Brink – hands-on

A shooter on the cusp of something spectacular

Successful, we gain more XP, level up and earn a credit to spend on an ability (one which allows us a self-revive). Key to the experience, as Splash Damage tells it, is making sure that both new and veteran players know exactly what they’re doing at any given moment. Accessibility is the word they avoid – as Ham insists, “We’re not making Brink accessible to little old ladies.” Instead they’re striving to ensure that no part of the game will be complex enough that it could deter the first-time player.

“A lot of multiplayer shooters are very unforgiving,” explains Ham, “everybody gets thrown into the deep end of the pool and you sink or swim. And a lot of people just drown. If that happens on Brink that’s a failure on our part. We’re working to make sure you won’t come across terrible anti-social behaviour.”

“Voice chat defaults to off,” adds Stern, seemingly overlooking that insults, racism and trolling are as much a part of online gaming as the dedicated servers Splash Damage so cherish. “Why on Earth would voice chat ever default to on? What beautiful world do people live in where that’s a really good idea?”

The objective wheel mitigates that immediate need for voice chat. Anything you choose to do is announced only to the players it might be relevant to, and if further coordination is required it’s a simple task to turn it back on. And it could all change too, with almost a year until the thing’s finished. As it stands Brink feels like a solid FPS, and one astounding in its distinct, detailed visuals and impressive (given the stage of development) sound too. Approach a flashpoint in Container City and the world erupts in a molten cacophony of pings, whips, cracks and fwumps – a sumptuous wall of sound.

What’s becoming clear is the depth and intricacy of Brink’s classes and the ways in which they’ll be able to interact. But harder to put a finger on without some intensive playtime are the systems, tactics and strategies that should naturally form around these class relationships.

Just as concerning is the challenge Splash Damage face in attracting gamers without the familiar tags of Quake and Wolfenstein in the title, or even their own Enemy Territory. Brink is a brave and bold move that’s being made with a refreshing focus at a time when things feel to be slipping in the wrong direction. Splash Damage’s dedication is as unwavering as their ambition – and Brink’s promising something very special indeed.

Feb 2, 2010

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