Paul Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage and game director on Brink, isn't a big fan of marketing spiel. He's talking about the game's fluid movement mechanic when he sighs: “It's called SMART – smooth movement across random terrain. The marketing guys at Bethesda made us call it that.”
Though he's hardly enamoured with the silly moniker, he's rightfully pleased with the feature itself. The multiplayer shooter from the creators of Enemy Territory employs an Assassin's Creed-style, multi-functional button which sees you sliding under waist-high bars and vaulting over crates with ease. Don't let the Assassin's Creed comparison put you off - it's anything but an easy autopilot ride, and it works with surprising efficiency. Whether Wedgwood likes it or not, it's SMART.
The Brink presentation sees Wedgwood nimbly bounding through sections of The Ark, a floating, near-future, sovereign state temporarily moored somewhere off the coast of San Francisco. As the world economy goes to pot, it begins to take on increasing numbers of refugees, unironically referred to as the “guest population” in the wake of the island's previous function as a luxury resort.
“Just because it's a shooter doesn't mean there can't be some narrative and thematic stuff going on,” claims Brink's senior game designer Ed Stern. “You still run around shooting people in the face though,” he laughs, “that's absolutely what Brink is about.”
At E3 we witnessed a mission set in the outlying Container City, and this time around we're seeing it in even more detail. Previously a sprawling storage area for the furniture of the rich and famous, the platform of shipping containers has been transformed into a residential area for the downtrodden refugees. You and seven other players, assuming the role of Ark Security, must escort a bomb-defusing robot to the location of a supposed dirty bomb hidden somewhere in the rusting maze of corrugated sheet metal, chain link fencing and general dock-based detritus, while eight other players take up opposing positions as resistance members. It makes for an interesting, campaign-led melding of single and multiplayer shooting – one that we're seeing more and more of with games like Left 4 Dead, Borderlands and APB joining the charge.
“We're no geniuses,” admits Stern. “We're not the only people who've figured out that this sort of game might be fun. We've all played Left 4 Dead, and what they've already achieved with that game is just fantastic. We're taking everything we've learned about objective-led gameplay from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars – things like having to be a particular class to do a certain objective.”