What We Already Know
We're no stranger to Brink, the squad-based shooter coming from Splash Damage. It pits you either as a member of the high-tech security forces or the civilian resistance on an enormous floating ark, built in the future when the Earth's waters have flooded the planet. While we've taken a look at it before, this time we've gone deeper into the customization, and played through a new area.
What We're Seeing Now
In the Brink menus, you have the option of playing a training video, and I can't recommend it enough. This should be the standard that all games set as a prep for getting you into the game. A woman's voice with a British accent sets the scene for you, and highlights all of the pertinent information you'll need to know. It shouldn't take the place of some sort of tutorial, but it's a terrific infodump right before you jump into a game.
CEO Paul Wedgewood introduced us to the character customization options, which are extremely robust, and fun. Each character model has numerous characteristics you can tweak, ranging from facial scars (acid burn to Glasgow smile), to hair types (there was a slicked back ponytail look in there called "The Seagal"), and even archetypes like "The Chin" - a big bruiser with a massive chin, naturally. Most menu items also have a subsequent menu you can go into so you can tweak colors and styles as well. It's a lot deeper than I expected, yet everything stays inside the near-caricature look of Brink's characters, which is a good thing.
You're working at creating a persistent character here, and it you commit to something like a full-body Maori tattoo, it's permanent. There are no laser tattoo removal clinics on the ark. You can customize your outfit (hat, shirt, pants, etc) and your weapons with multiple different options, like a different scopes, silencers, suppressors, muzzle brakes, magazines, and so on. Both characters and weapons have security and resistance looks to them, and some of the skinned resistance weapons are sick: graffitied logos, tape-wrapped handles, and so on. And you can quickly swap between the two looks by hitting Y in the menus.
We were at a huge advantage going into the game, because the devs had unlocked almost all of the weapons and abilities, including some of the nifty gear you get as pre-order bonuses. That Caesar pistol is actually extremely cool-looking, and packs a nice punch at close range. Also unlocked were many of the numerous abilities you can purchase, and there are a huge range of them in this game. Want to shoot grenades out of the sky and rain shrapnel down? There's an ability for that. Want to hack into enemy turrets and take control of them? There's an ability for that. You get the idea. These are unlocked by racking up XP, and there is a lot of customization in here as well.
Game-wise, lead designer Neil Alphonso took us through the paces and joined our squad of resistance fighters as we guarded a remote robot retrieval unit to yank a sample of something secret the security forces were developing, and then fled before things got too hairy. At each step of the way, security forces were there to try and hold us back, and it takes a lot of coordinating to pull off your main objectives. Thankfully, the game's dynamic, user-selectable objective system lets you change objectives on the fly, and keeps on arrow up top so you'll find your bearings quickly. When you select a main object, your squadmates receives a notice, such as "You need to guard Kevin's ass while he hacks this door code" and so on. Nifty, to the max.
Also nice was the revival system, which lets you call a medic while you're down. Thanks to the control points scattered around the maps, if your buddy is playing as a soldier and wants to revive you, he can run to one of those and change classes in real-time. Then he has to make he way towards you and toss you a revival needle that you pound into your chest. There's a sweet ability you can purchase later that lets you shoot while you're in this downed state, and it's well-worth picking up. In fact, you're going to want all of the abilities, to be sure, but some are most likely tailored to the particular style of gameplay that you enjoy.
Playing primarily as an engineer class (who can buff friendly weapons and armor), I managed to stay alive a lot more than I died, and Neil told me after we were successful, "Hey, you kicked all kinds of ass. You were better than me." Kind words from the lead level designer on the game, who said you'll see a fair amount of things inspired by World of Warcraft in here, because he's an addicted WoWer. The weapon buffs definitely seem Paladin-friendly. FPS players will instantly feel at home in Brink, although it will take you some time to really learn the objectives and menus, because they're a lot deeper than most shooters.
With it's unique art style and focus on squad-based play (which also features drop-in and drop-out online), Brink is shaping up to be a fun cooperative experience, and one where communication with your teammates is key. This game forces you to learn the dynamics of a squad, and play nice with each other, so you can play very, very bad with the enemies.