's greatest contribution is the SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) system. Similar to the one-touch technique used in Assassin's Creed
, SMART eliminates the clunk associated with running through maps. With the press of a button, your character can quickly scurry up nearly every obstacle in his environment. It removes the awkwardness of having to jump over obstacles and not quite making it and lets you focus on aiming.
The system also plays a huge part in opening up new paths to objectives. SMART is tied into your character's body type. Light-bodied characters are quicker (and weaker) and can climb walls with all the grace of a radioactive spider-themed superhero, allowing them access to smaller openings most characters will never see. On the opposite end, Heavy types can barrel through levels, but are much slower and have difficulties scrambling over cover. Although this is meant to encourage exploration, it still relies heavily on players actually taking the time to explore rather than simply moving towards the nearest goal on their HUD.
In addition to cosmetic upgrades, your progress is also awarded with weapon upgrades and character perks. Weapon upgrades increase your weapon's performance, such expanding ammo capacity, though others offer character abilities such as quicker swapping of weapons. Character perks offer the same sort of upgrades. Some, such as the ability to shoot grenades, offer whole-character upgrades. Others, like faster repair times, increase specific character abilities.
The level cap is pretty tight to keep players from mastering everything, though I'm still conflicted on the option to redistribute points at any time. As someone who spent hours agonizing over which Perk to pull in Fallout 3, I like the idea that my choices have an impact on how I play. Not everything works out the way it should and part of the fun is learning to make something work despite bad choices. At the same time, I like that you're not penalized for experimentation. Still, it detracts from the game-player connection the game is trying to develop.
Brink is an ambitious title and has the right idea. Unfortunately, I think Splash Damage may be overestimating the player base's willingness to give back and yield to the experience. When everything is working right, Brink is an incredibly enjoyable game. When it doesn't, the entire game crumbles into a directionless mess.