E3: Brink Impressions
It's not often that in two days, we get to see two games appearing in a single as-yet-unexplored sub-genre. But here's Brink, appearing only 24 hours after we're still gouging the dust from our ears from our time in the barren wastes of Borderlands. To say Borderlands has a fight on its hands would be a little unfair because, ostensibly, developer Splash Damage already has it crying on the pavement and screaming for mercy.
Brink centres on a man-made floating city known as Ark, which is made up of many different floating islands. It is on the brink – hence the name – of all-out civil war. It was built as an experiment in green living due to the rise of the oceans in the wake of global warming. The city, populated with the descendents of the original inhabitants, is entirely separate from the rest of the world. Choosing your side in the upcoming civil war, you get to decide Ark's fate.
Brink is a pretty game. Let's put some emphasis on that. Brink made us double-check to see if that was actually a 360 our host was using to show the game on. Twice. Those screenshots do not lie even one little bit.
In style it has a semi-cel-shaded sheen… again, like Borderlands. But Brink just packs one hell of a lot more punch. At its heart it pumps the pure XP electrolytes of a subtle and involving RPG, but to everyone else this is simply a superb shooter.
As well as a vast array of character customisation options, all bar none ensuring your character looks not only individual, but damn cool to boot, players may take part in a range of different game types. Much like Bethesda's already impressive stable of single-player RPGs, there is a huge, involving and brutal single-player experience to be had. But where Brink truly breaks new ground is its ability to allow up to seven of your friends to join in at any time, play along with you, and, if the mood takes them, leave again without interrupting your gameplay.
The level we saw showed not only the startling rust-infused industrial shanty towns of Ark, but also some truly great dialogue and character interaction, none of which encroached on player control.
Once into the fight, players can take on different roles, rather like Team Fortress 2 – soldier, mechanic and so on. But where the game truly hit us for six was in what Splash Damage is calling 'contextual goals'.
No matter where you are in the fight and no matter what your role, a kind of 'mission director' will constantly reassess your goals. Different aims are worth different amounts of XP, the harder the goal the greater the XP reward. Hit a button and a radial menu appears showing which goals are available along with their worth. These encompass everything that may assist to your advantage, from interrogating wounded enemy to escorting battlebots from A to B.
If this system works at even 20 per cent of the level of intelligence and innovation we were shown, players are in for something spectacular next spring. The drop-in-drop-out gameplay and fluid mission structure is unlike anything else and could be exactly what the staid multiplayer shooter genre needs.
Pop this groundbreaking, insane, rusty, industrial FPSRPG bitch into your little black book now. You won't be sorry.