Brink is a tough game to write about, partly because of its unique nature and intriguing new gameplay mechanics but also because I was so immersed in the hands-on demo that I completely forgot to write any kind of notations regarding what I actually did on-screen. Having seen the game in action at last year’s PAX Prime (even wrote up about it here) , I was pretty stoked to take a crack at the game and luckily found myself under the expert tutelage of senior game designer Edward Stern. Setting me up with a controller and some insightful pointers regarding how the gmae was going to handle, I was encouraged to dive right in. With a compellingly crafted art style, EXP based leveling system, and innovative SMART system, Brink was a game to watch and I’m thrilled to say it’s well on its way to exceeding most of my expectations.
Taking the controls for the first time and looking over the tutorial screen, I felt a bit intimidated by the options available to me. Save for your basic movement options, every button had several different subcategories and contextual uses. You see, one of the keys to the new formula the developers at Splash Damage are pushing with Brink is the ability to switch out your character class virtually on the fly. Numerous missions will be available to players during any one level, and sometimes it will be in their best interest to swap roles in favor of another class and the ensuing EXP bonuses that come by completing these unique tasks. Playing as a spy will trigger a mission to infiltrate an enemy base and unlock the ability to disguise yourself as a fallen enemy; becoming an Engineer allows you to buff both your own and allies weaponry and requires you to repair a broken robot, while taking on the part of a Demolitions expert sees you handling more explosive ordinance and blowing smoldering holes through enemy positions.
Switching out your character class requires you to make use of terminals located throughout the environment. Navigating slickly designed menu wheels allow you to cycle through abilities and weaponry while also interacting with these terminals to decide upon your preferred class. This simple aesthetic choice manages to resound throughout gameplay, encouraging an ease of access in the midst of battle while leaving more complex settings and online interfaces to a different subset of menus accessed via normal START and SELECT interaction. Upon settlingÂ your class, a new objective will be highlighted in your HUD while also popping up on a compass-like mechanism located towards the top of the screen, less intrusive than a mini-map but just as effective in calling out your position to your comrades.
If I remember correctly, players possess a primary and secondary weapon as well as maybe one or two different types of explosive ordinance. In my case, I ended up running around with an SMG and pistol combo whilst loading up with some generic fragmentation grenades. The guns handled a bit jumpier than expected, but I found some interesting new combat wrinkles associated with the targeting reticle. Different weapons have wider reticles, with the furious SMG providing a less accurate wide-angle target than the more focused pistol. Movement and stance also affected the way my reticle honed in on my target; stopping quickly encouraged the target to center in while the jostling of a jump or slide caused the area to grow wider. Paying attention to your targeting will help ensure quicker and more efficient kills, providing an effortlessly simple center of attention that encourages players to think about their positioning before they shoot. Combining this intuitive targeting system with the ability to aim down the barrel or fire via line-of-sight is sure to appeal to a wide range of audiences while allowing hardcore shooters to dish out damage with greater speed and effectiveness.
One of the biggest new changes Splash Damage are bringing to first-person is the much touted SMART system. Providing complex level traversal at the push of a button, SMART allows players to perform wall jumps, slides, hurdles and more at the touch of a single button. Running through the environment, all I had to do was angle my vision in a direction and press the SMART button in order to hop an obstacle or slide into cover, allowing me to maintain my focus on riddling the enemy with holes. True, the ability took a little bit of getting used to, but with more time I feel I could have gotten incredibly creative with how I chose to use the level designs to my advantage.
The AI driven enemies felt suitably challenging, often spinning out of range or endeavoring to constantly flank any position I tried to hold for too long. AI partners were similarly cogent, offering to give me first aid and providing some decent cover fire when the situation got too hot. Brink encourages a squad mentality, providing players with useful data and interactive options with each team-member via the HUD. At any point I could give my buddies more ammo, heal them up or even buff up their guns to deal out increased damage or improve their rate of fire.
During aÂ brief lull at the booth, I also cycled through some pre-set character designs which showcased the game’s colorful art-style. From the military-trim of the near future police-state types to the hashed together junkiness of the colorful rebels, there was a lot of really great art at play when it came to creating your own unique character. I can foresee much timeÂ being spent in the character editor as you unlock new materials and accessories, tattoos, jewelry and the like. Let us not also forget the game-world as a whole, providing a great deal of variety between the sterile efficiency of the eco-friendly Ark and the decrepit ramshackleness of the surrounding slum islands.
Playing through Brink was both refreshingly new and familiarly comfortable at the same time. The gunplay was fast and furious while the different skill-sets and class-specific abilities really made me think out how to approach different challenges that the game presented. I’ll be very interested to see how Brink‘s campaign and storyline fare under closer scrutiny, while the multiplayer component seems to be well on its way to becoming an addictive new addition to LIVE. There are still a lot of pieces to be put in place before a final word can be given on just how much the title will change the tried-and-true FPS formula, but as of now I would definitely wager that the game is on the precipice of greatness.