Hands-On Brink at E3 2010

We Team Up with Creative Director Richard Ham

June 17, 2010 by

One of the best new titles we saw at this year’s E3 was an innovative first-person shooter called Brink. Developed by Splash Damage, the same studio behind Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Brink takes place about 30 years in the future on the Ark, a man-made floating city hovering on the tipping point of all-out civil war between two factions, the Security and Resistance forces. Having closely followed Brink since last year’s E3, we made sure to get our hands on it this time around and had a chance to play an alpha version cooperatively with Splash Damage’s Creative Director Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham.

Unlike most shooters on the market today that only allow for little to no customization, Brink starts out by allowing a player to fully do so with his or her character. The most important choice is which faction to fight for, but that’s just the beginning of Brink‘s advanced customization, with players also being able to fine-tune the size and look of their character by selecting from a wide range of body types, skin tones, hair styles, tattoos, and even allowing for a different clothing item to be selected for each body part, such as shirts, pants, and face masks. Certain options are purely aesthetic; however, others like body type affect a character’s strength, speed, and even weapon repertoire.

In addition to being able to choose how your character looks, Brink gives players an upgrade system full of talents which improve and expand gameplay (think Call of Duty perks mixed with Bioshock’s upgrade system). Some notable talents we saw were the ability to keep shooting after being taken down but not killed (similar to Call of Duty‘s Last Stand perk), a camera angle switch to 3rd person for a superior view in certain situations, and health packs that medics can dish out to other players for revival. While this ability is not new to video games, Splash Damage has improved the system by giving players who are being revived an active veto, thus eliminating the exploit opportunity and/or stress created in other games where assholes and stupid players constantly revive you in the middle of fights, just to be gunned down time after time, ruining the fun and spoiling the competitiveness of the game. There were literally pages of talents that we quickly browsed through; unfortunately we didn’t have time to look through them all, but that gives you a sense of how deep Brink‘s upgrade system will be and how endless the possibilities could be.

Looks and perks aren’t the only choices players will have when creating a character; there’s also the option both before and during games to pick from a selection of classes, like the soldier, engineer, and medic — all of which give players the ability to choose their roles based on individual preference or a team’s current requirements. Not only can you change your class at any time during games by visiting a special command post, but each game also has a set of objectives which players can pick from at any time. Some objectives are harder than others and require players to work together in order to achieve success, but they are worth the reward as they can be the difference between winning and losing a game.

Picking from different objectives works similarly to how other shooters use a weapon wheel that allows players to quickly see all the available objectives and instantly switch to whichever they believe is most important. Once an objective is selected, a way-point is set and an arrow appears on the top of the screen, guiding the player to the objective via the shortest possible route. In our hands-on demo we of course played the hardest difficulty and went right for the main objective of planting a bomb in the enemy’s base. Each game has a time limit, but we were able to complete the objective within the last few seconds of the game, forcing it into overtime, when our team had to prevent the bomb from being defused. With some amazing help from the clutch Richard Ham, we can proudly say that we closed that game out in an epic victory rivaling Game 7 of the NBA Finals next door at the STAPLES Center. By the way, we were safe from the riots (thanks for asking).

Another unique feature to Brink is how single-player and multiplayer are combined. There’s no difference between the two modes, allowing for players to either take on an entire campaign solo with bots or online with other players. From what we saw, the bots we played against on the hard setting were very intelligent and masterfully designed. Bots that were downed but not killed would still shoot at us, while medics would rush to try and revive them. To make single-player and multiplayer work together flawlessly, characters created in either mode transfer over between both modes with all the player’s customization options saved.

While Brink has many new features that make it stand out from the rest, the most impressive is an optional traverse system they are calling “S.M.A.R.T.” or “Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain” think Mirror’s Edge and Prototype but simpler and more fluid. Players simply hold down one button to sprint and when approaching an obstacle, S.M.A.R.T.’s autopilot takes over. But don’t think this is like other games where vaulting over tables or climbing walls triggers canned animations because Brink‘s S.M.A.R.T. system allows for all of this to happen in real time while the player is still in control, a feature that is sure to catch on in the first-person shooter genre just as the Gears of War cover system did for its genre.

If you couldn’t tell by this preview, Brink boasts a lot of customization, way more than any FPS we’re ever seen and way more than we could preview within 20 minutes. The game looks absolutely beautiful and with the game still only in its alpha stages, we’re sure Splash Damage has even more tricks up their sleeve, and the game will only get better as it moves through the stages of development. We saw a lot of new shooters at this year’s E3 and one of our favorites was Brink, a game that’s introducing a ton of new features that could revolutionize the FPS genre and is definitely not one to be missed. Check out the HD trailer for Brink below.