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Brink E3 2009 Preview

The first term which springs to mind when faced with Brink, Splash Damage's recently announced title, is integration. The game combines different gameplay elements in new ways which leaves you wondering why on earth no one else has done this before. At E3, GameOn was treated to a preview of two early levels as well as talking to Splash Damage's Senior Game Designer, Edward Stern.

Brink Image 1

Brink is fundamentally a first-person shooter; however this is a serious over-simplification. Alongside the FPS element there are RPG and class-based systems which form core parts of the gameplay and this helps to set it apart from anything else. Yet the real innovation of the title is its unique approach to multiplayer, single player, online and offline components. In virtually every other game these are separate entities: Brink on the other hand combines them.

Not only is the gameplay refreshingly different, the visual design and setting is also very distinctive. The action takes place on The Ark, a floating eco-platform of multiple islands clustered around an enormous tower. Designed as a self-sufficient experiment it became a refuge for much of humanity as sea-levels rose and it became isolated. However, true to its dystopian vision of the future, conflict inevitably broke out forming two distinct factions: Security and the Resistance.

Brink Image 2

Visually the game is striking with an unusual art design that feels realistic but at the same time slightly more colourful. This is reflected in the characters and the environment both of which are at times almost cartoon-like while maintaining a gritty overview. The locations are also fresh, especially for a first-person shooter not taking place in your standard warehouses and sewers. In the footage the action took place in an eerily deserted airport terminal and in a dilapidated and fortified Resistance dockyard complex.

In the first demonstration of the game, Splash Damage showed their system of movement, nicknamed SMART (smooth movement around random terrain). This is more than a fancy acronym and in the footage it seemed intuitive and simple to use. As well as controlling like a standard FPS you can use SMART to help you navigate over objects in the environment. By hitting a button and moving as normal, the system automatically moves you over whatever is in your way. In the demonstration this included mantling over a rail, clambering onto a terminal and jumping over a drop. There is also a degree of control over your actions. By tilting the view down slightly you can choose to slide under an object and by raising it you can choose to climb over it.

Brink Image 3

Splash Damage emphasised that this system is far more than an auto-pilot which moves you around the environment. During the latter portion of the demonstration it seemed to be practical, allowing for characters to vault terrain, slide under gaps and clamber to higher ground all during the frantic bouts of gunplay. SMART looks like it will be important during the combat and will be something other than just an impressive way of getting from place to place.

After explaining their impressive new technology, Splash Damage jumped into a game mission. Players can choose to side with either Security forces or the Resistance and playing as either class will give you different choices as well as a distinct appearance. The campaigns for both sides are very diverse and will be far more than the same missions played from the other side. The campaigns will take place in new areas of The Ark and will feature objective-based class combat with 8 players per side. In a first of its type, the campaign can be played in either single player or multiplayer, online or offline with AI taking over wherever humans aren't playing. 

This means that during campaign missions you can be facing 8 human opponents from your enemy faction with 7 human companions. This integration of both the story and the multiplayer hasn't been attempted before and the system already appears to be strong. Whatever mode you play in rewards you with experience points for kills and completing objectives which are carried over online or offline. Splash Damage were keen to emphasise their desire to get as many people online as possible. The offline modes act as a good starting point to get people used to the experience before taking them online for even more intense combat against real opponents with team mates to back them up.

Brink Image 4

The gameplay itself is team based with a series of objectives to complete which are dynamically generated in game. Whilst there is constantly a set objective for either team, such as to escort a bomb-defusal robot through the level as in our preview, there are also smaller micro-objectives. When you pause the game you can see these as well as the experience rewarded upon their completion.

Either team has access to four classes: the soldier, medic, operative and engineer, all class-based combat staples. At certain points in each level however, one of each class will be needed to progress and changing to certain classes will earn the players greater experience points. This kind of rewards system is designed to encourage people to work together as a team rather than by forcing them to. Dynamically generated objectives are also a mechanic for encouraging players to co-operate with everyone being rewarded for completing different actions.

Experience points can be spent on upgrading your character's skills, weapons and appearance which will act on a level-based system. A robust match-making mode will mean that players will find themselves in games with people of a similar level and will prevent people being outclassed by superior players.

Brink is shaping up to be a seriously impressive title especially when supported by Splash Damage's excellent pedigree in the class-based online multiplayer titles (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars). The title is in development for the PS3, Xbox 360 and the PC and is due for release early in 2010. Personally, I can't wait.

evilgiraffeman | 8th June, 2009
Beanz's picture
"What does Kim Jong-il do to clear his eyes..?"

In a first of its type, the campaign can be played in either single player or multiplier, online or offline with AI taking over wherever humans aren't playing.
a) Slight typo
b) Do you think this will actually work, or will it just disappear like The Crossing did?

Also the links to the article appear to have been truncated.
TimmyShire's picture
I'm really interested in this game now. A very good preview.

I like the art direction of the game and sounds like there's a lot of thought put in. I'll have to keep my eye out for this one.
Rasher's picture
yeah, its a shame i couldn't get to see the preview (cant remember what i was seeing at the time) but giraffe has done it Justis here

This is one of the games i am keeping an close eye on personally and on my buy list already

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