Gun to my head, I have to say that FPS is my favourite gaming genre. All pretensions to an retro SHMUP heritage aside, I'm a massive fan of shooting stuff with as large a gun as possible, so naturally I've been getting worryingly excited about Brink. Splash Damage are putting the finishing touches to a fairly nifty little title- and so it would've been very rude to not stop by Bethesda's booth and try it out for myself.
As you're probably aware, Brink is a team-based FPS that pits Security forces against a team of desperate resistance fighters in a desperate attempt to squash (or ignite) a bitter civil war. Several classes provide nuanced options for even jaded FPS veterans to choose from including beefy heavy gunners, nippy agents (who are more than capable of bushwhacking the opposition by climbing over obstacles), engineers and medics. Most gratifyingly, each class can access almost every weapon and is viable in combat in their own right- but with nifty little abilities that can turn the tide in a pinch. I played as our team's only Medic- and whilst my customised assault rifle ripped through the opposision (more on that later), I was also able to revive fallen comrades and even throw a medicine grenade that heals multiple downed teammates and puts them back in the fight.
The 'S.M.A.R.T.' freerunning mechanic is used to sprint, vault and climb over small obstacles- and works surprisingly well. Holding the left bumper and running forwards causes you to. The agent is capable of enhanced feats of athleticism and speed and can chain jumps between ledges much easier than the other classes. It's a slick way of getting around and provides a nausea-free viewing experience that Mirror's Edge unfortunately didn't quite manage to capture.
The character customisation is impressively deep and well-featured. Even though mein Deutsch is a little rusty, I was quickly able to get the gist of things fairly quickly. Your character (both for the lawkeepers and rebels) can be cosmetically changed in myriad different ways including tattoos, voice packs, faces and clothing. Weapons, are much more exciting, though, and as a bit of a virtual gun nut, I spent an overly long amount of time pimping my beefy machinegun with a decent clip, silencer and scope. New weapons/modifications are unlocked as you gain points and rank up- (and are likely to become a new obsession of mine).
Graphically, Brink is unremarkable. The level on show consisted of drab brown corridors and rusty metalwork, occasionally demonstrating some jaggy edges, mediocre texturing and a little mistyness that may well belie a fairly short draw distance. On the other hand, it ran smooth as silk and felt refreshingly solid even in 8 vs 8 multiplayer. Brink doesn't look bad... and so long as I can kill things without lag or a stuttering framerate, I really couldn't care less about the graphical feature set.
Right, let's talk gametypes. Rather than a straight team deathmatch or capture the flag, the forces of law and order have to escort a large drilling machine through a warren of containers and tunnels. This tracked robot trundles down a set path so long as one or more of the team maintains close proximity... but because 'Container City' is a labyrinth of potential ambush locations, the Security forces have to cover each and every flank in order to defend against sneaky Resistance attacks.
This is where the class system comes into the fore. Security gunners and soldiers need to lay down covering fire for engineers as they repair crane consoles, which will subsequently command a crane to carry the bot over impassable obstacles. The aim of the game was to move the bot to the end of the map and use it to cut into a secured container... but we never got that far. Our engineers were too busy trying out the fun new weapons and grenades to bother repairing the console and things soon became a heated deathmatch to the soothing soundtrack of the announcer screaming "You need more engineers!" Pro tip, that one.
Mechanically, Brink is feeling extremely tight and capable. It might get caught up in the maelstrom of Spring 2011 titles, but with some more colourful environments and unique gametypes this could well be one to watch. Next time, however, I'm going to spawn as a god damn engineer.