On the Brink...

So...you're looking at the resume of developer: Splash Damage, you can see that they've made a lot of team-based shooters in the past and now...they're partnered up with Bethesda Softworks to offer an interesting spin on the likes of Team Fortress 2. Brink is a game that could be described as Borderlands, meets Mirror's Edge meets Team Fortress 2 and has a lot going for it. This little spotlight just scratches the surface of the game and attempts to highlight some of the things that Brink has on offer compared to other genre shooters.

It's built to be your game, right from the get-go the experience of Brink is aimed at fun and customisation for the player. There are tons of things you can customise and the game has various body types that will allow the player to choose the kind of weapons they want to carry. If you make a hulking big brute, then the mini-gun that you've always wanted is right there for you to use. You're not going to be zipping around all Gun-Kata Ninja like though; you're going to be confined to a slower movement speed and so on.

If you choose a smaller body type then you're going to zip around and be able to fully use S.M.A.R.T. (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain), which is a one-button parkour system that lets you climb, slide, leap and navigate with a single modifier. This is probably one of the most game-changing features in a shooter like this, the ability to get to locations that are otherwise blocked from other shooters.

Since Brink is a team-based role shooter, you have 4 defined roles.

• Soldier: The really front-line badass, you have some of the best armour, the best weapons and you can dish out and take a lot of punishment. It's time to throw out some high explosives and own the battlefield against everyone else.
• Operative: The spy, the sneaky one, capable of disguise and sabotage. This is the kind of class that makes a great use of S.M.A.R.T.
• Engineer: The defence turret guy, the support repair guy and the general guy who totally looks after the team's equipment. Placing down guns that can be manned by other players for example, as well as building other devices.
• Medic: The team always needs one of these; they get you up and back into the fight. The Medic can buff other players and has a variety of smaller support roles.

If you're thinking these classes are similar to those found in Team Fortress 2, well, yes they are. There's always room in the game industry for more than one type of game, and class, otherwise we'd all be playing Call of Duty Snipers until the cows come home.
Splash Damage has also taken the time to look at presenting the player with a lot to do during the game, so they have a Mission Radial which is a nice chunky radial menu with various objectives listed around it with their XP rewards. The top one is always the prime objective but there can be numerous other sub-objectives for you to complete. It also supports levelling up, picking new equipment choices at the next level and lots of things to unlock.

It is however a dynamic mission system, which works on a number of factors and variables depending on your loadout, your class and what you're doing at the moment. It's deeper than this. Another contextual element that's used real time are voice communication, people will call to you, in the character voice to let you know what's going on and give an extra level of awareness for the battlefield. The same goes for orders from High Command for either the Resistance or the Security forces.

When quizzed about the AI, Splash Damage has given a lot of positive comments. They wanted the single player, sans net connection to be able to enjoy the game as well. So they spent a lot of time on the AI making it play the game autonomously, use special abilities based on the player level (and their own) and support the various game modes with solid AI behaviour. So the single player still gets all of the narrative, the cut-scenes and the gameplay along with the online players.

The game is also structured to be able to seamlessly move between co-op and adversarial, single player or online. It will slot players in and replace players that leave with bots, so the game won't break if a few players drop mid-mission due to various reasons. It will support a full squad of 8 players per side in the game as well, so that's a lot of co-op play right there and that is cool in my book, since I really do like co-op more than deathmatch or adversarial play.

It has full drop-in, drop-out cooperative support as well, so this really keeps the whole thing flowing smoothly. AI have also been taught to handle their role, but they will use priority so for example...if you're down and you need a medic, the AI may decide that you aren't as important as the guy who is completing an objective and needs to be brought up before you are.

Brink is shaping up to be a real contender in the field of online shooters, especially in terms of playability and new features. It has the sense of fun that you want from a game and enough customisation and deep role use that it makes sense to play as part of a team. If there's one game that stands to topple Team Fortress 2 from is lofty team-based objective-based role perch...it could well be Brink. Of course, there's always room in the game industry for both games and I'm sure many of us will play them both for their different strengths and weaknesses.

Look for our full review when Brink comes out on May 10th US and everywhere else May 13th. That's right; it's being released a week early!