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Brink – hands-on

Splash Damage announced Brink would be using dedicated servers before it was fashionable. Back when saying you’d support the community in the most basic way wasn’t met with rapturous applause and sighs of relief, but with the blank stare of somebody who’d been told to continue absorbing oxygen through their lungs.

“I think it speaks a lot to the background of this company that we announced we were doing dedicated servers long before it became cool,” laughs Richard Ham, creative director at the Kent-based studio. Brink is standing on the shoulders of the Enemy Territory franchise, which in turn was built on an unshakeable foundation of clanners, modders and online communities. Splash Damage are brilliant nerds: the door to their lunch room reads “Om Nom Nom”, the management types sit behind glass doors sheepishly adorned with the words “Grown Ups”, and CEO Paul Wedgwood will talk to you for 45 minutes about their server room, if you’d only let him.

We’ve been invited down to Splash Damage to play Brink, the team-focused multiplayer shooter they’ve been working on since Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Brink is an original venture and one that’s still nearly a year away from being in our grubby hands.

On offer is the chance to play through the Container City mission seen at 2009’s GamesCom in Cologne from both Resistance and Security perspectives, as well as a hitherto unseen section: the Shipyard level, in which Security forces attempt to thwart a missile launch by those vicious Resistance terrorists. There are two campaigns, a series of overlapping scraps between the Security and the Resistance, opposing sides of a civil war being waged across the floating city, Ark.

“One of our objectives from the start was to introduce ideas to confuse and confound the player’s view of what’s truly going on,” explains Wedgwood. We know from having watched the mission played from the Security’s perspective that they’re tracking down a dirty bomb in the derelict, rusted settlement. Now, in the shoes of the downtrodden Resistance, we’re told that the threat is actually a vaccine for “Ark flu”, a substance that the fascist Security forces seek to control. Ethical ambiguity and outright misinformation will be fundamental to Brink’s plot, and it ensures that neither side is seen as entirely good, bad, or justified in their actions. It’s a little bit clever.

Leading you to your eventual goal on any given map is a series of primary objectives, and playing as Security in Container City that first objective is to guide a maintenance bot through the maze of rusting shipping containers – retrofitted housing for the Ark’s less fortunate. Conversely, the Resistance is tasked with simply stopping us.

The map works in a very similar way to Team Fortress 2’s Payload games: the maintenance bot is a cross between Johnny Five and a Smart Car, and will only trundle forwards if there is at least one Security player nearby. Escorting the thing, we decide, is boring and probably dangerous. Instead we consult Brink’s objective wheel, a platter of contextual mini-missions and tasks. You can select one of these missions – be it capturing a command post or building a machine gun nest – manually, or a quick click of a button will automatically assign you the best mission for your class.

We choose a mission to open a shortcut that allows our teammates to move forward more easily. The SMART system – essentially a sprint/parkour button – allows us to vault elegantly through windows and over detritus as we follow the on-screen arrow to our personal objective. As we carve a murderous path through the city, XP spills out of downed enemies, which can later be spent on useful stuff like character upgrades, new outfits, weapons, abilities and attachments.