E3 2009: Brink Preview - Our Surprise of the Show

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Brink is the latest title from Bethesda, created in partnership with the British studio, Splash Damage. The British based studio are more commonly known for creating Enemy Territories for id Software for the PC (not to be confused with the tepid ET:Quake Wars on the 360) which has just celebrated its 6th birthday and currently has over 1 billion games recorded. The futuristic first person shooter, due in spring 2010, takes place in 2035 aboard the Ark, humanities’ last refuge against the rising water levels, and its story revolves around two factions, the Resistance and the Security, both fighting aboard the Ark for different reasons holding different beliefs and motives in an escalating conflict.
The story can be played from either viewpoint and has a creation system that seems nearly as robust as Realtime World’s APB, as previewed earlier today, but not quite. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty impressive. Splash Damage’s CEO, Paul Wedgewood, talked about the robust creation system and stated how important they thought it was that every player had their own unique identity (wow, déjà vu!). You can shape your character to suit their combat role with the body type even affecting the gameplay, but whether you choose to specialise in the combat, engineer, or the support classes, doesn’t mean you’re tied to one class from then on. The game offers you plenty of chance to change that using dock stations dotted around various levels.

The first part of the walkthrough took us to the Ark airport which has been deserted for over 20 years. The main purpose of starting here was that Wedgewood could demonstrate the SMART technology from within the game. SMART, standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain (good ol’ Bethesda Marketing), is simply a button from within the game that allows your character to access some pretty nifty Mirror’s Edge style moves so that you can get from A to B with relative ease. The technology is simply and reacts to where you are looking when the button is pressed, for instance, on the walkthrough the SMART button was used to navigate an airport metal detector – the first time by looking up at the top of it and the player jumped over it, and the second time, looking at the ground and they slid under it. I think you could say, simple, yet effective.

Whatever side you choose in Brink, you’ll be thrown into a heavily driven narrative story where what you do to advance your side’s progress is entirely up to you. Of course choosing sides means different experiences thus adding to the longevity of the title which is always welcomed. Players in-game, get the chance, via a wheel interface, to select objectives to further the success of their team and can even choose the objectives entirely based on the XP earned, as demonstrated on the second area of the title – Container City, the dockyard of the Ark – once a posh area, but now, a mere shanty town.

Wedgewood was playing the side of the Security plagued with the task of finding a dirty bomb hidden deep within the Resistance’s hunting ground. This initial part of Container City demonstrated the dynamic objectives that are totally dependent on your class, which of course you can change at strategically placed consoles throughout the city. The first objective selected was under the guise of a recon operative so they were tasked with locating and interrogating an enemy operative posted behind enemy lines. Sometimes, the game will essentially bribe you to change class with a big XP boost for doing certain things, but of course, the choice is still yours and you can choose to snub the big XP reward for changing class to stay as you are. Generally though, the changing of classes will be in the best interest of your team and your mission advancement, so it wouldn’t be wise to pass it up.

The emphasis on the SMART button and the objective based combat essentially means that Brink will be a total on-foot and ground combat experience, so expect no vehicles. However, with the beautiful world you’re thrown into, who’d want to drive when you can walk everywhere and soak in the almost cel-shaded scenery – it’s a truly great art style. Everything visually about the game screams class; from the sparse virtual texturing, the detailed characters with high polygon count, to the large and vivid environments. Simply put, Brink is a bloody beautiful sight to feast your eyes upon.

Brink also sets about to blur the distinction between single player, co-op and multiplayer as the game features drop in, drop out co-op and multiplayer support. The game can take up to 8 players online as a team, but if it’s just you and 3 mates, the AI will assume control of the other 4. The multiplayer works on a similar basis, but instead of facing off against a computer driven AI squadron in the game’s narrative, you’ll face a team of up to 8 human controlled players. Essentially, you’ll be playing the exact game throughout all three modes but with different opposition and support every time. It surely is a noble idea if it can be successfully implemented and it’s a technique that will increase the replayability of the title to the nth degree.

The key to success online is surely to establish a harmony in your team by having a good balance of different classes, but the game doesn’t force you to take that stance and all 8 players can choose to adopt the same class if they so wish. What will happen then though, is that the dynamics objectives may reward a huge boost in XP to those that change class and take on different objectives. Then, as your team mates change classes, the dynamic objectives will change once again to reward you to support the new classes, as selected by the objective wheel. For instance, if you change from a soldier to an engineer and you take on the task to repair the crane for 500 XP because it will advance the escort mission (this is an actual mission by the way), then your teammates will be given the task of protecting you whilst you repair the crane with both groups earning points for different tasks and helping the success of your overall objective. The best thing is, if you can’t be bothered with all that, you can simply press up on the d-pad and you’ll be given the best suited objective to get involved with. Choice plays a very big part in the game and what you essentially end up doing.

Bethesda MD Sean Brennan was quoted earlier on this year as saying that Brink will be a “genre-breaker” and “a real killer app,” and whilst it’s way too early to even think about, or comment on that, what we do know is that Brink looks beautiful and intrigues the hell out of us, even at this early stage. Throw in the SMART technology, dynamic objectives, and the blur between the three traditional game modes and we have to say, it sure is shaping up to be a great game. Let’s just hope that Splash Damage and Bethesda can stay on track now and when spring 2010 rolls around, we should have a shooter of epic proportions on our hands.

Brink is set to drop around spring 2010 on Xbox, PS3 and PC.


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Game Info


US May 10, 2011
Europe May 13, 2011

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