|a game by||Splash Damage|
|User Rating:||10.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Yes, They've Got big, funny faces. Get over it. There was a bloke in the long-awaited recent demonstration of how Splash Damage's first game since Enemy Territory: Quake Wars who couldn't get over the distorted body shapes.
"Is there a narrative reason," he inquired, "why everyone's got chimp-like arms and faces like Droopy Dawg?" No. No there isn't. This is just one of those all-too-rare first-person shooters which wishes to be instantly recognisable from a single screenshot. As well as having those delightfully goon-faced characters it's set in a floating city in a near-future, post-disaster world, which has an aesthetic halfway between those of Portal and Fallout 3. The game's looks are just one of a crap-load of reasons to be excited about Brink. Here's another: it wants to unite the tribes of single-player and multiplayer shooter fans in a way which hasn't been done before.
Tine broad-strokes categorisation of Brink is that it's a class-based team shooter in the Team Fortress 2 mould -two sets of nutters war over capture points - and it's a very good one at that. The Ark, a techno-refuge for Earth's survivors, isn't in great shape. Humanity has been grouped into two rival factions: Security, who are theoretically in charge, and the Resistance, a militant equal-rights group. The former are slick, high-tech soldiers, whilst the latter are bric-a-brac guerrillas.
As a multiplayer game, Brink seems to come from another world compared to the over-complicated Quake Wars. The interface is svelte and logical - all Applelike radial dials and big, friendly buttons -while team play is something you're actively rewarded for (primarily with experience points).
On top of that is the controversial SMART system. Vaguely analogous to Assassin's Creeds parkour button, this is a toggle that makes your character automatically leap under, over or onto t obstacles in the direction they're I moving in.
W The idea isn't that SMART grants an unfair edge, but simply that it allows you to concentrate on doing well at the shooting part of the game, rather than wasting time bumping into small walls or falling off ledges. Brink is accessible, in other words. While this is a red rag to hardcore shooter bulls, some as-yet-unspecified traditional multiplayer modes, plus the fact that fine control will often outdo SMART movement, should keep them off everyone else's backs. All of this is also available in Brink's single-player mode. This doesn't involve playing multiplayer maps with AI bots, and it's not an unrelated campaign of shooting idiots in corridors: it's the multiplayer game made single-player.
Or, to put it another way, it's the singleplayer game made multiplayer. At any point, you can take your single-player game online and invite in mates or let in strangers to replace the two teams of eight soldiers with real people.
You're playing through a story - two in fact, respectively documenting the struggles of the Security and Resistance sides - replete with impressive cutscenes that look at the war from an overall and personal perspectives. One mission, for instance, sees the Resistance trying to destroy a Security-run nuclear generator, but the cutscenes cover one soldier's misery that his brother has signed up with 'the fascists' as much as they do the inevitable mega-explosion.
This isn't a playlist of arena fights. It's the tale of a desperate battle for humanity's future, and of exactly who humanity is in this beleaguered world. Also, it has lots of guns in it.
If you like guns, you'll be well-served here. As is the vogue of the moment, Brink includes a weapons unlock system, where experience points get you all manner of customisation options. This is far more ambitious than the Now You Have A Slightly Different Machine Gun treadmill we're used to from other modern shooters.
First up, there are guns. Of course there are guns. Guns with names like Maximus and Sea Eagle. Then there are gun modifications - gloriously absurd disc-shaped Tommy gun ammo packs, scopes, and six-vent anti-recoil muzzles. You'll very quickly build visibly bespoke weaponry that suits your own play style. You'll do the same with your unlocked abilities which can be .buffs that up your hit points, tell you when you're in someone's crosshairs, bi or allow you to slip into a third-person mode for a better look at what's around you. They can also be class-specific skills, such as the Operative's Comms trick. This allows the Spy-a-like Operative to scan a dead foe's body to briefly reveal his mates' locations. Of course, by picking that you'll deny yourself another ability, such as the one that lets you disguise yourself as a downed enemy.
Levelling up means escalated power to some degree, but really it's about careful choice of abilities rather than having a horrifyingly unfair advantage over other players.
There's also a choice about how many pies you've eaten. Your character's body shape is the most critical choice you'll make. By default, you're a medium -a good all-rounder.
Once you've levelled up a bit you can choose to mutate into an Agile or Heavy body type - the former able to move at speed and reach areas the others can't, while the other is a hit point-laden warhorse, able to carry the game's most devastating guns. Unlike classes and weapons, which you can casually alter between re-spawns, your body type is a permanent decision. Splash Damage are hinting there will be ways to change your decision, but in general you're likely to start up a couple of alts so you get to play with a skinny, a biggy or a norm whenever you like.
You will, however, be able to tinker with your clothing at will. Brink's character designer is a slick wee thing, flicking guickly between trousers, hats and the like with an ease that puts The Sims to shame. From I'm With Stupid T-shirts to flame-patterned hockey masks, it promises some fairly dramatic customisation - though this probably means the DLC cow will get a sound milking. When you march to war, you'll be fielding a dude who's very much yours, and not a generic beefcake soldier with a slightly different-coloured hat.
