"We took a pretty critical look at Section 8, both from an analytical standpoint in terms of server metrics, and from the pulse of positive and negative player feedback. We've used the points where we needed to improve as pillars for the development of Prejudice."
Bold words there from Timegate president Adel Chaveleh. His studio is currently putting the finishing touches to the sequel of one of 2008's most curious and innovative online shooters. Its pacey sci-fi thrills were geared firmly towards online play, and the game shared key chromosomes with the likes of Planetside and Tribes.
"People were kind of expecting a full-blown single-player campaign when what we really had was a long tutorial," says Chaveleh. With some five hours of story-led missions, Prejudice aims to offer a longer, broader single-player experience than its predecessor.
It's still a proving-ground for the nuances of multiplayer, but it's a slower, surer lead-in to the main attraction, an adventure with a backstory, and a more substantial piece of scene-setting.
Jumping in fresh, it feels like you'll need that time to get acquainted with the way it plays. Like Section 8 before it, Prejudice's emphasis differs from most online shooters because of the sheer level of player mobility through jump-packs and suit-enhanced running, the enormous variety of combat styles through different loadouts, and the absence of enforced downtime. This is a really unusual element which, even for those familiar with the first game's player-insertion method, is worthy of a recap.
Any given multiplayer match begins with a heady airdrop from your circling dropship. You thump to the ground, fight, die, choose where to drop next, and you're immediately out of the dropship hatch again.
There's time for reflection and backpack-fiddling between spawns if required, but if you just want to get back into the game, you click at any point on the map you choose, and you're off again, dally-free.
What a refreshing change from the enforced wait-to-spawn standard of pretty much every online shooter, ever. There's also an option to squad-spawn with your team, which means waiting, naturally, but it's a pretty important option for focussed clan-play.
Insta-spawning is all fine if you're happy with your loadout for the course of a game, but loadout tinkering is one of the joys of Prejudice. With some 60 new weapon, ammo and tool unlocks through the ranking system, it's doesn't fail to reward.
There's a decent variety of weapons in the kind of categories you'd expect; assault and sniper rifles, rocket launchers, shotguns and so forth. These can be further modified with specialised ammo, unlocked through ranking up, and can really push your combat role into interesting dimensions.
Pick a pistol and machine gun for your two-gun loadout, pack one with shield-reducing EMP ammo and the other with armour-piercing rounds, and you're going to pose a challenge in any toe-to-toe scuffle.