QuakeCon may be named after, you know, Quake, but this year, a different multiplayer shooter stole the show. Yeah, Brink’s always sounded great on paper, but so did the N-Gage -- and then it was a taco. So obviously, we walked into our hands-on session with some trepidation. Watching a game stand on the – oh, what’s the word – cusp of greatness, only to fall backward into the Mortal Kombat-style spike pit of mediocrity is generally enough to brew up a tiny storm cloud over our heads, and we wanted so dearly for Brink to be awesome.
Fortunately, we weren’t disappointed. Put simply, Brink works. It’s ambitious, yet practical – complex, yet incredibly accessible. We got to play a couple matches in an area called Container City, and here’s why – days after the fact – we’re still aching to play more.
1. The S.M.A.R.T. System – For some reason, people have been under the mistaken impression that this is some kind of automated movement system – in essence, a “win button” you can hand control over to while you make a sandwich or go deep-sea diving or something along those lines. In reality, though, it’s nothing like that. Instead, it’s a sprint key that goes the extra mile, allowing you to traverse just about any obstacle while holding it down. But that’s it. No magical autopilot AI. Hell, it’s debatably less automated than cruise control. It does, however, give you the nearly super-human ability to leap, climb, and slide with next-to-no effort. Think Assassin’s Creed, but without DRM that makes you hate the world.
2. Objectives – Actually, on their own, Brink’s objectives don’t seem to be anything too special. We blew up a door, defended a giant tankmobile, and then captured a duffle bag. So basically, it’s a greatest hits collection of multiplayer gametypes all rolled into one. Brink’s appeal, however, lies in its menu system. Yep. You read that correctly. Switching from objective to objective is as simple as selecting what you want to do from a radial menu and getting down to business. After that, just follow an on-screen arrow and join the fray. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s simple, elegant, and – best of all – lightning quick. Also, if – for some reason – you hate convenience, it’s completely optional.
3. Pacing -- Combined with the S.M.A.R.T. system, the radial menu’s the difference between battling boredom and duking it out with your opponents. As a result, Brink’s pace never lets up. The menu system keeps even the most directionally-impaired players from wandering aimlessly until some kind soul on the opposing team puts them out of their misery. As a result, battles, based on what we played, rarely suffer from tumbleweed vs. cricket sound syndrome. Instead, there’s always a big scrap going on somewhere, and odds are, if you’re not part of it, you will be soon.
4. Class Switching – Brink’s class system isn’t quite as robust as, say, Team Fortress 2’s, but switching between classes depending on your current objective keeps things fluid and interesting. Better still, the radial menu informs you of the class distribution of your team, so you’ll never have an awkward “Well, one of us has to change” moment. During the demo, we spent most of our time as a Soldier, but also buffed weapons and repaired the aforementioned tankmobile as an Engineer. However, from what we can tell, you’ll be right at home with the other two classes' – Medic and Operative – roles if you’ve even glanced momentarily at a picture of Team Fortress 2’s class lineup.
5. Customization – When our character came under our control, he was but a bald, comically exaggerated resistance fighter. After a little of our Insane Eye for The Brink Guy makeover action, though, he emerged as a trench coat-clad robo-man – more machine than man, more trench coat than machine. And apparently, that’s only the beginning of what you can do. As you play, you unlock more outfits, in addition to gaining experience and unlocking abilities and weapon modifications. Obviously, balance is a huge concern here, and we can't help but worry that one misplaced block could send the whole thing tumbling down. Fortunately, Splash Damage told us that all essential skills for each class will be unlocked after the first few level-ups, meaning that everything after that is gravy. Gravy that slowly kills people in inventive ways. So basically, normal gravy.
6. Match Length – Brink’s unique among multiplayer shooters in that it’s story-based. In essence, it’s story mode co-op mixed with level-based multiplayer. Sounds time-consuming, huh? But actually, it’s not. The matches we played lasted about ten minutes on average, and one-sided matches can apparently end in the blink of an eye. Of course, this could be a double-edged sword – with players running out of things to do too quickly – but each level contains different sets of objectives for Resistance and Security teams, and Splash Damage has promised robust post-release support for the game. Obviously, after only playing one level, we can’t pass final judgment here, but it’s hard to walk away from Brink without turning our heads and gazing back wistfully as a single tear rolls down our cheek. We miss playing you, Brink. Come home soo