As I drop from the drop ship I can see my squad mates falling through the atmosphere alongside me. As I fall I know where I’m going: the edge of the anti-air guns guarding the control point of the area I want to own. As I near the landing point I hit the air brake, slowing me down and providing a little more control over my decent. As I get closer to the ground, I nudge myself into the range of the AA guns. They take out my shields, but the time saved helps me to reach the capture point before everyone else.
I sprint towards the capture point, healing my wounds as I go. Once the capture point is mine I begin to defend it while the point switches slowly to my side. I engage enemies out at range with the assault rifle, stripping them of their shields, before finishing them off with my shotgun. Each kill grants me funds which are then converted into a mini-gun turret which is dropped in to help me stave off further attacks. A few kills later and the mini-gun now has a twin on the other side of the point, helping me retain the ownership of this control point while the rest of my team branches out and secures the other points on the map.
As someone who has set up an endless amount of turrets in the basement and hallways of the 2Fort map in Team Fortress 2 this kind of experience is like a drug. Each match becomes an exercise in optimization and operation efficiency. Of course there are some differences between the two games. First off is the style of the game, cartoony fun vs. gritty sci-fi. There’s also the issue that you are limited to nine classes in Team Fortress 2 and thanks to a large customization engine, a near infinite number of classes in Section 8: Prejudice.
What I like about the classes in Section 8: Prejudice is that you can control not only the two weapons and two pieces of equipment your character has but the type of ammunition in the guns (incendiary weapons are fun), the attributes of your armor, and about twenty other attributes about your character. You don’t normally see this kind of depth in a FPS game and it’s going to be fun to see what people do with their configurations.
I have already talked
about the Xbox 360 version of Section 9: Prejudice so I was ready to get my hands on the PC version to see how it stacked up. The new build featured one of the four multiplayer maps and a chunk of the single player campaign.
The single player portion of the game I played featured the introduction of the game (i.e. the tutorial level) and chunks of some of the later levels in the build. The single player campaign is supposed to tick in at around the five hour mark so what I played represented about one third of the final product. What I saw was good; the plot continues where the last game ended (which left me a bit in the dark as I didn’t play it) but serves as a decent way to have some fun with the game before moving on to the multiplayer portion of the game.
There are a couple of interesting moments in the build that I enjoyed, including a portion of the game where you have to attack an underground bunker while avoiding being hit by bombers that are circling the area. It had almost a platfomer-
like feel as I had to dodge bombs while trying to take the shield down so that an orbital strike could open the doors to the bunker.
There is a feeling that TimeGate used the assets from the multiplayer modes to create the single player campaign (much like Kaos did with Frontlines Fuel of War) as I didn’t see anything that was unique to the single player campaign in the build. I do have to wonder how much fun co-op would have been,but it’s not a bad experience and there’s a good amount of polish around the cut-scenes and voice acting.
Of course buying Section 8: Prejudice for the single player is like saying you read Playboy for the articles. Unlike the earlier build Timegate didn’t have any multiplayer events scheduled so I was forced to play alone against the bots. While this didn’t give me a good idea of what the final environment would be like it with real people in it, it did give me a chance to play with the PC controls a bit, try all the weapons out, play with all the cool toys in the game, and explore the map a bit.
If you skipped the earlier preview the game will ship with two modes that can be played on four different maps. The two modes are Conquest, where you try to maintain and hold onto capture points located around the map, and Swarm, where you and up to three friends try to defend one capture point from waves of enemies. We’ve seen these modes before in other games but TimeGate has added their own special gaming sauce to the mix.
These sound simple but Section 8: Prejudice has a few extra things that make things interesting. The first is that as you play the game you earn money for completing objectives (killing enemies, capturing points, repairing comrades and equipment) and then you can spend that money on fixed structures like missile and mini-gun turrets, vehicles, and supply depots.
The second big thing is the addition of Dynamic Combat Missions (DCM) which add random, timed mini-missions to the game. DCM’s include things like recovering items that are spread across the map, killing all of your opponents at least once, escorting a VIP across the map, and a bevy of other things. Each mission has two sides and they really help to break the game up a bit. Completing a DCM earns you cash which you can then spend on fun things like turrets and tanks.
Those are the big two but you also have jet packs, the aforementioned customizable classes, and some unique weapons and you have a recipe for FPS goodness. I’ll be honest,
this became my go-to game to play before work as it was easy to jump in and you can set time limits on the game to ensure you don’t have to skip part of your morning hygiene routine because you got lost in the game.
The maps scale to the game mode you are playing. Conquest games are played on the full, large version of the map where there are up to four capture points while the Swarm mode locks it down to one control point and an area around it. The larger maps have to be big enough to support some of the larger vehicles in the game. The downside of this is that walking across large expanses or even running across them kills the fun.
To fix this,Timegate provides players with two levels of sprinting. You can sprint which allows you to move slightly faster than a walk. Sprint long enough and you engage the overdrive which allows you to haul ass across the maps. It’s a nice touch and really does mitigate the downside of big maps where you have to do a lot of walking.
As you would expect the PC controls of the game are tighter and a bit more manageable than the ones on the console. Buying structures is significantly easier as it’s just a quick press of the B button followed by spinning through selections using the scroll wheel on your mouse. The game doesn’t feel like much of a PC port as the menus support mouse controls which make customizing classes and load outs a bit earlier. Can you tell that the game has console lineage? Sure but the game feels like the PC version was more than just an afterthought.
The only thing the game really seems to be missing is a dedicated buttons for melee and overdrive. It feels odd to play a multiplayer game that doesn’t have a melee button for those times when you get in close. Instead of a melee button the game forces you to equip a knife and then click the use equipment button. This forces you to choose between grenades, the repair wrench, and a few other things, and having a knife.
The missing overdrive button might be something that’s missing from the build I have as the game alludes to having an on demand button for it but I couldn’t find anything in the configuration menus or by randomly pressing keys.
Playing through games against the bots also makes me wonder how real world players will approach the game and how long it will take for people to create uber-builds of characters that are unstoppable. I’m interested to see how active Timegate will be in managing their game once it gets launched as the game as it will face the burning torch of teen angst once it’s available for everyone.
It’s also worth noting that there was a noticeable amount of polish in the game even though this build was almost three months old. The game didn’t hang once or give me any headaches (and that’s even with being burdened with Games for Windows Live as its matchmaking and achievement service). Hopefully that will continue over to the final product.
To be honest Section 8: Prejudice doesn’t break a lot of new ground rather it brings together a lot of good ideas and mixes them into a deeply satisfying stew. It’s just fun to play and it scratches my FPS itch in the same way that Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield Bad Company did.