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Brink hands-on: Slick shooting meets Mirror’s Edge… with added Hannibal Lecter masks and mohawks

The shooter genre is so crowded right now, it’s hard to tell one Billy Buzzcut shouty soldier from the next. Luckily, with playable characters who all look like circus acts and the most intuitive movement system we’ve seen since Mirror’s Edge; Brink shouldn’t have too much trouble standing out from the generic crowd. Recently, we got hands-on with the game in a few four-player co-op sessions. We were even fortunate enough to have developer Splash Damage’s head honcho Paul Wedgewood guide us through the action. So if you like the idea of freerunning clowns murdering each other with hi-tech weaponry, we suggest reading on.

So what's the deal with Brink, then?

“Eh, is that the FPS where the guys look like they’ve had their heads and arms stretched outbya medieval rack?” you might find yourself asking. Well, yes, young Padawan. You’re partially right.

Above: OK, so you’re a lot right

But Brink is a whole hell of a lot more than a bunch of lanky grunts running around tightly-designed maps, shooting each other’s gangly asses. It’s also a shooter with a simple, if ludicrously lofty mandate: it wants to blur the lines between single and multiplayer gaming.

Pitting two factions (Resistance and Security) against each other in a floating city called The Ark, the game Brink most closely resembles is Team Fortress 2. It’s an obvious comparison, as bothtitles revolve around team (objective-based) deathmatches. But where Valve’s masterpiece is focused on purely multiplayer, Splash Damage’s title weaves a story mode throughout its drop-in/drop-out co-op. It means whether you’re playing with the impressively on-the-ball bots or actual human-shaped flesh bags, there’s always the added motivation of a single player-style narrative to get you through what feels like a multiplayer experience.

It%26rsquo;s SMART as hell

No, the caps lock on our keyboard hasn’t suddenly developed a mind of its own, Johnny Wisenheimer. Instead, Splash Damage’s acronym for their Mirror-Edge-style parkour system stands for ‘Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain’. If you’ve ever played EA’s futuristic freerunner, you should feel fairly at home with Brink’s buttery smooth movement. Simply hold down L2/LT and your gibbon-armed soldier will automatically break into a Usain Bolt-shaming sprint.

Cleverly, it’s a context sensitive system that responds to where you’re looking. Nudge the stick up as you come towards a stack of crates and you’ll automatically clamber smoothly up them, before vaulting over the other side. Likewise, if you aim downwards as you approach a low obstacle, your military man will gracefully slide under it.

Basically, in both concept and execution, it’s such a sloppy kiss towards Faith and her parkour prowess, we suggest the Runner take out a 500-foot restraining order as soon as she can sprint down to her nearest courthouse. Not that we’re complaining, of course. After years of controlling shooters where beefy soldiers move like they’ve been injected with a big fat doze of arthritis, SMART provides the most nimble and refreshing of changes.

You%26rsquo;ll actually want to be a team player

Mainly because Splash Damage bribe the shit out of you by rewarding you with extra points for helping out your team. The game’s four different classes all reward you in different ways. Say you’re playing as a Medic. Well then, Brink will spit out points each time you ‘buff’ (i.e. boost) the health of your team-mates with med-packs. Similarly, Soldiers’ rewards come for buffing other players’ weapons, while Engineers get a delicious bonus for repairing droids or setting up gun turrets.

Above: Turrets = fun... and obviously agonising death

Operatives are slightly different. Although they can’t directly improve the stats or health of their buddies, they can highlight the position of enemies for their team on the map. If they can successfully hack an opposition player’s HUD, they'll also temporarily steal their identity, which makes them essentially invisible to their enemies for a short time.

Thanks to each class having such clearly defined perks, the action is given a lovely variety with players all performing different jobs. There’s never a shortage of things to do, either. And you always feel involved as the really shooty cog of a much larger machine

Points most definitely mean prizes in Brink, too. And any you earn can be spent buying new clothes or weapon upgrades in the impressively in-depth customisation options, which handily, we’re just about to talk (well, type) about…