by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Prior to GamesCom, I had barely given Brink any thought at all. Sure, I had seen the screenshots but they had failed to trigger my interest. After seeing the demonstration by Splash Damage’s CEO Paul Wedgewood, I won’t let it out of my sight again and you shouldn’t either.
Brink is set in the not so far future of 2045. Earth’s population appears to have been all but wiped out by a massive rise in sea levels. What is left of humanity is now living on a floating city called The Ark which is build on an artificial island. Unfortunately, even at the brink of extinction, mankind is unable to find peace. The majority of those living on The Ark have adopted the ways and values found in the ancient Greek city states. Their lives and laws are protected and enforced by an elite police force that is simply called the Security. They are the original inhabitants of The Ark and have been quite prosperous. Other parts of the island are inhabited by ‘guests’, those who came as water absorbed their habitats. But now space and food are getting scarce and the ‘guests’ are no longer welcome. Underpowered and undernourished, they take up arms and fight for their right to survive.
The game allows you to completely customize your character, sporting a large library of facial types, body types, different clothing items, armor types and more. Pretty much every item that you put onto your character can be customized even further with different colors and other subtle touches that make your character look truly unique. As you progress through the game, you will even unlock new items for your character, including some very cool looking tattoos. Not all the choices that you make for you character are just for show. If you choose a heavy-built character, he might move slower but will be able to endure far more damage.
The Ark is certainly a novel looking place. In most areas, shiny glass and white walls determine the view, giving the game a futuristic feel reminiscent of scenes from the movie The Island. In other areas, often the ones that are rebel controlled, things look far from shiny. During the presentation, we were taken to the dockyard. This area resembled nothing so much as a shanty town made up of rusty old sea containers stacked on top of each other. An in-game cut-scene introduced us to some of the characters on the side of the Security as well as their mission: locating an unknown object vital to their campaign.
After this, a wildly chaotic battle between rebel forces and the police ensued during which Paul showed us the different combat mechanics in the game. He engaged in combat, receiving new goals and objectives as he completed those previously issued. Completing objectives will earn you experience points, the number of points varying depending on the type of objective. There are always a number of objectives to choose from, giving you a lot of freedom in what you would like to do.
At some point, Paul noticed a new objective: he could earn himself a hefty 250 experience points by repairing a crane. Being a soldier, he was not equipped to deal with this, but in Brink, your character can take on any role at any given time. All you need to do is walk over to the nearest control station, select a new role and ‘presto!’ you are an engineer. Besides the role he also selected a ‘role kit’. Each kit holds a set of tools and weapons that players are able to customize themselves so that they suit multiple roles. Now that Paul had switched to being an engineer, the game started adjusted the objectives that it spawned to his new role. Once he repaired the crane, it was used to lift a large armored bot onto a higher level, which ended our presentation but not our amazement.
Early on in the presentation, Paul had shown us Brink’s fabulously worked out interface. It was this that we continued to rave about after we left the presentation room. You see, Brink takes ‘context sensitive’ to a whole new level by allowing you to do different things with the same actions in a very intuitive way. A great example was when he tried to negotiate a security gate. First he ran through the gate’s laser beams and set off the alarm. Then he ran towards the gate again, looked up as he neared the gate and his character grabbed the gate’s rooftop and started climbing over it. Just like that, no need to push additional buttons, just run and look upwards. On his next run, Paul looked down and slid his characters right under the beams. How cool is that!?
Brink really managed to captivate our imagination with its original setting, streamlined gameplay and standard-setting user interface. If you like a shooter with substance, then you owe it to yourself to keep this one on your radar.