There’s a certain recipe developers follow for crafting a sequel. You fix the stuff people bitched about in the previous game, you enhance what works, and sprinkle in some innovation where you can. With Section 8:Prejudice (S8:P) the folks at TimeGate are following this formula to the letter with one major twist. I’ll get to the twist in a bit but first let’s look at what TimeGate is doing with their sequel.
One of the biggest complaints about the original game was the single player campaign which was little more than a tutorial for the multiplayer portion of the game. TimeGate has listened and is expanding the single player portion of the game quite a bit. Prejudice will now sport a full five hour campaign (your mileage will probably vary) spread across nine different environments. While that doesn’t seem like a lot it does put the campaign in the same general area as games like Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield:Bad Company 2.
On the tweak side they are tuning the multiplayer portion of the game quite a bit. A lot of the core concepts will remain (like dropping into the battlefield from orbit) but they are expanding the customization of the characters significantly as well as tweaking the weapons, loadouts, and the Dynamic Combat Missions. If you didn’t play the first game the Dynamic Combat Missions are side missions that are inserted during the Conquest multiplayer portion of the game. These are missions that both teams participate in and involve things like taking out/protecting an MVP, gathering wreckage, and killing certain players on the other team. They do add a lot to the game and certainly keep you on your toes.
In addition to the tweaks they are going to be rolling out leaderboards and providing detailed stats that you’ll be able to access in the game, via the companies website, or through the API’s they are providing for developers. Not only will you be able to see your stats but you’ll also be able to track your progress towards the next level in the game, the gear you’ve used in the game, and other miscellaneous data. TimeGate will be providing that data at the individual as well as the clan level.
Outside of the single player campaign the game features two online modes, Conquest and Swarm. The Swarm mode is a variation of the popular Horde style mode where you and a group of buddies fight against ever increasing waves of enemies. What makes the version in S8:P special is that as you kill enemies and protect defenses you earn points which can be spent on vehicles or on fixed structures like re-supply depots and turrets. This addition adds some interesting tactical decisions like if the mech suit is worth saving up for or if having that mini-gun turret covering the rear of the base now is a better investment.
The conquest mode is something you’ve seen in the previous game as well as many others in the genre. You and your team to work and hold strategic points around the map. What’s great about the version in S8:P is that you can work with your team to build up defenses around these points to help hold onto them. Don’t want people dropping/spawning in an area? Build an anti-aircraft gun so they are forced to land someplace else. Want to move on to a base but don’t want to leave folks behind? Build a nice perimeter of turrets. It’s a nice dynamic and this mode is also enhanced by the previously mentioned Dynamic Combat Missions.Bot support will also be beefed up for the game and you’ll be able to customize how many bots will be in the game. Want to play offline by yourself? Well you’ll be able to do that and there’s even a progression system for those who choose to play by themselves.
The company will also allow gamers to setup dedicated servers on all three platforms (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) allowing gamers to configure the games the way they want to. This is a fairly new concept on the console and should make for some interesting online matches.
OK, so now for the big twist which is the price of the game. How much would you pay for the sequel to a $60 retail game? $60, $50, $40? Well TimeGate is putting Section 8:Prejudice on sale for $15/1200 Microsoft points. That’s right, you’re getting a sequel with more content than the original game for a quarter of the price. TimeGate is hellbent on making this the #1 online shooter and they feel that a lower price will get a lot of people into the game. They are planning to have a lot of paid and free DLC money though and are looking for the game to have a very long tail.
As someone who didn’t play the first game the world of Section 8 was a bit new to me. It did take me a while to get used to the mechanics of the game like the jetpacks and the sprinting mechanic but the game felt good once I got used to it. As someone who’s just used to magically appearing on a re-spawn spot, the concept of dropping out of orbit was a breath of fresh air to me. I realized how much more fun the game was as now I could pick exactly where I wanted to re-spawn and then had to figure out if the added control of braking early was worth the penalty of slowing down. It’s also awesome to watch your squad mates, deploy-ables, and vehicles drop from orbit around you. The concept also makes you constantly watch your back as enemies can also drop in any place that’s not protected by anti-aircraft guns.
What’s great about the game is that while there are still five pre-set loadouts, but now you can customize your character anyway you want. There’s no more forced decision between being a sniper and being able to repair things as you can create a sniper/engineer hybrid if you want to.
To be honest I found myself creeping on to the TimeGate beta servers during the off hours to play the game against the AI. Sure there wasn’t a lot of challenge with some of the bots but it was a lot of fun to build up my character and try out all the things you can do in the game. I hate to gush about a game this much but I had a lot of fun. It’s not perfect, and I can see some situations where human beings will screw up the game, but I have the feeling that Section 8:Prejudice is going to be the shooter that finally replaces Bad Company 2 as my go-to shooter of choice.