Let’s set the stage here: It was the last hour of the last day of E3. My feet were cramping, my back felt like Batman’s after a run-in with Bane, and the concept of sleep was itself a very dream-like, unrealistic thing to me. I wanted to be done. “One appointment left,” I grunted. “Let’s get this over with.” That appointment was for Bethesda and Splash Damage’s new shooter, Brink.
Presentation starts. “Hi, welcome to our demo of Brink blah blah blah.” Ugh, why’d I come to this? “So we’re on a boat.” Tee-hee, T Pain. “We’ve combined single-player and multiplayer using an ever-evolving mission system that breaks your main objective down into smaller objectives. Accomplish them however you see fit, alone or with friends. Also, there’s an overarching, Mirror’s Edge-ish plotline running throughout the whole thing.”
Ok, now I’m listening.
So, here’s how Brink works: You’re part of a team – either resistance or security forces – and each level presents you with an objective. In order to make your big mission less impossible, each level’s objective is broken down into smaller pieces, which dynamically change depending on countless factors in battle. Some of these pieces must be tackled by certain character classes, which you can morph into at will using computer terminals scattered throughout the game world. For instance, an engineer might be needed for a bit of his trademark tinkering, so the game will immediately notify everyone of this gaping hole in their team structure. Thus, completing the mission is as simple as transforming and rolling out. No extra hassle.
Switching between missions is also nice and stress free, so as to ensure that you won’t take one for the team while trying to decide how to best aid it. Just bring up your mission wheel, flick over to an objective – which can range from planting bombs to interrogating people to providing cover fire for a friend – and go show your enemies why they should or shouldn’t have done that thing they did or didn’t do. In theory, this setup will evade the monotony of other singularly focused, objective-based games like Left 4 Dead by constantly changing up your mission’s structure. Same mission again? Who cares? You’ve never tried X set of objectives with X class. Or at least, that’s the hope.
Objectives of all shapes and sizes probably mean tons of walking, though, right? Well, Splash Damage has taken care of that point-A-to-point-B nonsense as well. In what may be Brink’s most interesting innovation, you’re able to traverse an entire room at the push of a button. Just lay your eyes on whatever Promised Land you’re trying to reach, press the “SMART Button” and watch as the game’s A.I. effortlessly brings you out of the desert. Boxes, low railings, ledges, Mirror’s Edge-like acrobatics, whatever – SMART’s A.I. handles all of it while you sit back and take in the scenery.
Coolest of all, these things I’ve been describing? They’re all aspects of the campaign mode. Or the multiplayer mode. Or the co-op mode. You can play with or against real people or CPUs all throughout the game’s cautionary tale about the potential ravages of global warming. It’s all one big mode.
Oh, about the global warming thing. The game’s story centers on what’s become basically the center of human civilization in 2035: a floating city called “The Ark,” where humans have fled because the earth’s waters have rapidly risen and super-soaked the rest of the planet. Bethesda has yet to reveal exactly why resistance and security forces are bickering over this final slice of land, but the story seems to be taking aesthetic and tonal cues mostly from Mirror’s Edge and Team Fortress 2 (crazy, right?), so I’m hoping for something special.
From what I saw, Brink has all the right tools to make other team-based shooters feel utterly inadequate. However, none of that matters if Splash Damage can’t bake everything together into a functional, well-balanced whole, so that’s the elephant in the room for now. Granted, the game was only revealed a couple weeks ago, and it’s already looking spectacular. On top of that, there’s still plenty of time to baste it in even more secret recipe awesome sauce, as the game isn’t coming until the first half of 2010. Fingers crossed, people. Fingers crossed.