It might be coming out at the same time as heavy hitters like L.A. Noire and Duke Nukem Forever, but there’s confidence in the Brink camp that their game will be able to offer something the other big names on the release schedule will not.
While those of you out there in Dealspwn land who’ve played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Quake Wars will feel immediately at home with Brink’s tactical multiplayer stylings, it isn’t what the uninitiated will come to expect from a high profile online affair. And that’s precisely why it’s shaping up to be pretty magnificent.
I say this because I’ve played it, so can report back from a skirmish with a few assembled journalists in the basement of a swanky London hotel. Lined up in rows, we were given a quick overview of what was coming via the exciting new medium of “good tutorial video”.
Thing is, a tutorial is incredibly important in a game that’s a little unusual. You can get away with not having one in a Call of Duty game because it’s very much by the numbers. There’s nothing there to tax you. In Brink, there’s a whole tonne of concepts that you’ll need to familiarise yourself with, and Splash Damage clearly know this, having experienced a backlash after Quake Wars by players who claimed it took too long to figure out what they were meant to be doing and how they were meant to be doing it.
Not this time. There’s a whole section devoted to well-narrated and explained video clips showing you the specifics of all the key areas of the game and some of the more specialised areas too.
The first map we’re treated to is a very typical Splash Damage effort. The attacking team, the security forces, needs to retrieve a briefcase full of critical information that’s being held by the rebels, who in turn have to stop them by any means necessary.
Along the way a range of different obstacles need to be overcome by the attackers, including getting engineers to destroy a large gate and soldiers escorting a vehicle to the next phase of the level. Medics buzz around as the main support class, healing battered allies and tossing revival syringes to downed friends, while Operatives are the doing some of the sneakier things, like hacking and donning cunning disguises.
The latter class isn’t critical to this particular mission, as none of the objectives require them to complete, but each and every class can provide a vital boost to their team at any time. For example, while the soldiers are buzzing around the vehicle, medics buffing them and engineers deploying turrets, the operative can start remotely hacking downed opponents to get intel on their movements on the mini-map.
But how does it play? As mentioned, veterans of previous Splash Damage games will be immediately familiar with the feel of Brink, but it’s also clear that this isn’t the big advantage you’d expect it to be. Everything seems less fiddly and more streamlined than before, making it much more likely you’ll always feel like you’re contributing to your team’s cause in a real way.
Even if you do get confused and need to figure out how you could be helping your team more, there’s the refined objective helper, reconstituted from Quake Wars and made more flexible and, crucially, helpful.
It shows the main objective that’s necessary to win, but secondary class-specific ones can also be highlighted. The maps also appear to be better designed so there are less dead spots where nothing happens and all the objectives seem, from our limited playthrough, to be genuinely worth completing (or defending, if you’re on the other side).
The other map we played involved breaking an important rebel out of prison and escorting him to safety, after a number of other objectives were completed. Evoking memories of the old Counter-Strike VIP missions, it was a tough slog at times, but we got there.
Both maps raise one small issue, however. The ever-present issue of the defenders having a huge advantage is here, and it seems that a more experienced defensive force might be almost unbeatable because of the more streamlined nature of the maps. This is a question for a few months after release, but of course it has to be remembered that as attackers we were also inexperienced, so there’s probably lots of nooks, crannies and shortcuts to investigate that could make the job of ploughing through defensive lines easier. Or, at least, bearable.
Beyond the actual gunplay, which has a distinctive Team Fortress 2 feel at times, Brink’s also going to have an impressive amount of depth, with tons of unlocked weapons to be gained in the challenges and via regular play, while there’s an almost MMO element to the character customisation. While there’s a natural limit to just how unique you can make your character look, you’ll be surprised by how many options there are.
The final question remains whether Brink will have the chops to see off the sales competition and sell well. In terms of quality, I’ll stick my neck out and say that this will be a firm favourite in the Brown household for a long time post-release, but will others be swayed? A strong demo would be a very good idea if Splash Damage and Bethesda haven’t yet decided on one. It might also be a slower burner, accumulating sales over time rather than all at once.
Certainly, the gameplay’s looking more than good enough to warrant a future purchase, and I for one can’t wait to geet my hands on the rest of the maps, guns and challenges. In May, then, you’ll almost certainly find me on the Ark.