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Preview: Brink

7 player super FPS, previewed here.

Out of all four games being presented throughout this event, Brink is probably the best known. We have already been treated to several game play videos as well as CGI trailers and its style is also well-known. On this occasion we were treated to some never-before-seen game play utilising the MP aspect of the game, which can be offline or online.

Brink looks set to become a pioneering FPS if it can pull off all of its features – and judging by what was demonstrated, it shouldn’t have any problem doing that. With drop-in and out for up to 7 players, it’s also set to become a massively co-operative game.

The characters within Brink are very distinctively styled and this uniqueness is a great compliment to the numerous features that you will be given control of. You can create several different characters from scratch and maintain them throughout the game. Mission successes will grant you with XP points which you can use to upgrade certain skills as well as purchase new outfits and items. During the game you can switch between different character types. The differing body types allow for different styles of game play. Choose the heavy frame for strength and resilience and the expense of speed and agility or choose the skinny type for more agility and speed at the expense of being able to carry larger weapons.

The agility aspect of each character type is quite important depending on how you wish to play the game. Using a clever movement mechanic known as SMART (Smooth Move Across Random Terrain), you will be able to find multiple paths to your destination. SMART also cuts out any frustration that comes with moving from one place to another and even allows you to scale up and over objects to dodge any unwanted confrontation. Anything that looks like it can be climbed…can be climbed. The directional indicator at the top of the screen will adapt to your position and choose the best route on the fly.

There are two different storylines to Brink – one as play through as refugees and one as you play through as security. Each will have their own story and cinematics. For this presentation the game was being played through as a refugee.

There are several classes to choose from such as Medic, Engineer, Soldier and Operative. You can swap between these as and when you so wish and obviously each class come with its own skills. Choose the medic and you can ‘buff’ your allies and keep everyone healthy. The medic was described as the ‘hero of the battlefield’ and as such you will be rewarded with the ability to self-revive. The Operative class deals with the stealthy side of the game. You’ll be able to hack terminals and attach homing beacons to enemies of particular interest in order to track their movements. But you aren’t tied to any of these if you don’t want to be. There are several universal abilities that will aid you in combat regardless of how you are playing.

Each level will provide you with several objectives and you can pick and choose which ones you want to do. The very simple, yet brilliantly designed, interface will present you with all of the missions available at any given time and all you need to do is select the one you want.

The weapons of Brink are stunning; not only in textures and look, but also in sound and feel. They rival Black in terms of the noise they generate and just looking at them in the weapons menu gives a real sense of weight and power. The weapons are another aspect of the game that are customisable. You can mod your guns with scopes, magazines, grips, muzzles and more and create a very impressive arsenal. The weaponry of the refugees will differ from that of the security. They will look different, feel different and sound different depending on how well they are maintained. You can also mod your secondary weaponry, too. Agile characters will only have access to limited number of guns whereas the heavies will be granted the larger more powerful weapons.

All of this customisation can be done during the cinematics. The menus are dynamic, similar to the menus on a Blu-Ray DVD, so you don’t need to wait for something to finish before you can set everything to exactly how you prefer. All of the menus are brilliantly simple.

For this presentation we were shown an area of the Ark called the Reactor. This is a fusion fission reactor that had to be built in order to cope with the ever-increasing population. The story saw refugees trying to take over this reactor and shut it down, which would give them the upper hand.

The level designs and maps are superbly created and Splash Damage have tried to make ‘every map unique.’ This means that there will be several routes open to you so utilise the jump and climb to change your experience. Levels will feature various interactive objects such as terminals and computers, all of which work faster when multiple people work together to activate them.

I’ve already mentioned that you can become an Operative and take a stealthier route but another option is to take on a disguise. If you kill an enemy and aren’t within the field of view of anyone else, you can take their clothes and go unnoticed in enemy territory. This will allow you to sneak into important areas or scout out the safest rout to your destination. The only downside to being in disguise is that you will not be able to fire without losing the illusion.

The enemy AI uses the same mission priorities that you do so they are clever and they are also tough. They co-ordinate their attacks and they find alternative routes if you manage to block yourself off. It looks like Brink is going to offer a real challenge for fans of first person shooters. There are also techniques at work that will hopefully eliminate the problems that many games have suffered from in the past. Each player will be given bonuses for every action they complete which helps out their team or their mission so that it should remain a fun experience with the game at the heart rather than people playing solo and messing up the teamwork aspect.

Brink is built on the id Tech 4 engine although they have re-written a 3rd of it from scratch. The graphics are great, the textures are brilliant and features such as SMART and character classes really do make this game a very exciting title. The voice acting, ambient sounds and big, loud gun effects just add to the overall experience. There is a level cap and you will not be able to max out your level on one play so the game also offers a lot of replay value.

From a personal point of view and as someone who isn’t overly fond of the FPS genre, Splash Damage have created a game that looks like it will very well tempt me back and with all of the talk about its online MP and Co-op modes, it may even tempt me back into playing online – something I haven’t done since Uncharted 2 was released.

Brink is developed by Splash Damage, published by Bethesda and due for release in Fall 2010.

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