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Brink Gamescom 2010 Hands-On Preview

When GameOn first saw Brink at E3 2009, the title was looking promising with an unusual concept and some interesting gameplay mechanics. The game promises to combine the acrobatic parkour elements of Mirror's Edge with the class-based combat of Team Fortress 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Catching up with this ambitious multiplayer first-person shooter at gamescom gave us the chance to test out the action for ourselves.

Brink

Brink's stylised visuals are immediately distinctive and are reflected throughout the game, from the various menu and equipment screens to the fast-paced combat itself. To begin with, you create a character that is used across each of the game's different modes. The robust customisation options available allow you to alter virtually each aspect of your physical appearance, from large muscular brawlers to spindly, agile free runners. Your character's size and weight will have an impact on a variety of in-game abilities, forcing you to choose physical properties which best suit your play style. Heavier built characters will be able to use the bigger, more powerful weapons but as a trade-off will have a slower movement speed. By contrast, a smaller character can climb further and move much faster, allowing you to easily flank opponents.

Brink

Experience points earned during matches can be spent on a plethora of new items, including weapons. From a menu screen you can easily view your armoury and can quickly compare the different statistics that each gun has, enabling you to choose the most appropriate tool for each mission. The range of different firearms on offer was impressive, with a healthy selection of sub-machine guns, assault rifles and shotguns, with every gun possessing different strengths and weaknesses. With such a large collection it could be difficult to balance these weapons, but Splash Damage has aimed to make each feel distinct and significant.

Brink

Alongside customising your character's appearance and load out, it is also possible to select a handful of different abilities, similar to the perks from the Call of Duty series. These are picked for each of the game's 4 different classes: Engineers, Soldiers, Operatives and Medics, with more perks unlocked as your character reaches the higher levels. While there was only a handful to choose from for each class at this early stage, they all seemed to add another level of tactical choice to the gameplay. Most perks give the player the opportunity to further cater for different play styles such as choosing whether to sacrifice some offensive capabilities for more healing power as a medic.

Brink

Once our character was set up and ready to go, we jumped straight into one of the game's missions. Brink is set on the world's last remaining floating city, known as The Ark, which is now vastly overpopulated and on the verge of a massive civil war between the security forces and a group of rebels. The game's missions will pit these factions against one another in 8v8 battles with the story unfolding via these skirmishes either online against other players or offline against bots.

Brink

In the first level GameOn played, we were on the side of the Resistance, with the task to fight our way through the Security forces and detonate a bomb. Choosing to begin as a Soldier we concentrated on providing suppressing fire for the rest of our team. A quick check of the objective wheel highlighted that a nearby capture point could be controlled, providing our team with extra healing benefits. Switching class to the sneakier Operative we then proceeded to slip behind the enemy lines and harass the enemy using hit-and-run tactics. Here the much talked about SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system came into play, which really has an impact on how you fight. By pressing and holding one of the controllers shoulder buttons you activate SMART, which places your character into a sprint when on flat ground. However, when you near obstacles the system automatically moves your character over them, while still giving you the ability to fire. At first this is a little difficult to get used to, but after some use it is surprisingly intuitive and allows you to focus on attacking.

Brink

Using SMART it is possible to sneak in behind groups of enemies, throw a few grenades and pepper them with some sub-machine gun fire before escaping by vaulting over railings to the floor below. After pushing the Security forces back, the objective wheel indicated that I could earn the most experience, and therefore be the most useful to my team, by switching back to Soldier in order to plant the bomb. It is a tad unusual in a class-based shooter to be constantly changing roles outside of a respawn timer, but it encourages players to work as a team. Once the bomb was planted the rest of the Resistance forces gathered together and we had to repel the enemy team as they attempted to defuse it. This proved to be very tense and our team was only saved thanks to some timely revivals and healing from several Medics.

Brink

In our second mission we were given the opportunity to test out the level we were shown at E3 2009. In this level Security we were tasked with escorting a robot through a Resistance-infested dockyard in order to gain access to a mysterious container. The action was much more frantic, with the fighting clustering around the droid and the surrounding corridors. With a larger level, spanning both the streets and upper walkways it was essential to use SMART to gain a height advantage and an element of surprise over the enemy forces. Initially playing as a Medic proved difficult as keeping teammates alive under a constant barrage of fire was a constant challenge, but it proved to be a rewarding experience.

As our time with Brink came to an end, the title definitely shows a great deal of promise. Being worked on by a UK developer that clearly understands what makes multiplayer games entertaining and enjoyable is certainly a good sign. While the SMART system looks polished and refined already, the customisation options might require a little more work. Throughout the two missions we played, while it was never difficult to identify enemies, it was always hard to know whether you were fighting a Soldier or an Engineer. This is always an important element of any class-based first-person shooter and something that made games like Team Fortress 2 very distinctive. With such a large degree of variation provided by the plethora of customisation options, it is hard to see how this will be possible.

However, just as the mission was about to end we managed to clamber over a series of large crates and found ourselves stood behind a cluster of enemies. Equipping a petrol bomb and hurling it towards them left no one standing and our screen covered in experience points. Brink is already showing a lot of potential and there is still plenty of time for Splash Damage to refine and tweak the experience before its release early next year. With some interesting new ideas and a very different style of campaign this could well be one to watch in 2011.

evilgiraffeman | 22nd August, 2010

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