PAX 10: On the Edge With Brink

brink1_1417596cWelcome to Brink, the beginnings of a civil war. It’s human nature to be destructive creatures, and, even in the future, nothing changes. Brink presents us with a unique take on what a civil war would be like in the future, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

This multiplayer title from Splash Damage and published by Bethesda is heavy on co-op and doesn’t fail to impress even those of you who think you know co-op team shooters.

It’s an eight-person co-op that pits one team against another or against an eight-man AI. One team is police, one is the “bad guys.” Each team has a mission objective that must be achieved while a clock ticks down. The police objective usually revolves around doing something “good” (like infiltrating a bad-guy hideout or saving a biological warhead from being captured), while the bad guys’ have a similar but antagonistic objective (like defend said hideout or steal said warhead).

There are four classes to play, each with its own unique abilities and bonuses. Assault, Medic, Engineer and Infiltration were the class types shown at PAX, but at the beginning of the match, our classes were chosen for us. Players must be familiar with the class they’ve chosen because the game is heavily based on team play and communication. We’ll get to more of this later.

I exclusively played only an engineer, though players can change classes mid-match as the battle goes on, because the game loaded me as one and I wanted to get a strong feel for a single class.

The engineer had some unique abilities from the start, like a assault-rifle damage bonus. This bonus was activated by holding the left thumbstick down and waiting to see your gun turn “golden.” The damage upgrade was considerable and I noticed the increase in damage right away. I still didn’t manage to get a lot more kills, but I did manage to learn how to use another special ability: The turret!

Yes, the power of a automatic targeting turret is a phenomenal advance that this class has, and if used correctly, it can be devastating to the other team and provide your side with non-stop suppressive cover fire. As we learned how to run and aim, along with turret deployment, I figured out what my purpose in life was (at least in the game) and that was to repair a robot so it could cut through a wall and allow us to grab a bio-weapon and secure it.

I died a lot.

Let me say that again — I died so much my kill-to-death ration was probably in the o.2 range. The other team had a distinct advantage that we noticed from the start based on some bad balancing within the game. Cover in the demo map was so plentiful for the the opposing team that they were able to spawn-camp our side for a minute or two.

On the plus side, some of the designers we spoke with explained that, because of their experience seeing Brink in action at PAX, they planned to tweak the game to do away with that overwhelming advantage.

A small annoyance but necessary part of the game was the respawn points. When you die, you respawn in the same area at the beginning of the map. Brink doesn’t have squad spawns or unique forward-spawn spots, which means if your team is wiped out, you all start at the beginning point. This may suck because the way the map we played is designed, if one team has a superior cover advantage, the other team can never advance.

In the end, we got the robot moving but at the cost of too much time trying to beat back the defenders so we could get to it so we lost. Damn, I really hate losing, but that wasn’t why I was playing today.

Brink also presented the Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain, or SMART, system. Once you engage this system, it figures out your movements and allows the game itself to do the logical thing to streamline movement. For example, if you run up to a box, the SMART system figures out that you probably want to vault yourself over the box and doesn’t require you to hit a “jump” button.

The game was designed for you to continuously be moving, running, shooting, and working together all at once. The SMART system allows you to climb walls, jump over boxes, and slide to dodge headshots all by holding down the left bumper. Think Assassin’s Creed mixed with Mirror’s Edge but the only button you push to jump and climb is the bumper, and you can still shoot!

Yeah, that’s cool.

Does this help you aim? Is it like the Fallout’s VATS system The answer is no to both. ts entire purpose is to make your life easier while you are moving through the map.

Lastly, Brink boasts a ton of character customization. Everyone likes to leave his or her mark on the world, be it the devastator who kills everyone (and who you end up yelling at until your voice goes hoarse) or the player who dies the least because they snipe or just that damn good. Either way, Brink allows you to leave your mark by changing up your character. Face, eyes, hairstyles, tattoos (and you can place those all over), weapons, armor, attachments, and even the style of boots you have on can be tweaked to your preference and make you unique. Of course, you can change the colors of everything as well. Most of the color choices were on the dark side of the color spectrum, so don’t expect to make a bright flashy pink character. That’s got no place in this world of chaos and civil unrest.

Brink was not what I was expecting it to be. Watching it from the sidelines made it seem just like another shooter with some unique changes, but after playing it myself, it was black versus white. The teamwork it offers is awesome. Nothing — and I mean nothing — can be achieved unless there is a massive amount of team effort. There’s no wandering off to get kills for yourself. Either you stand together or you die alone.

This level of critical co-op makes Battlefield Bad Company 2 look like Call of Duty.

Building a game that is based off that concept from the start — all I gotta say is CoD players beware: You won’t be winners here. This is where men come out to play and the boys return to their abandoned buildings in look-alike Afghanistan. Yeah, take that to the bank and bite me.

Splash Damage/Bethesda
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows
Available Spring 2010

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