We recently had the chance to try an updated version of Brink’s multiplayer in downtown San Francisco. As opposed to my paltry twenty minute speed date with the game at PAX, this time around I got to take Brink to a homemade candlelight dinner (lit only by the rain of machine gunfire, of course), put on some Marvin Gaye, and have my way with it.
Why should I be excited about Brink?
Brink is the newest project by Bethesda Softworks and Splash Damage, a London-based team responsible for some of the PC’s most critically acclaimed first-person shooters – most notably, Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars. The game has been in production for just a little under three years now, and from what I’ve seen Splash Damage has taken great pains to make that extra TLC evident.
The official website promises that it will deliver “an immersive first-person shooter that blends single-player, co-op, and multiplayer gameplay into one seamless experience…”
Sounds like fancy marketing jargon to me, so let’s slice this bad boy wide open and feel around a bit more.
So, what’s changed since your impressions at PAX?
The short time I spent with it at PAX didn’t afford me the adequate time to scratch the surface of what is looking to be a fairly engrossing multiplayer experience. The intriguing cooperative team play won me over on the show floor without a hitch. This second playtime equipped me with a better grasp of the game’s complexities and familiarity with a few more of the playable maps. The graphics, which already looked crisp during PAX, shined with a pleasing polish that can be chalked up to Splash Damage’s commitment to quality. In effect, nothing’s really changed since my impressions at PAX – only now I know with certainty that I am more excited than ever for this game.
What makes Brink more special than any other first-person shooter on the market?
This is a question that is best addressed by several more questions, which you’ll find below. There are so many things that make Brink operate in a separate galaxy from the standard shooty stuff that I have a hard time deciding where to begin. Let’s think of it this way: the multiplayer facet alone is a rich, steamy broth, and in it simmer chunks of potato that I’ll call mission objectives, diced carrots that are the eight maps, onions that represent the four unique character classes and their unique skill sets, a medley of vegetables that make up the special SMART controls, and cubes of tender beef that are the incredibly—excuse this pun—meaty character customization options.
Together they make for one fine, nutritious multiplayer experience.
What’s this SMART business?
SMART, a rather clever acronym for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain, is a new mobility system that essentially strips away the limitations of conventional movement in standard FPS games, where the character’s movement can shift from an amble to a full-on sprint. Not that these elements of motion were a problem to begin with, I could definitely see the inconvenience of being obstructed by the physical environment, like a wall or something. The SMART system changes that and grants the very real option to vault over objects of reasonable height or slide forward. Activating these moves is pretty easy. Press and hold down the sprint button, dash up to the object, and the game does the rest. On paper, this sounds pretty darn impressive for a character to exhibit nimbleness and agility while still maintaining combative integrity, what with unwieldy weapons in tow and all.
Putting the system to practical use in a field test, I found the utility of the sliding technique to be on par with collapsing into a prone position in Call of Duty games for evading enemy fire–very useful, indeed. I was told that later on I could even buy a certain skill that would allow me to slide forward and shoot simultaneously. Sounds like something that’d come in handy!
What do you mean by mission-based objectives?
I can only imagine that the developers envisioned a multiplayer experience, in which team cooperation would be encouraged by a reward system and buttressed by an interface that would ultimately be, in a sense, fool-proof. Each faction supposedly fights to achieve an overarching goal on a map, but based on what I’ve seen these objectives are rarely as prosaic as hunting the enemy or capturing some flag.
Rather than simply proffering the macro-objective to you, the game does a fantastic job of breaking it up into easily digestible bits that are then uniquely tailored to your current class’ special skills. You’ll find yourself escorting key figures, defending a key point, repairing tanks, activating crane lifts, hacking terminals, protecting intel, and more! The circular scroll wheel on the menu displays the current available objectives, therefore giving the player even more choices. Not surprisingly, the objective located at 12 o’clock would supply the most experience points after fulfilling the objective. Once an objective is selected, a very visible destination marker indicates where you need to go, much like a giant neon arrow sign spelling out, “Go here, dummy!” That’s not to say it isn’t helpful, ‘cause it really is.
The nice gentleman from Splash Damage shared a little fun fact, saying that the reason for implementing this simplified mission system is to even the playing field for those jumping in mid-battle. They would be instantly made aware of the current objective and be able to make positive contributions to the team from the get-go. Splash Damage has made it clear that they don’t want the gamer to ever feel alienated.
