Brink Gets Even SMARTer


If I came away from E3 2010 having only played Brink, I would have considered it a successful show. I absolutely fell in love with the game after last year’s hands-off showing, and waited all year for the chance to actually play the game. It did not disappoint.

Brink takes place on a floating city known as The Ark. It’s sort of the last bastion of human survival in the game’s future world and hotly contested between two groups: Security and Resistance. Security is the jack-booted government types who’ve taken control of The Ark and rule with an iron fist. The Resistance is a rag-tag group of fighters trying to break Security’s hold on the floating city.

The two most exciting aspects of Brink are its unique approach to mission goals and its design philosophy behind single and multiplayer gameplay. Every level in Brink is made up of a series of objectives, some more pressing than others, but each as important as the last. The trick to the system is some objectives are only available to certain classes, requiring players to switch between classes throughout each mission in order to progress.

The concept sounds a bit mundane and “already done” at the outset, but the approach is much different. My biggest pet peeve regarding team-based play is the lack of team-based play. Rather than focus on what’s best of the team, most players tend to worry about individual kill streaks and personal glory. The idea that you have other people alongside you just means you have multiple meat shields and ways to bait enemies. Brink attacks multiplayer in a different way. Characters still earn XP by playing, which they can use to buy upgrades for their character and weapons, though players who are out for Number One will receive less experience than players who play as a team.

Objectives constantly shift depending on what is going on during a game and players will constantly have to switch classes to keep games going. Some will even require help from another class. One objective may require an Engineer to fix a broken structure. Current multiplayer logic, at least when it comes to games I’ve played, would see a group of independent Engineers making a mad dash for the objective. Brink discourages this play style by incentivizing players to take on a support roll, say a Medic, to help back-up the Engineer. This is developer Splash Damage’s way of encouraging players to play as a team rather than a lone wolf.

In the event players need a little more encouragement to switch to a new class, every mission comes with an experience amount. If a certain class is really needed, the amount of experience a player can earn continues to increase. In the previous example, if there are too many Engineers in play, the game may decide to offer a large XP bounty for someone willing to play as a Medic and keep the Engineers alive. In a sense, the game bribes players to act like a team player.

Between games, experience is used to purchase new weapons, upgrades, classes and abilities. Your character is constant across all modes, so anything purchased in one mode is useable in the other. If multiplayer games have taught me anything, players are really just peacocks. We all love to show off our brilliant plumes of feathers earned through days of grinding through games. Nothing says “I’m Awesome” better than a pricey item or monster ability.

Brink’s approach to single-player and multiplayer states that both are one in the same. Both modes share a seamless existence. You can play alone if you want, but if you’d rather have some back up, you can invite a friend or two into your game. There’s even an option to open your campaign to complete strangers if you’d like.

Brink’s SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system is just as exciting as its approach to objective-based gameplay. The actual mechanic is incredibly simple on paper – hold down a button and run towards a gap or another obstacle. Yet, it opens up a number of wild strategies. You can slide under objects, leap across massive gaps. Everything is based off what’s in front of you and where it is in relation to your targeting reticule. The system also opens up the possibility for wild jumping shots. You can engage SMART to vault across a few boxes and aim at enemies below you with one graceful motion.

I had a blast with Brink and can’t wait for the final release next Spring. As with any multiplayer shooter, its success will depend on the type of community it is able to attract, but looking at everything the game has to offer, it should gain a healthy following.

Bethesda Softworks