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First-person shooter trying something new

Classic formula filled out with innovative ideas

It is safe to say that, despite constant progress in terms of graphics and multiplayer unlockables, the first-person shooter genre is stagnating. It is over-defined by bleak and clichéd futuristic settings which usually involve you shooting your way through faceless aliens/otherworldly fascist forces whose motives you never understand. Thankfully, Bethesda is aware of this trend, and with Brink it is clear that they are trying to do something different. Most importantly, it looks promising.

Considering the game is being developed by Splash Damage, of Enemy Territory fame, it is unsurprising that Brink is a class-based, objective-oriented shooter. You can be a medic, soldier, engineer or operative and take part in various missions that involve blowing something up or defending it. ‘So what’s new here?’ I hear the cynics ask. Well, plenty in fact, as the aforementioned game description doesn’t reveal the fine details that make this one of the more unique games of recent years.

Vibrant graphical style

Brink is set in the near future when the Earth has completely flooded, with all the action taking place on a giant metal container known as the Ark. All you know at the start is that there is a conflict between the ‘Resistance’ and the ‘Security’ forces, with you switching sides as the game progresses. There is no distinct sense of good vs. evil here, as you are constantly receiving both sides of the story. Brink avoids forcing you into the shoes of some anonymous jarhead fighting for a ‘good’ cause; the good guys are simply whoever you are fighting for at the given time. Decide who the real good guys are when you complete the game, and in the meantime simply embrace the ambiguity.

The first thing that is striking about Brink is its unique and outright beautiful graphical style. Upon first sight, it immediately recalled the cartoon look of the TimeSplitters games for the PS2 (which I hold very dear to my heart), but of course it looks a hell of a lot better. Despite being essentially a floating metal ghetto, the Ark is a bold and colourful place. The various environments shown – from clinical terminal buildings to sleazy shanty towns – have a crisp glow about them that makes the whole game eternally pleasing on the eyes. The character models are equally eccentric, with some outrageously varied and colourful outfits to unlock as the game progresses. All in all, the Ark is a visually arresting killing playground.

Pull off smooth moves with the SMART system

Something that prevents Brink from being a generic class-based shooter is the SMART (Smart Movement Across Random Terrain) system, which completely overhauls the gameplay experience. With the press of the SMART button, players can leap through infrared detectors, somersault off walls and swing across beams, among other things. This system complements the visual style in effectively making the Ark a unique shooting playground where the environment doesn’t restrict you, but instead creates opportunities for stylish strategic manoeuvres. The developers have also pointed out that the SMART button makes such moves accessible for newcomers, but that more advanced players can learn to do these flash moves manually for potentially greater effect; in other words, Brink accommodates casual gamers as well as those in search of a learning curve!

Splash Damage have been eager to state that Brink is as enjoyable a single-player experience as it is a multiplayer one. For those less sociable gamers out there, Brink offers just as much XP and rewards as it does for those who prefer the online experience. This is a neat way of avoiding the tendency in games to favour those who play online. The same missions can be played both on- and offline, the main difference being that if you lose offline, you simply repeat the mission, while losing online means that the opposing team progresses onto the next level while your team has to play another team that’s trying to complete the level. Let’s be honest, based on this information it sounds like you would be missing out on a lot of fun if you didn’t indulge in the unique multiplayer experience of Brink.

Truly stands out in the crowd

Brink takes the traditional formula familiar to players of games like Enemy Territory and Team Fortress and fills it out with the kind of free-wheeling gameplay that hasn’t been seen before in online games. In terms of gameplay, graphics and even storyline, Splash Damage is trying to offer a gaming experience that truly stands out from the crowd. The streamlining between online and offline gameplay, crazy character customisations and a general sense of fun round off the features that make Brink one of the most innovative shooters of recent years. Brink is offering a breath of fresh air in a stale genre. Whether if fulfils its potential will become clear in May 2011, when it comes out for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.