To mimic the mercurial dynamics of warfare, these micro-objectives adapt constantly to the tide of the battle. For instance, the Medic may at first be in the midst of an escort mission, but a teammate suddenly falls. A new objective emerges and begs the question: does the Medic have the luxury to halt the escort mission and lend a healing hand to the fallen comrade? The escort mission rides on regardless, but the choice is yours to make. In an ideal setting, you can choose to do both, and if you happen to answer the call, you can communicate your need to defibrillate an incapacitated teammate by pressing up on the D-pad. Your character will vocalize his current mission objective, thereby avoiding wasted man power and effectively marshaling the proper troops to areas of greater need.
Experience points in an FPS game?
Each time you get a kill, satisfy some mission objective—no matter how big or small—or buff your teammates you get experience points. The obvious purpose of these points is to level up your character, but that is only secondary to what they’re really used for: to purchase add-ons for your weapon or to build upon your character’s combat skills.
How many characters can you create?
16 characters, all with a level cap of 20.
Customization, customization, CUSTOMIZATION! Tell me more about it.
The real draw of Brink seems to be the robust customization options for your character, character skills, and weapons. And it’s definitely not hyperbole to proclaim there are limitless possibilities to how your character could look. From modifying facial features to applying tattoos and piercings to changing your character’s garb, you’ll be scrolling through literally dozens and dozens of options. Thankfully, the game also offers the choice of many preset characters to save you from having to input your own horrendous fashion sense. Plus, you can easily flip-flop your characters to either faction without creating a new one unnecessarily.
The customization options expand into the weapon’s arena, where you get to choose from a huge platter of guns, all with preset stats, and proceed to tailor the chosen weapon to your exact specifications. You can unlock special skins for the gun, attach grenade launchers or silencers, install sights or scopes, change magazine size, and essentially figure out upgrades and combinations that best suit your needs in the battlefield.
When you level up, you are credited with a certain amount of coins with which to invest in a set of transferrable generic or class-specific skills, such as being able to reload while sprinting or an Engineer’s turret. Luckily, these skills aren’t set in stone and can be completely erased for redistribution of skill credits.
Do these classes play the same?
Not at all. With four classes to choose from, you may favor one or two over the others. An Operative, for example, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, since this class requires the player to infiltrate enemy lines and necessitates the sleight of hand maneuvers—both advanced tactics that newcomers to the game might not be comfortable with.
To etch the boundaries deeper among the classes, each class plays a unique role in propelling the team toward victory. Being the artillery-based workhorse of the bunch, Soldiers specialize in incendiaries and explosives, with tasks that include blowing up otherwise un-breachable doorways and replenishing comrades’ ammo supplies. Each class also has access to special abilities. As in the case of the Soldier, he can throw molotovs, which don’t require the standard “cooking” process and explodes instantly on impact. Other classes come with land mines or even turrets.
If you end up liking one class more than another, or if you spot a gaping hole in a certain area of support, you can swap to another class (and even change weapons) at a computer terminal that is under your team’s possession at any time.
Are there any differences between playing as Security or Resistance?
Doesn’t seem like it. The factions appear to have some parity with no clear advantage or disadvantage to playing one over the other. Each faction does have its own back story on every map, though, bringing some interesting perspective to the reason they’re fighting.
How many maps are there?
With the game spanning across eight different levels, Splash Damage makes a bold promise that they’ll all be unique. Having experienced Container City, an old shipping dock that’s seen decades of neglect, and another level which featured a multi-level complex, I can assure you these maps are not small.
Is this game for casual or hardcore FPSers?
Brink appears to be a game that you can dive into no matter what kind of a player you are. As with any game, you take away from it exactly how much you put in, and with the depth of gameplay revealed thus far it wouldn’t be surprising for you to be poring over every minute cosmetic detail, stats, skills—all in the name of creating the best character. It is a game that definitely rewards you for playing tcorrectly and with sufficient skill, while still being accessible to the type of player that looks for a game to jump in and out of.
Developer: Splash Damage, Ltd
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Available On: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Battlefield Bad Company 2: Liked
Halo Reach: Loved
Call of Duty Black Ops: meh
Team Fortress 2 never got into
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