Brink: PAX 2010 hands-on

Brink is pretty fun. It might be really fun, but it's hard to form a concrete opinion after stepping up to the plate on the PAX showfloor without a moment of preparation. While the game was accessible enough that I was leaping over boxes and ripping up the other team on my first spawn, it's the kind of game that will reward players who take some time to study its intricacies. So here was my experience, in a shotgun shell - if you want a more detailed description of the game's features, check out some of ourprevious previews.

Here'sa super-brief rundown of the game, if you're unfamiliar: Two factions are at war on a floating city (Ark, mankind's last hope!). The singleplayer and multiplayer experiences are intertwined - you can play with and against AI soldiers, or allow them to be replaced with real live human-types. Missions are full of mini-objectives - defend a key point, escort or revivea teammate, and so on. There are four classes, which can be switched at an in-game console after you spawn: Soldier, Engineer, Medic, and Operative. Each class has access to specific objectives and abilities.

Bethesda and Spash Damage dropped us into a shipping crate city, where the game's factions, Resistance and Security,were battling for control of some sort of antidote... or something. I spent more time looking at the environment than listening during the mission's opening, so forgive my ignorance. But beforeI even got there, I had to customize my character and choose my weapon.

The character customization is slick (actually, all of the game's menus are slick), but I skimmed over it because the other PAX-goers were itching to start the match. I was a Resistance fighter, with, yes, a long funny face that there's no real reason for other than... itlooks interesting. Can't a game have style? Anyway, I gave myself a beatnik beard and moved on to weapon selection. Most of the guns availablewere assault rifles and SMGs, but I'm sure their distinctions would havebeen clear had I moretime to study their stats (which there were plenty of).I chose an assault rifle that looked suitibly awesome, and attached a grip for extra stability (though it increased the time it took for me to whip it out, which is always something to consider, amirite?).

I first spawned as a medic. Not really knowing what to do, I accidentally shot myself with a syringe, boosting my health. Happy accident.I soon found I was also able to do this to my teammates, as well as revive them (after being shot full of holes, players chill on the ground waiting for a teammate to revive them, or to respawn). And if I saved some of my magic medicine juice, I could revive myself by dramatically plunging the needle into my own heart.

The parkour system (SMART) was instantly masterable. Hold down a button, run, jump over things - you know the deal. It's not as deep as Assassin's Creed, but it gets the job done - the game's about shooting, not climbing walls. And it got even better when I figured out that pressing 'crouch' while runningperformed a forward slide which knocked down enemies. I wish someone had done it to me, just so I could have known what it looked like to see a beatnik-bearded man-train sprint toward you, disappear under your legs, and knock you over, all while spraying rifle fire in your face.

It took me about half the match before I figured out how to switch classes and objectives, or even that I had objectives. That's not to suggest that the menus aren't intuitive, they are -I was just having too much fun sliding around and shooting stuff. I changed my class to Operative and started playing the game roughly more like it was supposed to be - using my special abilities to accomplish goals which helped my team. I still wasn't quite sure what was going on (something about escorting a robot?), but as objectives are broken down into clear-cut instructions (defend this or that, escort this player... who probably has a better idea of what he's doing), I was able to offer my team some actual assistance.

One of my abilities as on Operative was to disguise myself as a downed enemy, which I managed to pull off once to great effect. Other than that, I spent most of my time trying to slide tackle people (it's really fun!), andplaying with my gun (ha ha).The hit detection is spot on, and the weapons seem very well-balanced. I never felt cheated out of a kill, and it's definitely not a five-hundred-bullets-per-kill sort of game. The loading tip was right: Move more than you shoot. Stand still and you're just asking to die.

Near the end of the match, our enemy's victory came down to one final push to steala medical asset. My team was on defense, and while some of my teammates - engineers, presumably - built turrets and blockades, I switched to the Soldier class and went on the offensive.

The match finally ended and... we won! Then the line of eager PAXiansbehind us clapped. That was weird. I hope they weren't looking at my screen, watching me jump around like an idiot.

Brink is out spring 2011. We'll let you know if it's pretty fun, or really fun, after we have a chance to really study all of its details. Check outall of our coverage, as well asthe official site, for more!

Sep 3, 2010

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer