Published on February 28th, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey
Brink: The Last Online Shooter You’ll Need?
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Developer: Splash Damage
Release Date: May 17 (North America), May 20 (Europe/Australia)
To accomplish something that I couldn’t on the spot, if I could sum up Brink in one sentence it would be this: Brink is an objective-based first person shooter featuring high levels of customization and an evolved movement system in co-operative style team-against-team multiplayer.
Coming from Splash Damage, the talented minds behind the Enemy Territory games, Brink is heralded as the evolution of online multiplayer shooters. Lead Writer Edward ‘BongoBoy’ Stern said that Splash Damage took everything that worked with their Enemy Territory games plus ideas from other online shooters and reintroduced them into Brink. But don’t make the mistake by thinking that Brink is nothing more than a rehash of other games. No, the goal of Splash Damage was to take the best elements of online shooters and make them even better. Brink is the collaboration of the best elements of its genre, evolved to create the most complete online shooter to date.
Am I going too far to come out and label Brink as the last online shooter you’ll ever need? Possibly, but after some hands-on time with the game I now know what players should expect when Brink hits shelves in just over two months.
For those who don’t know the story, Brink is centered on two factions, in a civil war as they fight for control of the Ark, a massive city floating over the vast oceans of a flooded Earth (an inconvenient plot?). The Resistance fights against Security forces in order to survive on the heavily over-crowded city.
When popping into Brink for the first time, gamers will be introduced to the deep customization screen. Now, when it comes to some games I am all about customization and I’m happy to report that Splash Damage pulled out all stops when it came to offering complete control over the look of the characters. Besides the typical face customization, you can also choose three body types, Light, Medium and Heavy, plus a voice which is shown as a list of the names of the actual voice actors, just in case one of your favorite vocal actors is featured in the game. There are a lot of clothing options to choose from and players can mix and match anything from shoes to pants, shirts, jackets, hats, masks and more. The initial amount of options is limited when starting out, more becomes unlocked as you gain experience points during matches.
The character created is a base to be used for both factions. Players can spend time customizing the Security version of their character and at the press of a button can customize their look for the Resistance. Security forces are basically the cops of the Ark and their outfits match that mindset. From riot gear to army boots and helmets, Security goes to battle in the kind of fancy high-tech gear that would make any owner of a military surplus store blush. The Resistance, as a contrast, seems to make due with whatever gear they can use. They are the guerrilla fighters of the Ark, dressed in baggy pants, jackets, baseball caps and face masks.
Every piece of equipment offers many choices in color, just in case you want to go with a theme. I decided to go with black, green and dripping red. It felt natural.
Players will also have a large selection of hair styles, facial hair, scars and tattoos. A word of warning however, features that are permanent in real life are permanent in Brink as well. That means if you choose a tattoo for your character, you better make a good choice because there’s no going back. And if you want your character’s face to look like it lost in a close battle with a blender full of razor blades, be sure that’s what you want before you click accept.
Brink is a team-based shooter that revolves around two teams accomplishing set objectives in respective game types in order to win. The first map I jumped into—after spending so much time in customization that Splash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood had to graciously intervene—was called Container City, the slum district of the Ark. I went in with several others on the Security forces. As I went in, I held up on the d-pad which displayed a circular list of objectives. The main objective is color-coded yellow and holding another button switches your focus toward its location. Each side has to complete a series of objectives in order to be victorious. My first objective was to rush toward a security gate and blow it open by setting timed charges. An oldie but a goodie.
I darted forward, the SMART movement system allowing me to hop and skip around and over any obstacle in my path like the most experienced of parkour runners. I rounded the corner and took aim at some Resistance members guarding the gate. After thinning the herd a little, I ran toward the glowing gate and set the charges. To keep it fair, the opposing team is given a minute to regroup, fight back and defuse the bomb, halting the progress of the invaders. We made it through the gate and a new objective flashed on the screen. This time it was to guard a large robot which moved on tank treads. I took the opportunity to go hunting instead. Racking up kills earns experience points that can be used to level up, unlock new character customization options and purchase new parts for weapons.
After a couple minutes of teaching fools lessons, Bongoboy rounded on me and explained that I was doing it wrong. Brink is a game that is focused on objectives, he told me. Sure, if you want to run around and kill enemies the entire time you can certainly do that, however, completing objectives will be far more rewarding. Heeding his advice, I held up on the d-pad and located the slow-moving machine. After running to it and taking out a couple of Resistance slackers I noticed that my act of protecting the robot from enemy forces and staying by its side brought a lot more experience points in mere seconds than what was granted by the enemies I recently killed.
When developing Brink, Splash Damage wanted to make a game that rewarded gamers who played to support the team and ensure its success. BongoBoy explained how being a true team player will grant far more rewards and satisfaction than being a solo player. Another way to accomplish this is by utilizing your chosen class to assist your allies. You can choose to be a medic, a soldier or an engineer. The soldier can view the current ammo count of allies. At the press of a button, a soldier can toss ammo packs to replenish allies. The medic can view the health of allies and heal those needing it the most. The medic can also toss a health syringe to those who fall in battle, and it will be the choice of the downed player whether to use the syringe or not.
