Splash Damage is famous for working with id Software on the Enemy Territory series. (They claimed that the first one, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, is still one of the most-played online FPSes, with a billion games played.) However, they've also been fans of Bethesda Softworks and have now gotten the chance to work with the publisher for their new creation, Brink.
Brink sets you on Ark, a vast, artificial floating city that may be one of the last hopes for humanity. Refugees from around the sinking Earth are showing up, and class warfare has broken out between the city security and a large resistance. Few details were presented about what exactly is going on. Further, the same story is actually experienced in single-player and two different online multiplayer modes — PvE and PvP, as it were. If you prefer, you can play the entire plot with players opposing you as they try to advance their plots. You can also play with friends and face the environment, or you can opt to go solo. There is no disconnect in the story or equipment between single-player and multiplayer advancement in this game.
The game is basically a merging of the single-player and multi-player modes from a typical shooter. Your experience unlocks new guns and upgrades, but how you earn it is a little different. You still gain experience from each person you kill, but you can also check an on-screen objectives block, which offers incentives for you to do things that actively help your team.
For example, you might gain experience for being near a bomb-disposal robot that you need to get to a destination, or perhaps, when faced with a hurdle it cannot cross, you instead (or additionally!) will be rewarded for going to one of several stations and switching your character's class to the Engineer, and then going to repair a crane to pull the robot over. As soon as you switch classes, that objective immediately disappears from others' goals and is replaced with bonuses for guarding or supporting you. The opposing team gets directly opposed objectives, so they'll be tasked with trying to stop you and do things that will impede your efforts.
The intent of this, according to the game's designer, was to try and bring the feel of a well-organized clan, like those in the original Quake or top raiding guilds in World of Warcraft, to groups of complete strangers. It'll do this by rewarding the right behaviors with more clothes and more weapons over time, while still offering plenty of options to let players get reasonably creative.
What I also found interesting was Brink's way of handling jumping, vaulting and similar mechanics, as seen in recent should've-been-a-hit Mirror's Edge. The game offers a special button: the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) button. Aim at a point, hold down the SMART button, and if you can get there, the game will automatically do so, sliding and climbing as necessary. In one example, they showed an airport security scanner with alarm-tripping lasers. By aiming at its foot, you slide under the lasers. By aiming atop it, you climb on top. By aiming at the fence behind it, you run right through and trip off the alarm. You still have to think before using the button, but it combines several related buttons into a sort of your-context sensitive function.
Brink's graphics and sounds, even in the current alpha state, were remarkably complete. Characters are a bit exaggerated in proportions, a stark contrast to the beautifully sharp environments. There are serious shades of Mirror's Edge sometimes, and it's as gritty as Killzone at other moments while still using a decent palette of colors. The sounds were punchy, and good 5.1 support was clearly already in place. Lots of details still have to be worked out for the game in the long term, but what we've seen so far looks promising indeed.
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