Online shooters have been sniffing around MMOs' back yards for a while, but Brink appears to be the rare example of getting it Advancement isn't just about earning experience points - it's about building a character whoreflects you. So long as your definition of your identity involves huge guns and camouflage pants.
This customisation is a major part of Splash Damage's intention to get people who traditionally cling to the ankles of single-player games to relax their fear of online play. If you've built yourself a character you're proud of, you're going to want to show him off to people. Those NPC bots aren't going to notice, so open up your game and shake a tail feather.
Again, you can play the campaign mode online or in co-op, or you can play a standalone map, Battlefield-style. There's also the idea that you can choose objectives rather than simply surge forwards, into great danger, at all times.
Clearly Brink comes down to shooting other blokes in the face to achieve objectives that win the map for one side, but if you can't handle the heat, sneaking off to grab a command point or hack a safe earns team-wide bonuses.
The in-game GPS system will even recalculate a new route to an objective for you if it spots that you're headed towards a rear entrance or you're careering across rooftops. This is looking like a shooter that wants you to have fun, not to creep slowly forwards until some camper snipes you in the head.
Brink's a bloody ambitious game that's charging head-on into two huge risks: that its plans to lure in a new audience might alienate the shooter hardcore, and that it's still too close to the Enemy Territory/Battlefield model to lure in the mass audience it needs. The cutscene production values are very high, while the character customisation lends an additional backbone to proceedings. But much depends on how meaty its single-player game really is. -And if Brink players' gradual switch from offline to online play is to be as organic as Splash Damage hope, there
has'to be the same satisfaction to beating a single-player map. The proof will be in the play, and we'll be hands-on with this noble beast again very soon. Until then, it's safe to coo at how marvellous it looks, how clever its concepts are, and how svelte the interface is. We saw Brink at the same time as we saw id's Rage, and Brink seems fresher, stranger and more tantalising. The student may well be about to become the master. (And if you really want a narrative reason for the giant chins, let's just assume-it's a by-product of a failed generation of genetically engineered supermen.)
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Paul Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage and game director on Brink, isn't a big fan of marketing spiel. He's talking about the game's fluid movement mechanic when he sighs: "It's called SMART -smooth movement across random terrain. The marketing guys at Bethesda made us call it that."
Though he's hardly enamoured with the silly moniker, he's rightfully pleased with the feature itself. The multiplayer shooter from the creators of Enemy Territory employs an Assassin's Creed-stye, multi-functional button which sees you sliding under waist-high bars and vaulting over crates with ease. Don't let the Assassin's Creed comparison put you off, it's anything but an easy autopilot ride, and it works with surprising efficiency. Whether Wedgwood likes it or not, it's SMART.
The Brink presentation sees Wedgwood nimbly bounding through sections of The Ark, a floating, near-future, sovereign state temporarily moored somewhere off the coast of San Francisco. As the world economy goes to pot it begins to take on increasing numbers of refugees, unironically referred to as the "guest population" in the wake of the island's previous function as a luxury resort.
"Just because it's a shooter doesn't mean there can't be some narrative and thematic stuff going on," claims Brings senior game designer Ed Stern. "You still run around shooting people in the face though," he laughs, "that's absolutely what Brink is about".
At E3 we witnessed a mission set in the outlying Container City, and this time around we're seeing it in even more detail. Previously a sprawling storage area for the furniture of the rich and famous, the platform of shipping containers has been transformed into a residential area for the downtrodden refugees. You and seven other players, assuming the role of Ark Security, must escort a bomb defusal robot to the location of a supposed dirty bomb hidden somewhere in the rusting maze of corrugated sheet metal, chain link fencing and general dock-based detritus, while eight other players take up opposing positions as resistance members. It makes for an interesting, campaign-led melding of single and multiplayer shooting - one that we're seeing more and more of with pmes like Left 4 Dead, Borderlands and APS joining the charge.
"We're no geniuses," admits Stem. "We're not the only people who've figured out that this sort of game might be fun. We've all played Left 4 Dead, and what they've already achieved with that game is just fantastic. We're taking everything we've learned about objective-led gameplay from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - things like having to be a particular class to do a certain objective."
Wedgwood's demo reaches something of a crescendo as both security and resistance clash in a small open area. In order to proceed, somebody must blast through a barricade to allow the defusal bot to trundle onwards. Flicking to a radial menu, a shopping list of objectives fills the screen and Wedgwood settles on the order to destroy the resistance's blockade. It immediately breaks down the objective into steps, the first of which is flagged on-screen: find a command post to change class. Wedgwood will have to slip into the role of a soldier before he can plant the explosives.
Me, Myself And I
In doing so, Wedgwood's appearance changes only slightly. Brink's character creation system means you'll have a Customised, personalised character upon which you can layer your unlocks and new items - visual class indicators work around the character you've designed.
"What's cool about having a persistent character is that you invest in him," explains Stern. "That's why we make such a big effort in character customisation. That's your guy, he represents you and your status and what you've chosen to unlock, which is why we've gone foaming nuts in terms of the avatar customisation. Tim Applebee, our lead character artist created Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, and he comes out with this crazy stuff. So no two players will look the same."
Compare this to the Gearbox's similarly co-op driven Borderlands, in which every player must choose from only four player models, and you'll begin understand why Splash Damage are working hard to get this customisation engine right.