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Hands-on: Brink

The folks at Splash Damage have been making multiplayer first person shooters for years, but their works have come from inherited franchises. Their team-based takes on Quake and Wolfenstein were excellent, but is their own game from top to bottom.

Like most of Splash Damage’s works, Brink is team-based with several different classes to choose from. It also ambitiously mixes parkour, leveling up and a lot of customization. I spent about 45 minutes on the game with a room full of journalists and sampled co-operative action against bots. The game is in the beta stage, and Splash Damage says they’re working on balancing the gameplay in time for the May 17 launch on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

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The first thing I messed around with was all the customization. I made my first character out to be an old geezer in military gear. My characters, voice, clothing and even tattoos can be picked from a set amount of options. New clothing and options can be unlocked by gaining experience points during battles. My second character looked a lot like Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man.

“I could either blast through the enemy’s front gate with my teammates (it was the closest objective) or act like a lone wolf”The most impressive aspect was the way to tweak the weapons. Silencers, different clips and other items change the power, accuracy and ammo capacity of the weapons. The sounds of the gunshots change depending upon the weapon’s modifications, according to Splash Damage.

The level started on a boat akin to those used in D-Day (and the countless video game versions of the battle). The plot involves a battle for a city between professional security forces and the wild-looking resistance. The host’s avatar starred in the cutscene, but my cranky ol’ soldier could be seen in the background, so I felt involved in the plot. The intro was brief and played up the struggles between the two sides. When the boat landed, the level began.

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Right from the start, I could select several different missions on the fly. I could either blast through the enemy’s front gate with my teammates (it was the closest objective) or act like a lone wolf for the missions behind enemy lines. Since I wanted to stick around with my teammates, I went to the front gate.

The freedom of movement isn’t up to the level of Mirror’s Edge – that other parkour game – but it works well while avoiding gunfire or mowing down foes. A “smart button” on the triggers of the controller makes leaping, climbing and sliding an easy one-button affair. Running over walls to flank enemies was a viable action in the heat of the battle, as was running off the side of walls.

The large gate had to be blown up with a bomb. Planting the explosives rendered me defenseless for a few seconds, and after that the game turned to a quick bout of king of the hill, with both sides trying to maintain control of the area. The opposing side sent engineers to defuse the bomb, but they could not pass through our gunfire. We felt good, even though everything was on easy mode.

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One thing I really liked – and this was new to me since I’ve spent so much time playing various versions of Team Fortress – is that none of the classes are underpowered. Whether you’re a medic, soldier, engineer or saboteur, you never have to worry about being totally outmatched by an opponent. The difference lies in their varied abilities.

The medic can buff other players’ health with the touch of the button, and also heal himself. If a character is killed, medics revive them on the spot rather than having them spawn back at the last command point. The soldier aids himself and others with an endless supply of ammunition is the only one who can plant bombs on certain objectives. The engineer, like all great engineers, can set up turrets. They also increase the powers of allies’ weapons and disarm opposing bombs quickly.

The fourth class is the operative, and Splash Damage recommends this for advanced players. This lone wolf can disguise himself as a foe, temporarily reveal the location of all enemies for teammates and track specific opponents with a homing beacon. They can’t increase their own abilities or allies. Special abilities for all classes drains a constantly recharging bar, so there are moments of waiting if skills overused.

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While Splash Damage says they are still working on the balancing, all the classes worked well together in the time I had. After we destroyed the gate, a vehicle had to be escorted to a set location. I hid behind it for cover and blasted the oncoming enemies as a soldier. My allies were quickly expending their ammo, so I reequipped them. When I died, I was revived. The engineer became unlocked when we took over a command post, but it was the only class I didn’t have a chance to play. A second stage shown was an abandoned airport rife with destruction.

At the end of each stage, experience is given based on enemies killed, allies helped and other actions. The best thing about Brink is that it rewards players for playing in different styles. Killing opponents is one thing, but to actually be given experience points for aiding allies and completing objectives is a great incentive to play the game as a team rather than selfishly and recklessly going for every kill. I look forward to playing against actual people. Parkour, shooting and RPG elements make for a great union.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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