. For instance, we worked on overhauling how tanks work. No matter how you make the controls better, some people get the tank stuck somewhere. We added rockets to the tank so you can lift it out. It was cool at first because if you ever got the tank stuck you can get it out.
After some play tests, someone saw an enemy coming up with C4 about to drop it on the tank and so the player creatively decided to have the tank take off and land directly on the guy to squish him. It was one of those quirks where here we were trying to solve this other issue and we introduced something else that someone used as a different method to taking people out. That’s the joy of game development: play testing where you put something into the game and someone uses it in ways you didn’t intend, but it winds up being more awesome than you may have ever expected it. Then sometimes you add something in that people abuse and then it’s the opposite of that feeling.
We’d like to thank Producer Robert Siwiak and Designer Mark Yetter for their time and demonstration, as well as Chris Faylor from Evolve PR for organizing the event.