BongoBoy explained that Splash Damage wanted the choice of whether to be resurrected or not to be in the hands of the fallen player. Their logic for this is that maybe the person didn’t want to be rescued, or maybe the person wanted to be on the ground for a little while and wait to an opportune moment to use the syringe. Or maybe the person wanted to respawn with the next wave instead of stupidly spring back up into a hail of gunfire. I suppose such a decision could be made by those who feel that being a bleeding scout to their team would be somewhat beneficial. Of course, that will have to be a quickly made verdict lest an enemy round the corner and decide for the player with a boot to the face.
Holding the left stick for a few seconds will allow the player to use the ability for him or herself, but will grant no experience points. This isn’t always a bad trade-off though. The engineer class can augment ally’s weapons to provide more weapon damage. When I tried out the engineer I found that quickly augmenting my own gun before charging into battle often meant the difference from seeing victory or the respawn screen.
I was quick to notice how good the combat felt. Splash Damage is no stranger to FPS combat, and Brink has been finely tuned to offer some immensely satisfying shooting. I used several weapons throughout the event and I learned that everyone had a different feel, purpose and personality. The assault rifle I began with was great for mid-range shooting, but when things got hectic fast, a quick change to my SMG was all I needed to keep some of the overachievers at bay.
Every weapon can be completely customized much like the characters themselves. Credits earned after games can be used to purchase new scopes, stocks, grips, barrels and more. Paint jobs are also available to add that special look to complete your personality.
Besides weapons, credits can also be used to gain new abilities for your character. The categories: Universal, Soldier, Medic, Engineer and Operative-each has a list of different abilities that can be purchased. For example, if you think your character needs more defense, upgrade to extra Kevlar. Or if you’re going the engineering route, be sure to grab “Gear Head” which increases the speed in which you build and repair turrets. There are a lot of options, so choose wisely.
Going back to combat, I noticed something rather odd about the effectiveness of the grenades. I started out with two different types of grenades, one the standard frag and the other a Molotov cocktail. Once while I was playing, I rounded a corner to see four guys grouped together and instinctively I chucked a grenade, preparing to clean the mess and giggle as I ran over their twitching remains. However, something went awry as my perfectly arced grenade hit the ground, went “BAM!” and the bad guys simply—fell over. Then got back up, looking about as bewildered as I know I did. So what’s the deal?
Like a spear of light piercing the haze, it’s BongoBoy to the rescue!
He explained to me amid my protests of “hax” that Splash Damage made the conscience decision to dial back the awesome and devastating power of grenades in order to force players to use skill over grenade spamming in order to win battles. This is the antithesis to what most shooters in my playbook have been like. In my experience it has always been “grenade, grenade, shoot survivors, steal their grenades.” A modern shooter where throwing a grenade at an enemy creates a similar reaction as if I tossed a large spider at him, while only damaging a little is a foreign concept, at least to me. It’s something that a lot of grenade-happy shooter fans will have to adjust to. Sorry, Halo fans.
I only briefly mentioned the SMART system before but I’ll explain it a little more. SMART, or the “Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain” system, allows players to maneuver around and over obstacles in the way. Simply by activating sprint, you can leap over objects and scale short walls with ease. I had a lot of fun playing with the SMART system trying to figure out its versatility and I have no doubt that many players will be doing the same when the game is released. Pressing “duck” while sprinting will cause you to slide across the ground. You can still fire while sliding and you can slide into other players, knocking them over and giving you an easy target.
As a nice cap off to the event, Paul Wedgwood decided to show off a map that no one has seen before. We joined the new game in progress, happy to be among the first outside of Splash Damage to play on the map called SEC Town. SEC Town is a visually impressive map, set at an orange-red dusk. The map features a wide, winding, shallow river that cuts vertically through some of the map. As a member of the Resistance, it was my job to ensure that our slow-moving bot moved through river to the other side. I took advantage of the many low-hanging bridges that ran horizontally over the river. The map was perfect for my long-range rifle, and I was able to pick off my share of Security bozos on the floor below. In my final act before the game ended, I mined a security panel while waiting for a person with security clearance, our final objective, to appear. He did, my mines took out a few overzealous players and I ran out of ammo, but the event ended with a hard-earned win.
I suppose I have come to the part where I should answer the question on whether Brink is the online shooter to define the online shooter. I’ll be honest, when I left the event I felt that I was neither overly-impressed nor disappointed by what I experienced. Splash Damage is making a game designed with the best elements of online shooters in one package. The real innovative feature is the SMART system, which is pretty fun in its own right. I don’t say this to cast shadows, however, the game itself was a blast to play and all I wanted to do after leaving the event was to turn around and ask for an extension.
While I can’t say for certain with only a couple of hours of real experience, I can say that I’m confident that Brink will be a game that shooter fans can really lose themselves in. I, myself, can’t wait to get my hands on the game and put it through its paces. But because my time with Brink was short, I’ll withhold the answer to that question for the time being. In just over two months Splash Damage’s ambitious title will hit store shelves, and it will be then that we will all know if other online shooters will remain worth playing.
I’d like to thank Bethesda and Splash Damage for the event and the hospitality. I would also like to thank Splash Damage Lead Writer Edward “BongoBoy” Stern and CEO Paul Wedgwood for demonstrating their fun little game and being such good sports.