- Scribbled on June 6th, 2009 by Jonah Falcon
- Filed in E3, Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Previews, Shooter, Sony PlayStation 3
It’s a cliché, but in this case it just happened to be true: the last game I was exposed to turned out to be far and away the Game of the Show: Brink. There were pretty good games at E3 ’09, including some of the stalwart IPs such as God of War III, Forza Motorsport 3, and Halo 3: ODST. There were the nice surprises like Shadow Complex, Droplitz, Trials HD, and ‘Splosion Man. There were some of the revelations like DJ Hero and The Beatles: Rock Band.
None of them impressed me as much as Brink did.
If you recall, Bethesda Softworks had released a cryptic teaser a few days ago which talked about an Ark, a war and a lot of firefight sounds in the background, but nothing else. It turns out that Brink takes place in the future, on a man-made floating city called the Ark. It was originally a scientific experiment, but when global warming caused the Earth’s oceans to rise, it became a haven for refugees. After twenty-five years, the social unrest has come to a head, pitting two factions against one another – Security and the Rebels.
The game, boiled down to its core genre, is basically a persistant mission-based shooter; that is, sort of a Counterstrike/Team Fortress 2 type of game with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s persistent XP system. The developers, Splash Damage are very familiar with this type of gameplay – they’re the hardcore multiplayer FPS devs who did the Enemy Territory games for Quake and Wolfenstein. In particular, they’re very in tune with what works in a match, what’s annoying, and how to coax players into organizing as a team.
First off is the control scheme. They now have a “S.M.A.R.T.” (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) button that makes life a lot easier, which keeps focus on combat and strategy and off silly obstacles. For example, rather than having to time your jumps over obstacles, you can now SMART button your way over them without having to deal with jump timing; you can still do it “manually”, of course. If you see a metal detector, if you look over the detector and SMART it, you’ll vault over it. If you look down, you’ll slide under the sensors. There is a certain similarity to Mirror’s Edge, but it’s basically to take away needless annoyances, such as getting caught on an outcropping. The other benefit is that there’s no arbitrary obstacles. If you can climb over an object in real life, you can get over it here. There’s no such thing as a 3 foot hedge being a barrier.
Another major part of the game is the XP and context-sensitive mission selection system. Before every mission, players choose their class, such as engineer, scout, heavy and so forth. During the mission, they earn XP for killing enemies, but they can also select a mission goal to earn additional XP through a radial wheel. These missions promise better XP bonanzas for doing jobs that are in context with the class being played and the current state of the scenario. For instance, one mission goal might give a ton of XP to blow open a door to allow teammates easier access to the enemy territory. Mission goals might even give heavy XP to change their class; if an engineer is desperately needed, the game may offer a player 500 XP to change their class at a terminal to engineer, and give additional engineer-based missions from there on. This XP carrot goes a long way towards keeping the cohesiveness of a team of even complete strangers strong.
Finally, the look of the game is amazing, even in its pre-alpha state, using a proprietary engine Splash Damage dubbed “Virtual Texturing”. The Xbox 360 version featured detailed character models that looked like something Pixar or Dreamworks would release these days; CGI modelling with detailed features such as wrinkles and hairs, but stylistic and smooth. The animation is ultra-smooth, and the game just has an overall polish that you normally see in final release candidates.
The game features single player, co-op “player vs. bot”, and competitive campaign game modes, although it might be more accurate to say it has only one game mode – all three versions are the same game, just with different participants. The multiplayer game modes run on the single player campaign, just replacing friendly and enemy bots with live humans; Splash Damage promises AI bots and humans will be indistinguishable during gameplay. In addition, all missions will feature pre- and post-level full cutscenes. It won’t interrupt game flow during multiplayer; they’ll run during part of the loadout screens, so a player won’t be left out if they choose to watch the cutscene during multiplayer gameplay.
Overall, the game is stunning in its pre-alpha state – one wonders what Splash Damage will have created when Brink is polished. This game is a surefire winner, and will seriously challenge Team Fortress 2 for the class-based combat crown. Brink will be released sometime in Spring 2010.