With the seas rising to envelop every last acre of dry land on Earth and all natural resources exhausted, mankind is on the verge of extinction. The only hope for our species is the Ark, a floating haven designed by humanity’s finest minds to make sure that the few remaining living human beings can be safe to live and breed. Of course, they also made sure to bring bundles of guns ‘n’ ammo. You don’t want things to get too dull, do you?

Having only had teasing scraps of Splash Damage and Bethesda’s new FPS waved before us, we have only the tip of the iceberg to evaluate. But when the set-up and design of a game is this uninspiring – we’re talking cookie-cutter armoured gits fighting in airport lounges – the more tempting the cherries on top have to be... and Brink is studded with plump, juicy cherries.

The most notable gimmick is the Smart button. Got security lasers to navigate through or a chasm to leap to avoid attack? One touch of a button and the game has guessed your desire, and held your hand all the way to achieving it. It may sound like it should be called the ‘Dumb button’, but we’re already dreaming of the run-‘n’-gun moments the mechanic is bound to provide.

You may also be glad of it when detection and exploration suddenly give way to mass slaughter at a breakneck-knees-and-spine speed, as Brink’s main shtick is its innovative, fluid combination of co-op, single and multiplayer gameplay. In single-player mode, you have the entirety of the Ark to explore, with missions of all kinds available, dynamically generated by your investigation. Whether you have a co-op pal in tow or are playing online will affect your game, so it’s clear that replayability is where the devs have aimed their reticule.

Luckily, the generic avatars are nothing to worry about either, as customisation is central to Brink. Your chief concern in every mission is likely to be more about how much EXP it will earn you than anything else, because then you can take those brownie points and use them to hone, train and design your own avatar, armour and weaponry until… well, presumably until you’re the last man standing in the Ark. Which could prove to be a bit of a poor goal, really.

That the makers of Quake Wars and Elder Scrolls are piecing Brink together earns it special attention, at least for now. Its Waterworld-style doomsday setting won’t win any awards for novelty, but there are great ideas on show and little question that the frenetic battling will be anything less than slick. We’re determined to find out more about if this merger of single and multiplayer will really work, so expect more soon.

Jul 15, 2009