First person shooters are a dime a dozen nowadays, few of them offering anything original, most of them clinging on to the coat tails of either Modern Warfare or Half Life 2, hoping to get a whiff of the mega bucks those two titles have raked in. Of course, there are exceptions, the most notable of which is Splash Damage’s Brink, the first new IP from the company behind the Enemy Territory games.
Brink promises to perfectly blend its single player campaign and multiplayer modes, tying the two parts together in an orgy of team based, objective capturing, massive gun blasting joy. Having honed their skills on Enemy Territory: Wolfenstein and the more recent, almost spectacular, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Brink sees Splash Damage opening their wings and creating their own living, breathing world, within which players can unleash carnage. Set on and around ‘The Ark’, a failed eco city, Brink allows you to choose sides in a civil war, with class based gameplay and teamwork the heart of the experience.
The game also offers a new take on the oft frustrating problem of multi levelled movement in a first person view, with the SMART, or Smooth Running Across Rough Terrain, system. This allows you to navigate ledges, ladders, nooks and crannies without all the usual ‘push A to go up the ladder’ nonsense.
Alongside free running and gunning, Brink offers adaptable objectives, meaning XP can be gained by heading off the beaten track to complete secondary jobs that will aid your team as a whole. Throw in on the fly side switching, a glorious art style and a sweeping story and Brink starts to look pretty special.
Splash Damage was on the verge of perfecting the multiplayer team based shooter with Quake Wars, and the lessons learnt there are shaping Brink in some pretty amazing ways. The game has all the hallmarks of a developer at the very peak of their powers, confident enough to stray from the template and put their own mark on the project. Brink is trying something incredibly difficult; blurring the line between single player and multiplayer is a feat that, in the hands of a younger, less experienced developer, would be considered folly.
But Splash Damage are multiplayer devotees through and through, and are tackling the challenge with the brains and brawn acquired over the years. This isn’t a Team Fortress clone, it’s an evolution, a movement away from a game being either/or and towards the sort of drop in, drop out narrative driven experience we’ve oft been promised but never received. A slip in the release date from the start of the year until October was disappointing, but more time for fine tuning can only be a good thing.
Shooters have to do an awful lot to get noticed, even more so to compete in the crowded online and offline markets, but Brink is doing an awful lot more than its level best to stand out. It offers all the tactical nous of a squad based blaster, but provides it in a subtler way, rewarding the player for thinking things out rather than forcing them to.
With a startling sci fi aesthetic, vastly customisable character models, a rich back story, plenty of guns and a development team who fully understand the product they’re making, Brink could be the online, and offline, hit of 2010.
Brink is out on October 29th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.