[PAX Prime 2010] Brink Hands-on

It may not be coming until next year, but Brink already looks ready for primetime.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: September 10, 2010

During E3, our head honcho had a little hands-on time with Brink, the upcoming shooter from Splash Damage and Bethesda Softworks. If you donít know the basics of what itís about, take a look at his coverage, here, wherein Sam describes key concepts like the persistence across modes and the SMART system. At PAX, Aram and I had the chance to dig a little deeper into the game with a 4 on 4 match on the show floor. I hope our credibility isnít damaged by the fact that we got our asses handed to us.

The particular battle scenario in which we participated revolved around an unmanned ground vehicle which our team had to escort along its predetermined path, while the other team was there to impede our progress. The engineer class was especially important here, as it is the only class that can repair the vehicle when it takes too much damage to keep trundling along. The engineer can also place turrets and buff the weapons of friendly players. A nice touch in Brink is that all of the buff-type abilities can be applied to oneself, the absence of which is fairly common and often mystifying.

We struggled for inches of progress in what became an absolute meat grinder at various choke points. Damage is more brutal than has become the norm, so players go down very quickly, making it very important to maintain situational awareness and use the environment. Thanks to the SMART system, itís easy to find new routes and vantage points, and to slide out of harmís way. Combat is very dynamic, and it should be even more crazy with players who have had a chance to acclimate to the gameís unique movement. Thereís a lot going on between all the vaulting and sliding and ducking and sprinting and the various class abilities, but the controls are so expertly done that itís intuitive and smooth. The action is intense and simply feels great, which is pretty damn important in a game thatís built around constant conflict.

This never-ending violence takes place in an interesting world. The Ark, a formerly pristine arcology floating on the sea (which due to overpopulation now feels a bit like the Raft in Snow Crash), is a striking place to have a battle. Itís a high tech utopia with a corrugated metal shanty town bolted on top, and itís beautiful. The highly customizable characters have an exaggerated hyperrealistic look that isnít quite like any other game. (As good as Brink looks though, itís worth noting that it does step pretty far into teal and orange territory.)

Going into this session, we already knew that Brink looked good and had a lot of interesting ideas, but it was exciting to see that itís all coming together so very well. Splash Damage has worked on a bunch of cool stuff in the past, but this is their first entirely original creation, as all of their past works have been connected at some level to id Software. This is a major chance for them to prove something, and judging by the long lines at PAX to get in the game, theyíre well on their way to doing just that. The parent company of Brinkís publisher may own id now, but Splash Damage are on their own.